by Shen Xingzhou
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Byron Q, an up-and-coming Chinese American filmmaker, because his film Las Vegas Story will have its Asia premiere in this year’s PUFF.
Initially from LA, he moved to San Diego and then San Francisco. Among these three cities, San Diego remains his favourite because of its beach, sunshine, beautiful scenery and relaxing mood.
“LA is just a big culturally mixed city, San Francisco is too “techie”, everyone there wanna create an app! ”
So why did he choose Las Vegas to be the background of the film?
“I used to go vocations in Las Vegas when I was still living in LA. I found this place very interesting, quite like Picasso’s paintings: real and surreal goes hand in hand. The real part is the gap between the rich and the poor. People live outside, far away from the casinos, lead sort of normal lives. But most people there, they do effect by gambling and try to survive.”
Like a quote from the film: “this place (Las Vegas) eats you up. ”
“The surreal part includes the neon light and the stripper clubs, but also, the people. When people came to Las Vegas, they act differently. Remember there’s a black guy in Las Vegas Story? When you first saw him on the screen, the way he walked, talked, dressed, which make you think: What? Is he Snoop Dogg (a famous American rapper)? But no! Ha-ha! He is a normal guy. That’s the funny and weird part, because everyone in Las Vegas, they want to imitate others.”
Real and surreal, is not only a term which Byron used to portray Las Vegas, the city, but also a way to represent the film.
“The stories of the film, they are all real stories based on real people. I did a lot of research before shooting, nearly two years, asking local people, listening to their stories, writing them down then put them together. I had some professional actors and actresses in the film, which for sure can’t avoid certain acting, but for the rest: the family in the film is the real family. The leading actress, she is a real prostitute. The locations: casinos, motels, etc.…they’re all real, which really bring the story alive.”
Mixing real people with actors and actresses has always been Byron’s style. Las Vegas Story, the film title, will bring to the audiences’ minds strippers, money, drugs, gangsters, but in fact, it’s a story about a single mother.
“I have always wanted to make a film about a female character. I know Christina (the leading actress) as a friend for years. After hearing some of her stories, I made up my mind to do a film about her. Personally, I was also raised up by a single mother, that in a way, helps me to understand the character better.”
I asked Byron whether our heroine’s personality was made out to be too perfect to be real.
Byron emphasised: “It’s her! It’s just who she is. Maybe being perfect, becomes her only flaw.”
During filming, Byron rented a house for the whole crew to do shooting. Basically they lived there for one month. “It’s a unique experience.” said he.
They did several scenes inside the biggest casino of Las Vegas, secretly, without people’s knowing. “It’s unbelievable! We accomplished it! ” said he proudly.
Byron studied visual arts film under the renowned French New Wave Director Jean-Pierre Gorin. As a result, some people considered his style a mix of urban themes with French New Wave style.
About Las Vegas Story, the third feature of Byron, what he has to say is: “this film itself is not so much French New Wave, but it conveys somehow the spirit of it. For example, I didn’t focus too much on the plot. With Las Vegas Story, I was trying to build up my own style. Right now I am on my way to evolve, to make something different.”
Yes, at such young age, 29 as we spoke, Byron is now preparing his fourth feature, a sci-fi. “I am open to anything, and I will try different genres.” We, the audience, do have every reason to look forward to his future works.