Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Check out excellent naturalistic indie movie WHALE on Amazon

Here's the trailer for WHALE:

Whale_movie trailer from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.
Check out the movie on Amazon -

About the movie -

Cameron is a 29 year old Iranian American, heartbroken and suffering from a never ending bout of writers block. But shits no joke to our hero, who goes back to mommy's house in Orange County California trying to figure out what went wrong with his life. Will reacquainting with his old high school friends steer him into the right path, or do all signs point toward suburban oblivion?
-The film uses a cast made up of mostly non-actors, including Motlagh's real life parents. Many of the cast were first seen in Amir Motlagh's first short film, Dino Adino (2001). By using an alternative narrative style, the film destroys the lines of fiction and documentary by engaging the audience in a way that traditional narrative fictions cannot.
“WHALE is beautiful in ways I never expected. Lyrical and delightfully lo-fi” Lucas Mcnelly
“WHALE is what Truffaut called the cinema of the future.... It has talent and ambition to spare; Motlagh knows exactly what he wants and he knows how to get it. He's not afraid to be personal, to be slightly obscure and elliptical, to use the freedom that independence gives him. whale is definitely worth seeing and considering for filmgoers and filmmakers alike.” Tom Russell
“Pulsing with a restlessness of purpose and Vision” Alejandro Adams
“The acting/non-acting is so flawless Whale appears to be a blend between documentary footage and a foreign/art house project....I can very comfortably say that Whale is one of the most exciting & well made indie films I’ve seen in a while…creating an interesting/reflective image of ethnic & economic diversity in America.” Sujewa Ekanyake
“Writer/Director Amir is a fresh cinematic voice from the west coast. Distinctly schooled in technique yet has a unique approach to aesthetic over narrative. The film was more of a poem then a tradional story and I love that!” Ryan Balas
"First, let me start off by saying that Whale, written and directed by Amir Motlagh, is a visual masterpiece. It is shot and edited in my favorite style of dynamic camerawork done with an amazing flare for composition and coverage, and immediately draws you in.......Yes, I love Whale. I love it because the characters and dialogue are more natural than 99% of Hollywood movies made. I love it because the scene between Cameron and his ex is one of the best and most realistic scenes I've seen in a long time. Reid Gershbein
“Whale is a shockingly sweet and disturbed look into the soul of self. It left me empty and full of hope at the same time” Ali Sabet
“The fuckers on to something” Natalia Fernandez

Monday, December 11, 2017

How to be happy

1 - Appreciate existence

2 - Decide to be happy (decide that you would like to be happy, then look for reasons and methods to make that happen - see #3)

3 - Find a ton of reasons to be happy - easy to do, they are all around - in past, present, and the possible futures

4 - Take action that leads to results that make you happy

5 - Be happy

Hope everyone has a great holiday season!

- Sujewa

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Agnes the Alien movie Facebook page link, update on other projects

Started work on a new film - a sci-fi comedy feature, no budget (but awesome) called Agnes the Alien.  Here is the Facebook page for the movie -
We hope to finish shooting the film and edit it by the end of January and start sending it out to film festivals in February.

Werewolf Ninja Philosopher update - We did 1 make up test on 12/1.  Prepping for another one.  Other prep work continues until the end of Feb.  We hope to shoot in March, and edit and complete in April and start sending the movie out to film festivals in April.

Breakthrough Weekend update - BW got a great review from Village Voice back in 2014, and it played the Breakthrough Festival NYC at Anthology Film Archives in 2014, and now the new version of the movie is almost done.  We hope to release it on Vimeo and then on other platforms at the end of December.

Brooklyn Fantastic will be edited this winter and sent out to festivals this winter.  More info on that movie later this month.

And that is the latest on 4 movies that I am working on now!

- Sujewa

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sunset Park At Night - Panasonic VX981 footage

Tried out a new camera for a bit a few nights ago.  The Panasonic VX981 - a baby 4K camera/palmcorder.  Pretty good.  Here are some night time footage, w/ very little post work (some exposure correction, increased saturation).  Much better footage coming in the near future as I get to know this camera better.  Also looking forward to trying out the JVC 170 camera.

Sunset Park At Night (camera test Panasonic VX981) from Sujewa Ekanayake on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

1977 Interview with Eric Rohmer (who made his first feature (that he did not disown) around age 46 - the 40s are the new 20s :) )

1977 Interview with Eric Rohmer from zenfoolio on Vimeo.

Filmwax Radio podcast/Adam Schartoff wants to cover 365 indie films in 2018!

The always excellent indie film podcast Filmwax Radio, created by Adam Schartoff, wants to step up their game and cover 365 indie films in 2018.  Plus Schartoff is launching a set of new projects that he calls Filmwax Radio 2.0 - find out more about those at the Filmwax Radio Kickstarter.

Here's Schartoff on the Filmwax Kickstarter and Filmwax Radio 2.0 project:

Help make it happen for Filmwax Radio - go check out the Kickstarter campaign, donate, share.

- Sujewa

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories is very good

Note - I saw the movie before the Dustin Hoffman sex assault allegations story broke.  Not sure what kind of an experience I would have had watching the movie had I knew about the allegations.


