Your new movie Made
in Chinatown - in a few words, what is it about?
its surface, Made
in Chinatown is an action-comedy poking fun at
everyone's favorite wise guy and kung fu films. But at its heart, it's
about the self-discovery of a second-generation Asian-American as he tries
to find love, respect, and a place to fit in.
Made in Chinatown
being a blend of mob movie and martial arts flick - how did you come up
with that mix, and are these favourite genres of yours? And some of your
favourites in both genres?
was visiting New York Chinatown one day in the 90s and tried to enter a
kung fu club, but the gentleman at the door would not let me in. I told him
I had been learning martial arts since 1979, but he didn’t care,
“members only”. Of course, that meant, Chinese members only. So I
walked across Canal Street from Chinatown into Little Italy and got lunch.
While eating I thought an American can’t join a private Chinese club,
what if a Chinese guy tried to join a private Italian club, like the
Mafia? And that was the beginning idea that eventually became Made
am a huge fan of mafia films, like The Godfather, Goodfellas and
Donnie Brasco, and I really enjoy the funnier ones like Mickey Blue Eyes and
Analyze This. Kung fu films have been a favorite of mine since childhood,
especially those produced buy the
Shaw Brothers Studio in Hong Kong, like
Kid with the Golden Arms, Martial Club,
The 36th Chamber of
Shaolin, and Five Venoms. So, these were the films I pulled inspiration from when
creating the world of Made
(Other) sources of
inspiration when writing Made
films that inspired elements of Made
in Chinatown’s story include Big
Trouble in Little China, Die Hard, Kiss Me Guido, and The
course, being a Caucasian guy who is part Italian and embraces Asian
culture, many of the odd scenarios are things I experienced, or thought
would be funny based on my younger naive experiences. And once the actors
were cast, there was some re-writing to accommodate their talents and
Do talk about Made
in Chinatown's brand of humour for a bit!
tried to poke fun at mob and kung fu films without pandering and without
racial appropriation. There is dialogue that leads to misunderstandings,
questions about non-existent accents that no one would ever really ask,
beatings with bats of a different nature. The Chinese kid wants to be
Italian, the Italian boss loves Chinese food, the gay Black actor is a
kung fu master, the old sages argue like a pair of old Jewish comedians,
and the Chinese Triad boss always quotes Charlie
Chan, which is
impossible. I tried to turn the humor on its side. Viewers say it takes
several viewings to catch it all.
were the challenges of Made
in Chinatown to the screen from a producer's point of view?
is always the hardest part. Once funding is secure you can hire the
production team, the camera and lighting and props teams, and then do the
casting. We had some funding difficulties that created a great deal of
stress, but we had to find a way to remain on schedule. It is also
essential that the director, cinematographer, and actors have the same
vision for the film. Everyone must be working toward a
vision or the film will not play right. We had some issues there, too, but
were able to overcome them.
can you tell us about Made
in Chinatown's directors Robert Samuels and James Lew, and what
was your collaboration like?
Samuels and I are both from Philadelphia. While I was traveling throughout
Asia studying martial arts and traditional healing methods, he was in Hong
Kong learning how to make action films. He’s worked with the best
directors over there, including Sammo Hung, Yuen Woo Ping, Corey Yuen, and
Alfred Cheung. When he came back home and started making film shorts, we
started collaborating. James Lew and I have been friends for decades,
having met while working at Inside Kung Fu magazine. James’ first
film was Big Trouble in Little China, then he did Best of the Best and
hundreds more, working with the top talent in Hollywood. A few years ago,
he won an Emmy Award for his action choreography on Marvel’s
Cage. Once funding came through, I called James and said let’s do
this. I worked well with Bobby and James, and they formed a tight working
method on set.
Do talk about Made
in Chinatown's key cast, and as writer/producer, how much input
did you have when it came to casting?
I cast most of the film and getting those more known actors to come on
board was really a stroke of luck and timing. I saw on social media that
Shing Ka was working on a film and has cast several “mob” actors that
I wanted in Made
in Chinatown. I talked with him and he provided me with
the casting director’s information. I reached out to casting director
Caroline Sinclair and she made an offer to the first actor from The
Sopranos that we hired. He came back and said he liked the story and
wanted me to cast another of his Sopranos co-stars. I cast him, and
when we met for dinner, he said the script was funny and hadn’t been
done, and would I mind casting some of the actors he was friends with. When
all was done, we had an amazing cast of mob movie actors I could only have
dreamed of. A lot of actors share the same agents, who pass the scripts
around. And one day I get a call from a manager asking me if I could write
in a role for Raymond J. Barry, as he really loved the script. Are you
kidding me? Of course! Then the kung fu guys came in and then we did a
casting call for some other roles. Overall, having the actors provide such
enthusiastic feedback and casting then was the most fun part of the
production for me.
