Friday, June 12, 2015

Los Angeles Film Festival - The Film Independent/Project Involve Shorts Screening - June 11, 2015 - Featuring ROBO SAINTS

My lovely and talented wife Melissa Pritchett has now done the costume design for two short films, the first one “Where We Begin” premiered in April at the Tribeca Film Festival, and was well received.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to attend that premiere, and so far it hasn’t screened on the West Coast yet. 

The second film that she worked on is entitled “RoboSaints” and it premiered last night at the Los Angeles Film Festival as part of the Film Independent Project Involve series and we did get to attend that screening, and it was an amazing experience.

No red carpet to speak of, but that’s OK.  We were ushered into the lobby of the Regal LA Live 14 theaters where I saw Elvis Mitchell and got to shake his hand, which was pretty awesome.  The screening was upstairs three stories, and we’d never been to this particular theater, which is really a bit overdone if you ask me, but of course, you didn’t.  After blowing some dough on drinks and snacks we sat down, anxiously awaiting our screening.

After an introduction by a gentleman who really could have used some practice speaking in front of others, the screening began with a really provocative piece called “Vamanos” about a young Latina who is at odds with the mother of her late partner over the choice of outfits that the mom has made for her daughter’s funeral.  A nice dose of humor contrasted with the overarching theme of alienation in the Hispanic community for their LGBTQ members.  Well worth checking out.

Film number two was entitled “Fractured” though its original title was “The Water” as you’ll see in this clip.  It’s the story of a cabbage farmer in the Central Valley of California, who while having to overcome the recent devastating drought in the Golden State becomes increasingly concerned with his pregnant wife’s erratic behavior due to fears surrounding the safety of the water supply in an area that has been targeted for frackking.  The farmer must decide to gamble on the future of his farm and also figure out how to keep his wife safe.  It’s a powerful look at a very important and timely issue.

Our film was up next, but I’m going to save that experience. 

The fourth film was “Teachers” by Mark Columbo and features Tatiyana Ali (“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”).  I honestly wasn’t that into this short, though it was competently directed and looked great.  The story just didn’t resonate with me as much as some of the other projects.  Still it’s a worthy piece that again touches on a timely issue, namely the education of underprivileged youths and how they can just fall through the educational system’s cracks.  Ali and her costars are fantastic, but the film just didn’t do anything for me.

Penultimately we were shown “Debris Escombros” by far the most powerful and heaviest of all the shorts.  The plight of children caught up in human trafficking is still happening today, and the evil slavers are using technology to keep track of their “merchandise” ala an Amazon.com warehouse.  It’s disgusting to see visually, and the impact is especially salient when it’s presented so well.  The two young leads did a phenomenal job, as did the older performers.  I was very happy to see the actors after the film to verify that indeed the piece was entirely fictional.  That’s how impactful this short was to me.

Finally we had Drowning which was unique amongst the shorts we saw in that it featured the young protagonist’s narration of the events.  Diego is a sophomore in High School and overweight.  He’s a quiet and shy kid, not unlike most teenagers, and he’s got a crush on Sarah.  He’s also got an arch nemesis; the fit and attractive swimming star Marcus, who also likes Sarah.   Diego must overcome his shyness and fear in order to get the girl away from his bully.  This is another story of a timely topic that while it doesn’t go under reported, certainly can use more light shed upon it.  This film was so expertly crafted I forgot that it was a low-budget short!  It really resonated with me as well, being that I’m overweight myself and I used to have severe self-loathing.

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Carlin James 
For my family though, the highlight of the evening was the first public screening of the film we all worked so hard on, “ROBOSAINTS”.  A little backstory might be necessary though.  Melissa Pritchett, my wife, graduated college from Southern Utah University in Cedar City Utah, which is the home of the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  While she was there she made a few great friends, one of whom is Mitsuyo Miyazaki.  Mitsuyo and Melissa had a ball making costumes at SUU, and well, unfortunately after that they lost touch.  Cut to about a decade later and Mel tells me that she really wants to go to a film festival screening at the Chinese theater for the “Hollyshorts” project – Mitsuyo’s Master’s Thesis “Tsuyako” was screening and Mitsuyo was attending.  It would be the first time in over a decade that the friends would see each other.  They reacquainted themselves and had a blast. 

Long story short, Mitsuyo ran into Mel a few months later when they both happened to be in Cedar City and said that it was fortuitous since she was planning on engaging Mels’ services on her latest film, a dance narrative that was to be shot on location in Cedar City, entitled “Where We Begin”.   Thus began a journey that saw Mel staying on location in Cedar City for several weeks working on this project of love with a cast and crew.  It also saw me drive to Utah from Los Angeles with both my Daughter and my Mother in tow.  We actually were on the set for one full day and Kaylee is in the film as a gypsy girl and can be seen fleetingly.
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Carlin James and Robert Ryu

Once life got back to normal in Los Angeles we weren’t really actively looking for another film to work on, but our feelers were out there.  Sure enough Mitsuyo called and wanted Mel to meet with Peter Jin, a friend of hers who was looking for a costume designer for this LGBTQ themed love story that is set in the world of Anime Cosplay.  Now many of you are saying to yourself, what is Anime Cosplay – well, it’s costume play where you dress up as a character from a Japanese Anime series.  This film, entitled “ROBO SAINTS” featured two males leads, one of which is in love with the other, and he cross-dresses as a female mecha pilot in order to win the love of his life. 

In the course of a very very short amount of time she and Peter designed three flight suits for the main characters to wear; two male suits and a female suit, only the female suit would actually be worn by a male.  For reference Peter had Mel watch Neon Genesis Evangelion and of course she was already familiar with Mobile Suit Gundam in its variations.  I helped Mel as usual in my own way, haggling over fabric prices in Downtown Los Angeles, finding athletic gear at the donation shops that could be used for armor pieces, molding hand made epaulets for the costumes, and most importantly, designing and creating the name badges for each of the three suits.  Melissa did the really hard work though, patterning each suit, then meticulously putting them together, adjusting for sizes and ultimately on set repairing some of the material, which turned out to be really poor quality.

On the day of shooting we trucked out to one of the locations in town that was used for Mitsuyo’s film, naturally she already had a relationship with the business in question.  The cast and crew assembled, we shot many takes over the course of the day and everyone on hand got involved.  It was magical in many, many ways.  Bonds were formed, friendships made, etc.  The entire thing was shot in about a week or so, took a couple of months in post and we watched it last night, in awe most of the time.

There’s something you just can’t explain about seeing your work on a huge screen.  I can’t speak for Melissa, but when I saw the pieces I had helped make I felt a huge sense of pride and accomplishment, more so than virtually everything I’d ever done in a professional capacity.  The film itself is terrific, funny and touching in a modern kind of way.  Sure the subject matter may be a bit more esoteric than the mainstream is willing to accept, but the diversity present in the film really shows through as the two male lead actors, director and producer are all Asian American.  Much of the crew are also members of the LGBTQ community or allies.  And the story is so sweet and charming that you can’t help love it.  At least I hope you can’t.

IN any case, there’s another screening of the film on Monday, June 15.  Tickets are FREE:


Monday, June 15 6:00pm
Talk Score to Me
Regal Cinemas at L.A. LIVE
1000 W. Olympic Blvd 90015