Great movie, well written, well acted.  An interesting NYC experience.

Trailer - 

Check out the movie at Netflix -

Silver Bullets is pretty good

It's an art film about the making of a werewolf movie and also about the making of another art film about a relationship.  Interesting - with some comedy, drama, romantic drama, and horror elements.  But, definitely an art film - so go in with no expectations, and expect an interesting ride.

Check it out at Amazon here -

Here's a trailer -

And here's a review by Richard Brody at New Yorker -

Sunday, October 01, 2017

My new films on the way - Oct, Nov, Dec 2017 - and NYC screenings in June 2018

1st one is an old one, first screened in 2014 - Breakthrough Weekend - should be out on VOD in Nov.

Then it's another old one - Brooklyn Fantastic - filmed in 2009 - should be out on VOD or heading to film festivals at some point in December 2017.  I'll decide on which route once I see the final version of the movie.  Also I'll have to see if I want more than one title heading out to film festivals at the same time.

Third film is Werewolf Ninja Philosopher.  We hope to film it in November, finish by early next year, and send it out to festivals before mid-January.  Werewolf will screen theatrically in NYC in June 2018, hopefully after a lot of festival play in spring 2018.  More details on the June 2018 screenings in December 2017 or January 2018.

That's what's ahead for me on my films.  Good times, looking forward to it.  Finally a new wave of DIY film productivity :).  Hopefully we can keep it going uninterrupted for many years to come.  That would be grand.

- Sujewa

Saturday, September 16, 2017

COMPUTER CHESS - another weird and good movie - trailer and link

Watch it here.

- Sujewa

How to make it DIY + weird (mostly re: the DIY part in this post)

DIY 2017 film movement - definition/how to do it (this is our version of the Dogme 95 manifesto :) )

  • written by sujewa ekanayake

(about the weird part - make it unusual - subject matter wise - surreal, a monster movie maybe, sci-fi perhaps, undefinable cult weird perhaps - something other than a romantic comedy set in the real world or a drama set in the real/normal world.  we'll know weird when we see it)

(this list is mostly to encourage people - specially artists, minorities, women - people who are not favored by the established film business in various countries - to make movies.  if we limit the development process, keep it small, keep it art making focused/based, we may be able to make more movies more often and distribute them - each movie like an unusual piece of art)

if the director, on a fiction feature film (only applies to fiction films, not documentaries) 

1 - writes the script

2 - produces the movie

3 - directs the movie

4 - shoots the movie (or plays a very significant role in capturing the images, designing the images)

5 - edits the movie

6 - fundraises, including fully or partially self-funding

7 - creates the promotional material, and does some or all promotional work 

8 - distributes the movie (either self-distributes or has a significant role to play in all distribution decisions) 

9 - makes the movie for a very low budget

10 - uses relatively unknown actors
  • using famous actors is OK if the director organically knows them - friends from the neighborhood, social media friends, etc.  or if the actors just come out and audition for the roles.  or if the actors want to help produce, market, distribute the movies.

then it is a DIY 2017 movie

why?  this is to encourage more diverse voices from around the world to make and distribute movies

and to encourage people to practice filmmaking as an art form that can mostly (most important decisions and work) be made by one artist

the film must be feature length (72 mins or over, ideally 90 mins) - it’s a greater challenge

  • ideally the films will have a diverse cast
  • and a diverse crew
  • and will largely ignore critical opinion, public opinion, industry opinion, including film festivals
  • - it is fine to participate in the film criticism world, go after a large audience, and go after film festivals, etc - but those things are not necessary to be considered a success within this new genre
  • should be interesting to some people besides the director - from 100 to 10K to 100K to 1 million people or more


UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES - weird and good - trailer, link

Watch Uncle Boonmee here.

- Sujewa

ALPHAVILLE trailer and link

Watch ALPHAVILLE here.

- Sujewa

Film Trailer: Modern Love Is Automatic | Film 2009 | SXSW

Watch the movie here.

- Sujewa

Monday, September 11, 2017

Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi), Sujewa Ekanayake (Werewolf Ninja Philosopher) Interviews

I am looking forward to The Last Jedi.  Here's a great, recent interview with Jedi director Rian Johnson at New York Times.

Here's the trailer for The Last Jedi:

I am also looking forward to making my movie Werewolf Ninja Philosopher this fall.  Here is an interview I did with Filmwax Radio about Werewolf movie and crowdfunding.

Werewolf Ninja Philosopher is fundraising at IndieGoGo at the moment.  Check it out here, and if you dig it, support, share.

Here's my pitch video for Werewolf Ninja Philosopher project:

Werewolf Ninja Philosopher movie IndieGoGo pitch video from Sujewa Ekanayake on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Werewolf Ninja Philosopher movie

Werewolf Ninja Philosopher movie lead actor Art Shrian


Help make this amazing movie happen!