A few words about
the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
on-set atmosphere was fun and silly. Many of the actors had worked
together before and everyone else got along well. There were no egos at
large or people acting out as you sometime hear about on set. The
production team was always hard at work keeping the production moving, and
I was running around more than I wanted to, but it always seemed that
everyone was enjoying themselves.
$64-question of course, where can Made
in Chinatown be seen?
on May 11, 2021 people can see Made
in Chinatown on a number of different
streaming platforms in North America, such as Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay,
Vudu, Hoopla, FandangoNow, Vimeo, and across hundreds of cable providers
including Comcast, Spectrum, Charter, Cox, Dish, DirecTV and more.
Canadian cable providers include Rogers, Shaw, and Bell. DVD retailers
will include Amazon and
other major online retailers. In August, the distribution will expand
wider, and also into international territories.
Anything you can tell us
about audience and critical reception of Made
audience reception has been amazing. In 2019 Made
in Chinatown was the
closing film at the Newark International Film Festival. The theater was so
packed with people trying to get in, they moved us to the largest seat
room and still there were people standing to watch. There are quite a few
inside jokes and easter eggs in the film, that you could hear the Chinese
viewers laughing at certain time and the Italian viewers laughing at other
times, and everyone laughing throughout. We ended up doing well at many
festivals, with 7 nominations and 5 wins. So far the reviewers have found
the film enjoyable, too.
Any future projects you'd like to
working on several projects now, including a kung-fu murder mystery called
Dragon Letters, a coming-of-age film called Heavy Shadows, and a noir
style suspense thriller called Mileage. In addition to these I have
several film and television series in development with a very big
production company in Los Angeles.
What got you into the filmworld in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I always loved movies, especially going to
the movies and experiencing them on the big screen with speakers all
around. I have no formal training in writing or film but wanted to be a
writer since I was 10. When I was in college, I took it upon myself to
learn how to write by reading every book on writing, editing, and
publishing that was available in the library. Since the early nineties I
have been a very prolific writer.
talk about your filmwork prior to Made
1997, I started to write what are known as “spec” scripts, or scripts
you write and send to producers for consideration. I did a few for Jackie
Chan and got close but they didn’t go through. In 2012 I developed and
pitched a TV series to the Discovery Channel that came in 7th in a
competition of 500 entries and also co-wrote a script for an IMAX film.
Neither went into production. Then in 2016 my luck changed when I was able
to collaborate with Bobby Samuels as a producer on a series of short
films. These films won quite a lot of awards and led to me inviting him on
as director for Made
in Chinatown. Sometimes things take a while to
happen, despite the effort. And now, the film world has opened up for me
and I am eternally grateful.
How would you describe yourself as
am an extremely disciplined writer who writes for several hours per day. I
never have writer’s block because my mind is always working out details
in my head before I sit down to “type them up.” I have been a prolific
writer for the past 31 years, including over a thousand articles and 15
books and several screenplays. I enjoy the creative process and have
devised ways to develop stories that are more fun than
Writers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire
A number of novelists inspire
me, including Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, George Orwell, and Elmore Leonard.
Playwrights like Anton Chekhov, Eugene O’Neil, George Bernard Shaw, and
Wallace Shawn have been an inspiration. So many filmmakers inspire me
including Stephen Spielberg, Woody Allen, and Wong Kar Wai among many
Your favourite movies?
My favorite films include
Raiders of the Lost Ark,
Chungking Express, Manhattan, The Godfather, Kung-Fu
Hustle, Angel Heart,
The Pope of Greenwich Village, among so many others.
... and of
course, films you really deplore?
don’t care to watch films that exploit women and children or
psychological thrillers where the women or children are mentally or
website, social media, whatever else?
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
am grateful for the chance to talk about Made
in Chinatown and share some
background with your readers.
for the interview!
pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to dig into the film!
provided by Vision Films, Inc.