Patrick Epino Talks Becoming an Awesome Asian Bad Guy
Awesome Asian Bad Guys, which screened a couple of weeks ago at CAAMFest, is an action-comedy that follows The National Film Society, a couple of Asian Los Angeles Youtubers (Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco), as they attempt to track down and assemble the baddest, scariest, most awesome Asian bad guys from the ’80s and ’90s like Al Leong (Die Hard) and Yuji Okumoto (The Karate Kid, Part II) to kick ass and carry out a dangerous rescue mission. An homage to badass Asian actors that highlights them as the stars of the show and not throwaway two-bit villains, Awesome Asian Bad Guys is a fun, silly comedy that should tickle the fancy of anyone who fondly remembers guys like Dante Basco (Rufio, Hook). The film also stars Randall Park, Tamlyn Tomita, and Aaron Takahashi.
Co-director Patrick Epino chatted with us at CAAMFest about the National Film Society, tracking down the bad guys in real life, filming action for the first time, his experience at CAAMFest, and more.
The films at CAAMFest showed the Asian American experience in many ways, but your film views it from a different angle, one that’s more light-hearted and funny.
Patrick: We’ve done our fair share of films…We just wanted to make something kind of fun. The story of the National Film Society is that Steve and I were both in odd places. I’d made a feature that was this dark, brooding comedy. Stephen made a lot of serious short films. Things weren’t super awesome, and we met at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. We both had an interest in building audiences, new media, stuff like that. I had this idea, he had one, we combined them, and we decided to work together and become the National Film Society, which is different from both of our ideas. He wanted to use online video, I wanted to create this Wu-Tang Clan of filmmakers and really leverage audiences and networks and stuff. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s helped us to get to where we are. We started doing goofy online videos, and it translated into Awesome Asian Bad Guys. We still love all kinds of films and still have ideas for different types of projects, but for NFS and Awesome Asian Bad Guys, it’s like, let’s just make this as fun as we can.
You study film and Asian-Am stuff, and you hear about the Long Duck Dongs, the Mickey Rooney character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s…all these marginalized, emasculated Asian characters. What about the bad guys?! Those are the ones I remember! They’re awesome!
So it was as simple as that. They’re awesome!
Patrick: Yeah, it was awesome! I remember Al Leong as a kid. That guy scared me.
So you got this idea for this project about these Asian bad guys. Did you then pursue the actors?
Patrick: When we first made this Youtube video in 2011 called Awesome Asian Bad Guys, we hypothesized about making, like, The Expendables but with Asian bad guys. In maybe May 2012 we thought about making it and we brought Phil Yu, Angry Asian Man, on as an executive producer. We brought on Milton Liu as our writer, a funny, smart-ass-y kind of guy. He introduced us to Diana Williams, a great producer, super talented. With the actors…we’d shot a couple online videos with Aaron Takahashi and Dante Basco. Tamlyn Tomita knew of us. We went to Aaron, Randall (Park), just asking them to be in it. They were totally down, so we got some momentum from that. We had contacted Al Leong through facebook for our original video, and he was super cool. It was a lot of fun hunting those guys down.
Randall is hilarious.
Patrick: Randall’s amazing. There were a couple times on set where that guy would just go. It was just him–everyone else had left the scene, and he’d so some funny things. He did this web series called “The Food” that’s just the best.
Was the film pretty scripted or was there some ad-lib involved?
Patrick: It was mostly scripted. Everyone threw in things here and there on different takes, but for the most part it’s what was in Milton’s script. We would have loved to play with more improv stuff, but we were always on the fly.
I was actually surprised at how good the action scenes were in the film.
Patrick: We were looking for fight coordinators and we ended up with this guy, Sunny Sun. He’s amazingly talented. He was a stuntman on The Expendables, he’s choreographed stuff for The Avengers. He brought some of his guys on to do the fights, and it was a pleasure working with him. So much fun. I thought I was a 90’s indie film guy. I wanted to make a Jarmusch film or a Kiarostami film or something, you know? I never learned how to choreograph action, but then I learned I don’t have to! There are people to do that for me!
There’s a great child actor in the film. She gets to participate in a lot of the action scenes as well, doing cartwheels and stuff! Where did you find her?
Patrick: We held some auditions for a girl who could do action. She’s a martial artist named Jasmin Currey. Her whole family are, like, black belts in Tae Kwon Do. She’s the sweetest kid, and it was great to work with her. I was like, oh man, this girl could kick my ass! She’s training right now, trying to perfect everything she does as a martial artist and potentially a stuntwoman.
Was the plan all along to string the webisodes together as a film?
Patrick: No, I don’t think so. The script was written, and it was a pretty long script. 60 pages. I guess it was kind of written as a TV show, with act breaks, but when it became and option to screen in festivals, we though we should make it a full piece. The vlog interjections in the film were done after the fact to act as transitions that contextualize what we do for people who don’t know who the hell we are. (laughs)
How has your experience at CAAMFest been?
Patrick: Great. I’m from the Bay, so it’s been a real pleasure. Friends and family came to our screening last night.
Who are some working Asian American filmmakers you particularly enjoy?
Patrick: I really like J.P. Chan’s stuff. I’m a big fan of Ham Tran’s work. I met him in ’04 in Toronto for his short film, The Anniversary. There are a lot of people doing good stuff online. I’m excited to see what the Wong Fu guys do with the money that they raised on Indiegogo. I have no idea what their script is about, so I’m excited for that.