"Earlier this year, while I was producing a wild puppet sci-fi project called Space Rabbit, I came up with a private detective comedy movie idea - about a character who has to investigate several show biz world murders in NYC.  Unlike in the regular world, in this version of NYC the following is true - art, indie, experimental, foreign filmmakers, and film critics, are the big entertainment world stars.  In the movie someone is killing art/indie filmmakers, and the city government cannot solve the crimes - so they call in a star private investigator to help them solve the mystery.  The private investigator they call on is a character named Werewolf Ninja Philosopher - a werewolf who has ninja skills - has fought and defeated evil ninjas in the past, and is also a character who teaches philosophy at NYU, and who uses his knowledge of philosophy to help people deal with their life problems.  This is a werewolf unlike any we have seen so far in the movies or in other media.  The werewolf will be played by NYC based Indian-American actor Art Shrian.  This is the first feature length American made werewolf movie (that I know of) with an Asian-American werewolf (prior to taking his werewolf form the lead character was an Indian-American person)."


- Sujewa

Monday, August 21, 2017

Why IndieGoGo is a better platform than Kickstarter for indie filmmakers

This can be seen as perhaps a critical post by some, so, let's get some basics out of the way first.

I like both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, for different reasons, different projects.  And I am glad that both platforms exist, along with all other crowdfunding platforms, and I hope all of them thrive and continue to serve their customers well.

I have no official, professional direct relationship with either company (as in I do not work for either company, and I do not get paid from either company to promote them, but I do have personal accounts on each site for creating crowdfunding campaigns - just a regular user of the 2 sites).  I did however recently manage 3 campaigns on IndieGoGo (hired by individual campaigners to assist with their campaigns) - indie film or art film/foreign film related - and collectively those campaigns raised over $75,000 and allowed those projects to exist, come to life, move on to the next phase on the project.

I have worked on Kickstarter campaigns in the past, and may do so in the future, and I may even run my own campaigns for certain projects on Kickstarter - if I think of a project that is suited to that platform.

With all that out of the way, I think, for 90% of indie filmmakers, IndieGoGo is a better crowdfunding platform. Here are my reasons.

1 - The All or Nothing model does not make much sense for indie films.

Indie films are multi-year, multi-stage projects.  Right now I know of an indie film project on Kickstarter that has raised over $40,000, and their goal is in the $80,000 neighborhood.  The project has around 5 days left and most likely they will not hit the goal.  Of course a miracle could happen; some major national news outlet could pick up the story about the film, and that coverage could connect with the right audience and the project may hit its goal.  But hoping for a miracle is not a great plan for a project.  If that project was on IndieGoGo, the makers could have gotten a serious amount of their work started with over $40,000, and then moved on to raise money through other methods. Typically indie filmmakers do not employ an "all or nothing" approach to most aspects of our projects.  Development can take a long time, films get partially financed from one source and have to find money elsewhere, shoots get interrupted, the editing process can take years - and in a few cases decades - but we are flexible; we look for new alternatives and we try to work things out based on what we end up with, where we end up at a given point.  I know for a fact that it will be painful for filmmakers mentioned above, after having worked hard to raise $40,000 or so, to walk away with nothing - after putting in 2-3 months of work (around 2 months of prep, 1 for the actual campaign) on their Kickstarter campaign.  So, I prefer the flexible funding option available on IndieGoGo to the "all or nothing" mode (that's the only option there) of Kickstarter.  Making indie films require flexibility, so it makes sense that fundraising for an indie film is best served by a platform that offers the most flexibility.

2 - Kickstarter deadlines cannot be changed.  IndieGoGo allows you to extend your deadline up to 30 days.

On two projects that I managed recently, on IndieGoGo, the ability to extend the deadline meant an additional $5,000 for one project, and an additional $12,000 plus for the other project.  These were both significant amounts of money for each project.  New money that made a massive positive difference.

If the projects were on Kickstarter we would have lost the additional money - the new money that came in after extending the deadline on IndieGoGo.

Often press coverage dates, effective publicity start dates, how quickly target audiences start engaging with a given crowdfunding project are unknown quantities.  Sometimes great, favorable press coverage happens close to the deadline. And in those cases it would be good to have the option of extending the final deadline for the campaign.

3 - Kickstarter does not accept Pay Pal.  IndieGoGo does.

I know that many people are not fans of Pay Pal and do not use it.  On the other hand, many do.  And many may have money in their Pay Pal accounts that they may not mind sending over to an indie film crowdfunding campaign.  

4 - IndieGoGo pledges are processed immediately.  Kickstarter waits until the end of the campaign.

So if a pledge is going to fail (not enough money on the credit card, etc) it will be obvious a lot sooner on IndieGoGo.  So, the raised money on an IndieGoGo campaign - at any point during the campaign - are the actual amounts collected by IndieGoGo and eventually available to the campaign owner.  With Kickstarter no one is certain as to what percent of pledged donations will fail until after the campaign is over.  This could be a problem for some campaigns.  On this item IndieGoGo offers greater certainty.

4.5 - IndieGoGo may have greater international accessibility.

If your film has a possible audience in other countries, and possible international donors, then IndieGoGo may be the better platform for your project.  IndieGoGo allows people to create projects from almost any country in the world and allows people to donate from almost any country in the world.  Kickstarter allows people from 20 countries, other than the US, to create projects - mostly European countries.  I am not certain how easy or difficult it may be to donate to a Kickstarter campaign from a country that is not supported by Kickstarter (a country where residents cannot launch Kickstarter projects, which is much of the world at this point).  Two campaigns I worked on recently benefitted from donations from Asia.  And the donors were people who had once used IndieGoGo for their own projects, so they were familiar with the platform and the accepted payment methods.  This item may or may not be relevant to most American indie filmmakers.  But, for a project that might have international appeal, IndieGoGo looks like the better platform.  This is one item indie filmmakers will need to research on their own, in relation to their specific projects.

