Mon 7.14.2014

The Challenges of a Bilingual Indie Thriller: How Man From Reno Got Made

Man From Reno Premiere

Filmmaker Dave Boyle’s fifth film, Man From Reno, had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in a screening hosted by the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE). The film is a neo-noir crime thriller that follows a Japanese crime novelist staying in San Francisco who finds herself caught in the middle of a real-life murder mystery. She joins forces with the sheriff investigating it, and the more they discover, the more strange and tangled the case becomes. Boyle co-wrote the screenplay with Joel Clark and Michael Lerman, and they were initially inspired by an article about a few Japanese men who got arrested in Los Angeles for an unusual crime. (I won’t spoil it!)

dirREno“At first I wanted to make a movie where there were two storylines, and there was one that was just like a police procedural, and the other was a more emotional, character-driven story. But then I found this article,” Boyle explained. He said he always intended to write this film as a noir, though that’s a bit of a departure from his earlier films: “I’m a huge mystery buff, started with Encyclopedia Brown… I always wanted to do an Encyclopedia Brown-type movie.”

They shot the film in 25 days. “It was a very difficult shoot. We all barely survived,” joked cinematographer Richard Wong, “honestly, it was nuts. But all worth it.” Despite having very little budget (Boyle turned to Kickstarter for post-production funds; some of the film’s almost 600 backers were at the premiere), the film has a lot of locations and looks very expensive. “The reason it looks so great is because the people around me just really knew what they were doing,” Boyle said. “I’ll always be grateful, because usually a movie of this size is just two people sitting in a room.”

The film takes place in San Francisco with primarily Japanese characters, and much of it is in Japanese with English subtitles. Boyle, Clark and Lerman wrote the screenplay in English, and then Boyle (who speaks fluent Japanese) and the actors worked out the Japanese dialogue. “As an actor, especially coming from Japan and living in LA, this is one of my dreams come true to be able to speak two languages in one movie. I thought it might be pretty challenging for me, but then we had a lot of rehearsals together. We had a lot of preparation. So when we were shooting, it was actually very natural to me,” said lead actress Ayako Fujitani. “From the standpoint of trying to get the movie made, it does present a lot of challenges, because it’s not the most obvious choice from a commercial standpoint,” Boyle admitted. “But we were really lucky that we found people who liked the idea of seeing two languages in one movie. I like seeing movies that kind of reflect the world that we live in in some ways.”

Veteran character actor Pepe Serna plays the sheriff. He met Boyle about eight years ago, working on Boyle’s debut film together. “In Hollywood, people say all kinds of stuff,” Serna said, “but when I worked with Dave, the first day we worked, he said, ‘I’m going to write a lead for you,’ and I believed him.” He said watching the film “was magic. I just love seeing myself up there so much!”

Mary Sollosi / Festival Blogger