Countless filmmakers get their start in “the business” and/or make the money that feeds them and pays their rent as they push the rock up the hill that is making their first films by working for film festivals and organizations like the Film Society of Lincoln Center. On average, very few ever return to that film fest with a film of their own. Having had his short film, MIYUKI play at the recently concluded New Directors/New Films festival, Will McCord is that exception. Part of a planned feature project, titled CASUAL ENCOUNTERS comprising five related stories, the short film takes a comic look at the dating personals through the misunderstanding that arises when a Japanese girl new to New York and short on English speaking skills tries to find new friends through an “adult” dating site.
The premise allows McCord, who was with Film Society for ten years prior to moving on both as a filmmaker and a programmer, an opportunity to look beyond the typical that others have mined that scenario for the funny. Instead, he has focused on the awkward laughs generated when his young Japanese woman’s genuine and nearly pure desire for friendship and connection attract the attention of young men who have something else entirely in mind.
1) MIYUKI is actually the fourth story of five that comprise a feature film titled CASUAL ENCOUNTERS you are working to make/complete (with three down and two to go). Why did you choose this route – five stand alone stories combined to make up the feature – as opposed to one central story line?
I had no money and shooting a feature piece by piece seemed much more manageable. It's still been a massive undertaking and taken far longer than we've wanted. I think we're in our fourth year of filming but fingers crossed, should be done this year. Also, when I decided to do a film about internet sex personals, the idea of telling multiple stories and having multiple encounters seemed to make the most sense.
Dana Shiraki as 'Miyuki'
2) Any personal success dating through the internet?
Plenty of failure and a few successes. I met my current girlfriend online. For a shy guy who stands in corners at parties looking at books on shelves, internet dating is great.
3) MIYUKI also comments on the phenomenon of “yellow fever” (men who fetishize Asian women). What is it about this phenomenon that fascinates you to the extent that you wanted to include it in your film?
Well, I don't want to get any hate mail so I'll first say that I'm the product of an Asian woman and a Caucasian man. Beyond that, there is an overwhelming predominance of Asian women dating non-Asian guys than there are Asian men dating non-Asian girls and that has been a preoccupation of mine and several of my Asian male friends in the past. I know that everyone has their preferences but when I meet people that pretty much exclusively date Asian women, it freaks me out a bit.
Dana Shikari and Jonathan Fielding in MIYUKI
4) Can you describe the joy of having to shoot interiors during a New York summer with no air conditioning.
I never want to shoot in the dead of summer ever again. Tiny New York interiors with the windows shut, surrounded by 15-20 cast and crew during the hottest days of the summer was not a pleasant experience.
5) You are also a programmer. How does your experience programming films influence your personal approach to filmmaking?
Mostly, it allows me to stay aware of what's happening in the filmmaking world and occasionally gives me direct access to filmmakers I admire. It also allows me the time to examine films and figure out what works and what doesn't.
Will McCord, director of MIYUKI
6) Having previously worked with the Film Society of Lincoln Center for ten plus years, are you prepped to deliver a lot of “I told you so” on Opening Night.
Absolutely not. I'm still in shock and think they somehow made a mistake! I'm definitely going to relish being on the other side and not having to work.
7) Speaking of bragging rights, your cinematographer Bobby Webster also DP this year’s Oscar winning short GOD OF LOVE. How quickly did that info go up on your promo materials.
Actually, I was completely out of the loop until a few weeks before the Oscars! I knew the film won a student Academy award but he hadn't told me it was nominated. My producer told me after seeing it on Facebook! Of course, we immediately tried to let everyone know about our association and have prayed that his good fortune rubs off on us. Seriously, we're really happy for him and just hope he doesn't forget about us little people.
8) What was the last film that made you actually cry as well as the last film that made you laugh out loud?
I haven't had a good cry at a movie in a while. SHADOWLANDS with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger always brings it out of me though. The documentary STRONGMAN was pretty funny and very moving.
9) So, what will happen in the feature film sequel to MIYUKI?
She'll have mastered English, be making art, and have loads of friends. Not sure where the conflict will come from though so maybe I should make her homeless, friendless and on the run from killer zombies.
10) Popcorn or candy?
Popcorn. Keep it coming.