IndieGoGo offers a level of flexibility (deadlines, flexible funding) and certainty (pledges are processed immediately) that Kickstarter does not, in my experience and opinion, thus, I think, for most indie film projects, IndieGoGo is the better crowdfunding platform.

Contact me if I overlooked any important points and I may add them later to this post.  Or leave a comment in the Comments section.  Also if you are considering running a film IndieGoGo campaign and need professional assistance, contact me.  And, regardless of my preference, best of luck with your film crowdfunding projects on any platform - it's a lot of work either way and I am all in favor of indie filmmakers raising money for their projects using whatever means possible.

- Sujewa

Friday, June 09, 2017

Live video update re: film, #3 - The Iranian-American Art/Indie Film "Underground"

The latest live video update, Indie Film Update From Brooklyn, ep #3 - The Iranian-American art/indie film "underground", including info on the work of Amir Motlagh (btw i keep looking at the top of the hill in front of me, some dudes started playing music after i started the video. so the lesson next time is not to face a hill, as my eyes may go up to scan the horizon, sorry about that distraction. but hey, the joy of these videos is that they are live, and one take, whatever happens, happens :) ) -

Live video update #2 - Split Screens Fest, David Chase/The Sopranos, etc

Check it out here -

Live video update #1 re: film - split screens festival, amir motlagh's indiegogo, sujewa films update

Check it out here, a Facebook live video -

About the video: "indie film news update from brooklyn - #1! (kind of an fb live video test :) ) subjects - split screens festival at ifc center, Amir Motlagh's indiegogo for his 2 new movies, breakthrough weekend update, werewolf ninja philosopher update, a bit about the rough cut of a short film by Devin Negrete, & reflecting on fact that's it's the middle of 2017, still time to get a lot done this year ":)

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco are amazing in HBO's new 1970s NYC porn industry story The Deuce

  A scene from The Deuce, featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal

Well, I hear it's about the porn industry in NYC in the 1970s, but I only saw the amazing pilot episode of the show on Friday night at the brand new Split Screens Festival at the IFC Center, and the pilot deals with the story before the porn industry aspect kicks in.  In the pilot episode we get to see several characters in NYC in the early 1970s; a prostitute played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a bartender played by James Franco (who also plays his gambling addicted twin brother), and several more prostitutes, pimps, and various other people in their orbit.  In the pilot episode we see how things are for these characters on a day to day basis, and generally it ain't pretty.

This was the first time that I saw an HBO show episode on a movie theater screen.  That plus the production design of the show had me going "wow, this looks amazing, this really looks like NYC in the 1970s (as far as I can tell from visual documentation of the era), how did they do that?" half the time while I was watching the pilot. Perhaps the best way to watch HBO shows is on the big screen. Maybe this will be a regular thing in the future; HBO shows getting theatrical presentations.

Another thing that was amazing about the pilot episode was Maggie Gyllenhaal's presence.  Even though she was playing a somewhat struggling prostitute, she projected an otherworldly, movie star quality.  Maybe that's part of the creation of a fantasy aspect of sex work back in the 1970s.  James Franco did solid work on the pilot as a bartender dealing with his various life problems, and things get a bit unusual when Franco also turns up as the twin brother of the bartender.  I won't say much more about those characters; all in all great work by the actor.

The world shown in The Deuce pilot is not the campy, funny 1970s that we see in comedies.  The Deuce's world is a tough, at times brutal 1970s in NYC. But also a world full of everyday struggles, mundane work-a-day victories, and some humor.  This is a world that was partially created by crime fiction writer George Pelecanos.  And as directed by Michelle MacLaren, the pilot feels a lot like a documentary.  Outside of seeing the modern day movie stars Gyllenhaal and Franco in the show, the show immerses the viewer in the details of its time period.  It is fascinating to watch - specially on a massive movie theater screen.  I'll have to watch the pilot again at home to absorb everything that was going on in it.

The Deuce pilot shows a downbeat, colorful world of prostitution and struggle, but brought to life in a rich, detail oriented way, and featuring great performances by Gyllenhaal and Franco.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Split Screens Festival kicks off tonight

Festival happens June 2-8 at IFC Center.

Lots of amazing screenings and events for TV fans ahead.

All info here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TV is the new art house, and here's a new festival about TV - Split Screens Festival at IFC Center

June 2-8, at the IFC Center, at Sixth Avenue & West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village.

About the festival: "Split Screens celebrates the art and craft of TV. Reflecting a moment when television has never been more innovative or accomplished, the festival will showcase the best of our current golden age of scripted shows, with directors, producers, showrunners and cast appearing in person for in-depth discussions about making great TV. Split Screens will also premiere episodes of eagerly anticipated new shows, as well as spotlight the next generation of DIY online creators whose work is pushing the form and content of episodic shows in bold new directions."  More here -

Festival coverage coming to this blog all week long.

