Pillow Talk with James Yi and Alexander Chi, Producers of Gook

by Adobe Communications Team

posted on 01-23-2017

Building on our 2016 success, we brought back our Pillow Talk Live interview series at Sundance 2017. This year’s theme is “Make It an Experience,” and we’re streaming discussions with filmmakers via Facebook Live through Tuesday, January 24.

Today we cuddled up withe James Yi and Alexander Chi, the producers of Gook, to talk about making their film, and telling stories that address tough issues like race relations and getting people out of their bubbles. Here’s an excerpt:

Talk about the feeling of coming in, guns blazing, with a feature at Sundance right off the bat.

James: Man, it’s amazing. When we went through this process we definitely dreamed of being here, but to be here now is… it’s still settling in. I still haven’t quite grasped that I’m here.

Alexander: It’s still surreal. Our goal was always to get into Sundance. Once we got in, we were just planning to make sure everything was good once we got here. Now that we’re here we’re trying to enjoy ourselves as much as we can.

So, “Gook”… As a white male, I wasn’t sure, is that a word that I can even say? I’m assuming it’s kosher since it’s the name of the movie?

James: We want to keep that up in the air. We want to still have people question whether they can say it or not.

This is set in Los Angeles in ‘92 during the riots. I know a lot of this stuff is based on personal stories.

James: The director and writer of the film, Justin Chon, his father actually had a shoe store in Paramount, California that got looted during the ‘92 riots. So it’s a very personal story for him that he’s wanted to tell for years.

There was a very contentious relationship between the Korean community and the black community, especially with all the violence that went down.

James: Yeah, absolutely. You know what happened was in the early 80s there was a huge migration of Koreans coming to the United States during the early Reagan era. Being that we were poor immigrants, the only places we could start businesses were in the inner city, lower income neighborhoods. That’s why we had so many businesses in the inner city. Then there was a contentious relationship, as there always is between people who are perceived to have money and not. Over time that has grown, especially after the ‘92 riots, I felt like there was a new chapter in the relationship between Koreans, Hispanics and African Americans

For so many filmmakers who want to make a movie for the first time, money seems to always be a hurdle. So talk about how you got the funds for the first part of it and then the process and experience of going through Kickstarter.

James: I’ve been an independent filmmaker for over 10 years. This is my eighth feature, but I never asked any of my friends and family to invest in a film. This was the one film that I knew was really special. I approached my family with extra passion. I’m like, ‘I never asked anyone to invest in my films before, but this is the one. This is the one I need help with. This is the one I believe in.’ I had so many of my childhood friends step up and be investors. Alex too, he had so many friends step up.

We have more Pillow Talk interviews with filmmakers from Sundance. Watch them here.

Topics: Video & Audio