Michael Aki is an Asian American auteur in many regards. He wrote, directed, produced and even acted in his own movies. Part of the 1997 Asian American New Wave, Sunsets, that Michael Aki co-wrote, co-directed, co-produced and acted in, world premiered at the 1997 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. The feature, co-directed with Giant Robot founder Eric Nakamura, was touted to be an Asian American cult classic. Michael then starred in Eric Byler’s Charlotte Sometimes, loved by the late critic Roger Ebert. 15 years after Sunsets, Michael wrote, directed, produced and acted in Strangers, a hit man drama. CHOPSO will release both Sunsets and Strangers later this year… stay tuned!
Justin Lin once saw you as the quintessential Asian American male actor who can kick some ass. Do you think you’re still that? You still got it after all these years?
MI: That’s a funny one, never heard that one before. Well, hmm, I must think that I have something to offer since I’m still somewhat around and active, so yeah, sure..
How did Strangers evolve in the development process?
MI: STRANGERS developed out of our team’s (CINEHOUS) love of film noir. After we formed the team, we had wrote a script called LADY ON THE STREET and started doing “test shorts” – which were short films that were kinda like practices or exercises to find our style and also to work within the fiction of the CINEHOUS world that we were developing. Most of these shorts were also for Eugenia Yuan to start developing the Lady character, but we also developed other characters as well. Ultimately, instead of trying to make LADY ON THE STREET as a low budget indy, we decided to go with another script that was being developed through our process and that ended up being STRANGERS.
What are you trying to accomplish with Strangers and do you feel you did it?
MI: After making so many shorts, and it being the beginning of the year, we met up and decided to make a feature film during our free time. Everyone contributed to the script, as the script was being written while we shot, and it took us a little over a year to shoot and complete the film. Personally, I had many goals and ideas that I wanted to accomplish and I think they were met.
What do you want audience to get out of Strangers?
Just to sit back and enjoy the journey we have made for them to witness and be apart of… same thing as always.
Let’s talk about your classic first feature Sunsets. How was it made?
SUNSETS was shot during one summer in my hometown of Watsonville. Eric Nakamura, my cousin, is the co-director. We shot it on black and white 16mm film and it is currently getting remastered…Keep an eye out for it.
What’s the next thing you’re doing?
MI: I’m involved in a couple projects… But mainly trying to get LADY ON THE STREET made. She is our dream project, and we didn’t want to give her the under $5000 treatment that STRANGERS was…So hopefully, we can get that going.