Click below to take a look at the amazing line up of screenings and events:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jon Moritsugu NUMBSKULL REVOLUTION! interview

 Jon Moritsugu screening his films at RAMIKEN CRUCIBLE gallery in NYC in 2016

From About page at Jon Moritsugu's website:

Writer/director JON MORITSUGU has been making films since 1985. In 1989, Village Voice critic J. Hoberman called Moritsugu’s Brown University thesis short, DER ELVIS, one of the “Top 50 films of the 80’s.”

Since then, his features MOD FUCK EXPLOSIONMY DEGENERATIONFAME WHORESCUMROCKHIPPY PORN and PIG DEATH MACHINE have scorched eyeballs worldwide from Sundance to MOMA to Cannes to the Guggenheim to Berlin to the Whitney to Toronto to name a few. In 1993, James Schamus (former CEO of Focus Features) produced Moritsugu’s television comedy, TERMINAL USA, which aired nationwide on PBS.
 Visit for more on this amazing underground film legend!

Jon Moritsugu's 2012 Grammy nominated video for "no future shock" by TV ON THE RADIO:

Sujewa - Hello Jon, Nice to have you back at the blog.  Tell us all about the new film that you are working on, and the crowdfunding campaign.
Jon - Right on and good to be back!!! My eighth and newest feature is shooting this summer in Santa Fe and Marfa, TX. It's a deconstruction and satire of the high art world and will be a full-on spectacle of eyeball-scorching sets, improbable narrative madness... and my wife of 20+ years and leading lady Amy Davis will be playing twins - a totally uptight mega-artstar and her flakey, fun-loving sister. We've raised a small amount of money from private donations and crowdfunding seems the next logical step in our pre-production. We've got an awesome production team put together and will be shooting for about 2 1/2 weeks.

Sujewa - Is this your first time attempting to use crowdfunding to finance a film?  How do you feel about this new development in the indie filmmaking world?
Jon - For my last movie, PIG DEATH MACHINE, we did crowdfunding to raise money for post-production. It was a totally clean, cool way to complete the movie with the minimal amount of hassle. I love crowdfunding. It's a great way to pitch your vision and project to the masses in a totally democratic way. I really like how crowdfunding makes the project come "alive"... it's like infusing a bunch of ideas with a real spirit and soul. 
Sujewa - What have you been up to since your last film was released?
Jon - I did some traveling in support of PIG DEATH MACHINE and then shot some smaller projects like a fashion lookbook for streetwear company MISHKA. I'm also in the middle of writing a book on filmmaking as it relates to my life and my philosophies.... it'll be out in 2018 and full color too! Amy and I also focused on our band, LOW ON HIGH, and recorded a ton of stuff. 
Sujewa - How did you like taking part in that art show re: your work in NYC last year?
Jon - Yeah, it was Sept. 2016 at RAMIKEN CRUCIBLE. It was a blast! Too much fun! I didn't know how my movies would translate to an "art gallery" situation - so we ended up projecting 7 features at the same time in the huge, cavernous space. It was completely beautiful, overwhelming, loud... and surprisingly easy to watch. You could focus on bits of narrative and editing and then change your entire perspective by looking across the room at a completely different movie. It was disjointed and fluid at the same time, and oddly meditative and relaxing. People were chilling out for hours at a time in the gallery, and I had expected that no one would be able to endure more than 5 minutes.
Sujewa - My view is that this is the best time in history to be an indie filmmaker, due to digital and web.  What are your thoughts?  Is this the best time, or the worst time, or is it both?
Jon - It's a little of both. A great time because of the low cost gear, accessibility of technology and the internet as a distribution system. And it's also a tough time because of the plethora and overwhelming landslide of so much stuff out there! It's harder to get noticed and a lot of the work is derivative because its been influenced by too much other art. Best and worst of times... happening at the same time. Yeah.

Jon Moritsugu and Amy Davis are the punk band LOW ON HIGH

Sujewa - Talk a bit about how your wife and creative partner Amy Davis has worked with you on your projects over the years.  What's the upside of having your wife be a main collaborator and what, if any, is the down side?
Jon - It's truly awesome to be married to someone who is your best friend, harshest critic, and strongest supporter. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and Amy is my #1art buddy. Someone I can really trust to help to create and cement the vision. It hasn't always been a smooth ride, though. In the early days I had a hard time listening to someone else, whose ideas were often better than mine... and I had to do a whole lot of growing up in order to be cool with the collaboration. Plus I had to deal with the male vs. female battle. It was like the classic movie, "Adam's Rib." Funny now, but really hard at the time. I am so glad we are where we are right now. She's kept me sane, grounded, and moving forward in life. 

