Jason Yee goes on a mission to find the killer of Sandy, his new love, in The Girl from the Naked Eye (reviewed here). He recently sat down with Starburst to talk about his experience and what's next for the San-Shou Kick-Boxer
Starburst: What influenced you to be an actor when you were a kid?
Jason Yee: I was a huge comic book fan when I was a kid! I even drew my own comic book series. I watched a lot of Bruce Lee and Clint Eastwood movies and they inspired me. I was good at drawing growing up but was also into a lot of sports. When I got accepted to school I went to an art college, The Museum School of Fine Arts. But, around the same time I started competing in martial arts and it took over and became my career. Martial arts was the first thing that gave me positive feedback for my hard work and I was making a living teaching, supporting myself by the time I was 22. I first picked up a movie camera in art school but I didn't really experiment much until it became a serious hobby along side my martial arts career. I think martial arts helped me with acting because performing katas or fighting in front of an the audience taught me to stay focused on stage. But becoming an actor is something that really started in my 20s while I was deep in the martial arts competition world. My hobby on the side of my martial arts was shooting my own little short films on 8mm and 16mm cameras. After spending thousands of dollars on film I started to realize it was time to get more into acting and writing because I was planning to someday make my own movie. So, I started taking acting classes and reading every book I could on acting and screenwriting.
SB: Your first movie was Dark Assassin. It’s a very well made film for a first time director that featured some outstanding stunts for that kind of budget.
JY: Thank you. Dark Assassin was really my film school - it was made for $70,000, shot on super 16mm film. I wore a lot of hats on that film - I wrote, directed and starred and my mom cooked all the food for the cast and crew! It took three years to complete and it was put out by Blockbuster which did very well for them. So then I decided to turn over my kickboxing gym to my students to make a career change and move from my hometown of Boston to the movie capital, Los Angeles.
SB: How did The Girl from the Naked Eye come to fruition?
JY: Henry Mu, my producing partner, and I wanted to make a new film with a bigger budget. We started looking at script submissions and we found one that we liked by Larry Madill that featured Italian Americans. We retailored the script and it went through a lot of collaborative changes with the director, David Ren. I came up with the title 'The Girl from the Naked Eye', named after a famous strip club in Boston called, The Naked Eye.
SB: You have a great cast for The Girl from the Naked Eye, what were they like to work with?
JY: The cast was great to work with. Ron Yuan did a fantastic job working with us on the action scenes. Henry Mu came up with some brilliant ideas that really added to the film including the musical classic Bolero for the finale fight scene.
SB: What's up next for you?
JY: I've got 5 projects on the burner, one is an action movie that takes place in 1890 in San Francisco's Chinatown, it's a western film noir. Another is a period gangster movie set in the 80s. That’s all I'll say for now.