From YouTube - "On March 24, 2017, Gregg Araki, Roddy Bogawa, Marcus Hu, and Jon Moritsugu talked about their careers in film for USC's Visions & Voices:  "Gregg Araki, Roddy Bogawa, Marcus Hu, and Jon Moritsugu—the “bad boys” of Asian American cinema—have exploded notions of identity and identification through a radicalized indie-film aesthetic inspired as much by the anything-goes energy of the underground music scene as by the formalist experimentations of directors like Godard. Join us for a panel discussion and concert exploring how indie cinema has been transformed by their punk-influenced, sexually and artistically transgressive, DIY filmmaking.""
Sujewa - What was it like taking part in the most recent Anarchy in Asian America cinema panel event with Gregg Araki, Roddy Bogawa, Marcus Hu?
Jon - This was almost like a reunion for all of us, as we had met in the late-80's/early-90's. I love these guys and am so happy that everyone is still alive and kicking ass in cinema. So much inspiration at the event and it was really cool to talk about where we came from, what the world was like, and how much its changed for the better. There was a time when the world did not think it was possible for people like us to make art films where the characters spoke English. 
Sujewa - I think, as your career shows, it is now possible to practice filmmaking in a way similar to art making in other mediums - painting, sculpture, etc - with a DIY approach, promoting one's events, building a fan base over the years, and now getting funding from the fan base through crowdfunding.  I think that this is a complete model for a filmmaking career. Something that can be done with or without participation in the main film industry of this country/Hollywood/TV, etc.  What are your thoughts on this new development?
Jon - You know, I think you can trace this type of model back to our old friend, Karl Marx. He said that to be successful, you've got to control every phase of "production." You've got to dream up the product, make it, create the store that will sell or distribute it, and then collect the money. I've always wanted to make movies in this Marxist type of way where I was in control of most phases. And along the way, I noticed other people doing it too, people like NWA, Dischord Records, Steven Soderbergh, etc. As a filmmaker, I firmly believe you've gotta make some cool shit, but you also have to control your shit and you've gotta protect your shit. 
Sujewa - If you could do a Netflix or Amazon show, what would it be about?
Jon - It would be about someone like me... an artist trying to be "Marxist" in a totally non-Marxist world.... someone stumbling and often falling in a totally insignificant or grand way.... someone succeeding too... ultimately someone trying to decipher the world and figure out how they fit into it, but it keeps changing like the Bruce Lee "Hall of Mirrors" scene. And sometimes all that is left from the battle is a blood stain on a shard of glass. 
Thanks Jon!

For more on Jon Moritsugu's work, visit his website.

Support Jon's new film here:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

DIY Filmmaking in 2017 - In the Golden Age

It's a golden age for DIY filmmaking & distribution.  I define DIY filmmaking & distribution as one central artist - the director/producer/writer or the main filmmaker, or a group of artists - making films and making them available to interested audiences - specially feature length films - with or without help from Hollywood, large companies, the traditional film industry (relevant specially when done outside of the industry - or not letting lack of film industry help stop one's desire for making movies.)  It's as tough as ever to make a lot of money from independent filmmaking work, but, it is possible now to make and distribute your work relatively easily - compared to the first decade of the 2000s, the 1990s, the 1980s etc.

Now a filmmaker can shoot a film on his or her phone or other easily available high quality image making devices such as DSLRs, camcorders, and then release the movie on Vimeo or YouTube or eventually Amazon, iTunes, perhaps even Netflix, start building a fan base, move on to more ambitious work, play film festivals, grow a mailing list, do crowdfunding, make even more ambitious work, repeat the pattern of releasing & building an audience, and look for new collaboration opportunities when it comes to funding & distribution.

So, get busy making & distributing movies friends; those who are into the activity.

I am finishing up two features at the moment.  And a third one is at script stage - to be filmed later this year.

Will be back soon w/ info on my next release - later this month.

Meantime, two excellent DIY filmmakers - Amir Motlagh and Jon Moritsugu are working on new movies.  More links to their new projects coming soon.

- Sujewa

Monday, May 08, 2017

Help Make THREE WORLDS and MAN - 2 new films by Amir Motlagh Happen

This campaign is raising money to finish and release the feature films THREE WORLDS and MAN. Those two films complete a project called THREE MARKS, TOO MANY SIGNALS. Filmmaker Amir Motlagh has created over 15 films to date. Motlagh's films are often fiction and documentary hybrids that examine modern life as lived by characters who are searching for meaning. Individual identity, family, assimilation, the past, creative struggles are some of the themes that Motlagh tackles in his work.

THREE WORLDS is a unique, introspective drama that delves into a character's multiple perspectives in different points of space and time. Time, history and his personal choices change the course of his existence.  THREE WORLDS is a drama using elements from science fiction to reveal a character trying to find his way out of a maze.

MAN is a semi-scripted, slice of life story told in a fresh, experience centric style that explores a man’s relationship with friends and family in today’s technology centric world. 

Three Worlds, Man Crowdfunding Campaign Intro Video from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Unhappy with limited roles being offered, Amir Motlagh started making his own movies - THREE WORLDS and MAN interview

Amir Motlagh, from his film CANYON

Filmmaker, actor, musician Amir Motlagh has directed over 15 films to date. Motlagh's films are often fiction and documentary hybrids that examine modern life as lived by creative characters - often Iranian-American artists, played by Motlagh. Individual identity, family, assimilation, the past, creative struggles are some of the themes that Motlagh tackles in his work. We spoke with him as he prepares to finish and release two new features - THREE WORLDS and MAN. The two new features and a visual album called CANYON (featuring music by Amir's band MIRS) make up a project called THREE MARKS, TOO MANY SIGNALS.

knock. knock. (2007) from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.
Plain Us (2008) from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.
Khoobi (are you ok) - 2011 from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.
Still Lover (2003) from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.

DIY Filmmaker blog's Sujewa - Hello Amir.  Thanks for talking to DIY Filmmaker blog about your filmmaking career and new projects.  For people who are new to your work, what made you want to become a filmmaker and what are your earliest films? 

Amir Motlagh - Thanks for having me. I can’t really recall if it was something specific that drove me towards filmmaking. I think it was a combination of things, one of which was that I had just finished an intense couple years of acting training, and during the auditioning process, I felt a sort of dissatisfaction with the work I was called to read for.  At the same time, I was introduced to the work of John Cassavetes which totally blew my mind. Sitting and watching HUSBANDS on the big screen was nothing short of revelatory. Now, I had been interested in film strictly because my mother was a cinephile, and I had grown up watching foreign film, or heavy adult drama from a pretty early age. Those things, coupled with the DV revolution, provided an opportunity to experiment.

That’s how it started. I wrote a concept, and within a short time, my friend TN had access to camera equipment from his internship. We "borrowed" the equipment late one night, and went off to film my first film over a weekend. After we finished, we returned the equipment late one night, and thus everyone was satisfied. I had no way to edit the film when it was done at the time. 6 months went by and I acted in a Japanese production and made a friend who had a tape to tape editing machine. We cut the film late nights, after my classes (I was enrolled at UCLA at the time) in the old Charlie Chaplin building in Hollywood. Leaving at around 2 AM when the bars/clubs were getting out was always interesting.

Sujewa - What was your experience with your first feature film WHALE?

Amir - I really have fond memories of making that film. It will stay as one of the more purer experiences I’ve ever had. It mostly taught me how to stay with something even when it seemed like the end was an impossibility. This was the first time I tested, or better yet reverted to a sort of autodidactic method for feature length work. WHALE is also elliptical in storytelling, which is something I often come back to. This was a design feature but also practical. While filming WHALE, I was in grad school. It was impossible to do a straight production because of time, so with the rules set from life circumstance, I created a feature based around these natural barriers. The opposite of hierarchy and efficiency. This process was very much in line with the DIY ethos that was burgeoning in cinema at the time, borrowing heavily from the music world. 

DVD cover art for WHALE

Sujewa - Thus far, not counting the 3 new films in the works as a series, what are your favorite films from your catalog of films?  Or what titles might certain people want to check out first if they are just starting to watch your movies?

Amir - I don’t know. I like the new ones. I think they’re interesting and I had a good time making them, for the most part.  The way that these three works overlapped with my limited time available, however, might not be recommended for the future. Things sort of compound when working this way. I never engaged in multi-tasking however. The method always insisted on a recovery time, between projects to get into the state of mind, or a sort of flow. This is why this method is not sustainable, because the time it takes  to go between projects keeps widening. It’s not a flip of a switch. You are not dreaming in the project, nor relying on a confident intuition until that switch happens. And when it does, it takes an equally long time to get out of that trance, and into another one. Roughly, a week of pondering, coffee, and scribbling in notebooks. 

Sujewa - What's it like being an indie filmmaker artist in LA while pursuing commercial work?

Amir - Not sure if that word “indie” makes any sense in the context we are in now. There really is no separation anymore, so filmmaking is just another word for content. Wedding videos are labeled “short films”. This becomes a Pirsig (author of the philosophical novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) type of commentary on quality, so, I’ll pass on a more elaborate answer other than we somehow still can identify the differences. I like to work in two distinct platforms. One is the pure creative drive, and the other is the commercial enterprise. For example, one of the my favorite recent films is the John Wick franchise. So, I have projects that encompass both spaces, although I’ve not yet had the opportunity to take those larger, commercial projects on in the narrative feature film space. If the opportunity arises, great. Aside from that, I do direct commercial work as well, and I enjoy the turnarounds, scheduling, etc, but there is always something missing. So, having had the opportunity to work on THREE WORLDS, MAN and CANYON in the last several years was a sort of cleanse. A going back to the basics for me.

35 Year Old Man from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.

Sujewa - What's the new series Three Marks, Too Many Signals about?  What made you want to tackle such an ambitious project?

Amir - THREE MARKS, TOO MANY SIGNALS is the banner for three works. The two feature films I’m currently raising money for - THREE WORLDS, and MAN (crowdfunding campaign here), and a visual album released in late 2016 called CANYON. I like to think in sets - that's how my mind works best.

CANYON from Amir Motlagh on Vimeo.

The circumstances of my living situation, having moved out to Laurel Canyon put me into a different space of thought, since, it increased the distances this area (Los Angeles) is famous for. Driving a long time from point A to B to see human faces. Also, since THREE WORLDS was from the beginning an on-going, morphing type of film, everything that came into existence was another reflection of that reality.  So, CANYON and MAN became an extension of one singular process. They shared similar concerns, locations, themes, easter eggs, but also, they can completely stand alone. They are grouped together because I feel together they come the closest to representing that LA reality. But they all have their individual stories. I did approach each one from a bottom up filmmaking approach. 

Nothing about the productions was typical. Living in the canyon though had a major impact on my life. For me, it was the equivalent of moving into the woods to work on a novel. That old trope that might have lived longer as marketing then reality. But, it did change my perspective because it was quieter, more secluded than I was used too. It was a retreat. I read more than I had in the past several years. I practiced zazen (seated meditation from Zen Buddhism). I enjoyed doing the dishes. I enjoyed Roscoe and Buckley - my two pit bull house guests. And it helped me find the distance between the subjective reality of living and the subjective reality of creating. Obviously that kind of thing is kind of hard to explain in an interview - but, from that process, we got the three works.

An image from film THREE WORLDS

An image from film MAN

Sujewa - I've seen a rough cut of Three Worlds and I thought it was an excellent doc-fiction hybrid movie with drama and suspense and with some sci-fi elements.  what made you want to make that kind of a movie?     

Amir - THREE WORLDS was my alternative, and really, a reaction to the frustration I felt as a commercial project I was in pre-production for fell apart. The process forced me to reexamine the creative instinct and how to overcome the barriers to creativity that we all face. I took the leap after that other project crumbled (for the time being, we will get that up and running again).      

Sujewa - What was the process of making THREE WORLDS like? Was it a difficult film to shoot?  What kind of technology did you use in making the film.  The cinematography is amazing - gorgeous, beautiful - how did you and your team achieve that look?      

Amir - I shot the films using a varied toolkit. Practically every type of capture medium was used. Some of the primary gear were the Red Epic Dragon, the Arri Alexa, varied BlackMagic type cameras, a host of prosumer/consumer grade gear like DSLRs and even down to low-grade tech, including analog tape.   

The filmmaking process was always in reaction to real life. Regarding whether it was difficult, I can say that, it was, in the simplest sense, not ordinary. Like life and its unraveling, the process of THREE WORLDS itself mimics the flow of impermanence, flow of time, and I'll explain further. You might be able to say something like that about every film, but, not as a design feature.  The movie was shot piecemeal and over an extending period of time (three years), and in some sense, it was a make your own adventure, but with a constructed core. The magic here, for me of course, occurred during the editing process with my co-editor Bryan Tuck. Tuck's favorite movies, as far as I understand, are within Spielberg’s body of work. We differ, not completely, but we do, and this is why I opted for a co-editor as an opposite force.  To take this unfolding material and create a coherent whole while managing to strike a through line.
Sujewa - What was the motivation for making MAN?  to me, it seemed like an interesting day-in-the-life-of movie.  Also, it is shot in a unique, rarely seen in movies way (without giving too much away).     

 Amir - MAN is somewhat the inverse of THREE WORLDS in how it deals with time, space and process.  Since we went that route with THREE WORLDS, we created a set of rules for MAN to constrict it as it related to the story. In that way, MAN and CANYON are siblings. THREE WORLDS, a distant relative. My fascination with Mono no aware ("...a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence, or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life." - Wikipedia) and Wabi-sabi ("Wabi-sabi is a concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics constituting a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete."[2] It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature." - Wikipedia) became a starting point.       

Sujewa - How did the visual album CANYON come together? What are you doing with your music these days?   

Amir - I started collaborating with Nima Rezai, an LA-based musician who plays this incredible instrument called the Chapman Stick. He’s one of the best at it, but he uses it as a compositional instrument as well. So, we started to make sounds and experimenting with a combination of sounds to see if making songs together was actually possible. At that time, I was thinking of putting together a solo MIRS record, and out of some sessions with Nima, it seemed like a new record was possible between us. So, I started the writing process, and came with the idea that the universe of the record should be tied into a moving image. Nima is a visual artist as well, so, it just made sense. And when this happened, or better yet, when it was decided upon as a thing that would exist if we put in the work, all the other influences of the other work I had been putting together started working off one another. The songs in CANYON relate both to the visual representation, but also, to the larger context of THREE MARKS TOO MANY SIGNALS. It's not a one to one tradeoff. That would be silly. It’s a consciousness sharing itself through mediums. We shot CANYON a week before production on MAN started. They share a lineage. As far as future music, I have one visual album left. I like to think in this conceptual way between the sound and the image as the entry point, it’s a more interesting approach for me.       

Sujewa -  What are the distribution plans for the 3 news films, the series, and when and where can people watch them?   

Amir - They’ll all have a separate journey for discovery, but at some point, I’d like to present them together.  Film festivals, then other screenings, distribution over web most likely will be the path for them.  I'll post updates on my website ( as screenings and other distribution related things happen.  People who are interested in these works can sign up for my mailing list and I'll send them info when the movies come out.  I look forward to getting these works out to the public as soon as possible. Thanks for the interview questions.      

Sujewa - Thanks Amir.  Good luck with the THREE MARKS series completion and release.


Amir Motlagh's website -

CANYON visual album -

Amir Motlagh's films & videos on Vimeo -



Indie Film Blogger Road Trip

At DIY Filmmaker Blog's Facebook Page


BREAKTHROUGH WEEKEND Teaser Trailer on Vimeo

Breakthrough Weekend teaser trailer on YouTube

Good Reads