Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Asian Artist Profile: Filmmaker Akira Boch and His New Film, The Crumbles

Akira Boch has directed more than 30 short films, documentaries, and music videos and his work has appeared on MTV, PBS, and in film festivals across North America and Japan. The Crumbles is his first feature film. He is the director, writer, and editor of the film.

Can you talk about The Crumbles?

The Crumbles is a slice-of-life tragicomedy about an indie rock band that's struggling to make it out of the garage. I think of it as a fun little slacker movie with great music. It's always been hard for me to lay out the storyline for people because it's such a character-driven piece, but it focuses mainly on two young women, Darla and Elisa, who are best friends that start a band. But trouble starts brewing because they're opposites in personality. So, the qualities that bring them together and allow them to make great music also start driving them apart. The film also features their wider circle of friends, an eclectic group of misfit artist-types who live in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. So, the film is also somewhat of an ensemble piece.

We made The Crumbles on a tiny budget -- which some people would call "No Budget" -- with the help of filmmaker friends and other artists. It's been a labor of love from the start, and we're happy that it's been pretty well received. We even somehow managed to win the Audience Award at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival! We've been on a nationwide "Awkward 'n' Awesome" tour since January 2013, screening at independent theaters, festivals, and colleges all across the US, and the entire thing has been a blast.

I was especially interested in the friendship between Darla and Elisa. The whole cast is amazing, but the core of the movie, I feel, is their complex and tumultuous relationship. Can you talk about these characters and casting their key roles?

Darla and Elisa are a typical odd couple. Darla is a serious musician, but still trying to figure out who she is. Elisa is a free-spirit and the creative driving force behind the band, but she's unreliable. As the saying goes, opposites attract. Darla believes that she's dependent on Elisa, but this is part of her figuring out who she is.

Casting these roles was challenging because they both required strong acting and musical skills. On top of that, they had to be believable as best friends, which was possibly the biggest challenge of all. We held open casting calls, scoured the local music venues for real musicians, and went to see plays. We looked high and low for about six months. 

We first found Teresa Michelle Lee for the role of Elisa at an open casting call. She had a natural charm and good comedic skills, and she played very naturally in the auditions. She also rocked out on piano for us, which told us that she'd be great on stage in the band.

I had already known Katie Hipol from her work at El Teatro Campesino, a renowned regional theater in San Juan Bautista, California. I had seen her in the lead role of a musical production, so I knew she could sing and act. She also had the additional talent of playing guitar. We decided to audition her, and everyone agreed that she played very naturally on camera. We then brought her together with Teresa, and by the end of their callback, they wouldn't stop hugging each other. It might sound strange, but it's true. That's when we knew they could work together.

The music in the film is awesome! How did the collaboration work between you, the actors, and the musicians?

The music was composed entirely by Quetzal Flores of the band QUETZAL. Incidentally, they just won a Grammy this year in the Latin Alternative category, so we're all excited for them. I've known Quetzal for many years, and I've made several music videos for his band. I feel like we have a strong working relationship, and that's why I wanted him to make the music for The Crumbles. Not to mention, he's an amazing musician.

Quetzal was really the first creative collaborator on the project. He read the script and almost immediately started coming up with musical ideas. I gave him a playlist of influences -- including some of my favorite female-lead bands, like Cibo Matto and Buffalo Daughter. He, of course, brought his own influences to the table. After we found the actors that we wanted to work with, Quetzal then wrote music using the instruments that they were capable of playing. So, the music was made to work with their talents and their personalities.

Quetzal is so good at what he does that every time he'd send me a track, I loved it. Maybe I was just happy to hear something, I don't know. But I never rejected any of his songs. I felt like they would all work in the movie. It's a real testament to his abilities as a musician.

The Crumbles really captures the anarchic and jubilant energy of young artists, that could easily have taken a nosedive towards cynicism, or worse, become some cautionary tale. Was this a deliberate choice to go against that tired narrative?

I intentionally wanted to keep the film light. The idea for the film was initially inspired by watching musician friends of mine go down very dark paths. But instead of focusing on that darkness, I wanted to remind them of the better times, and why they got into playing music in the first place -- for the joy of it, and the friendships that were made.

So, The Crumbles is a film that was made by a group of friends, for our friends.

Where can people see The Crumbles?

We have one more official stop on the Awkward 'n' Awesome Tour, in New York City on Saturday, June 8th, at 4pm at Anthology Film Archives. 

The Crumbles is already available on Amazon's Instant Video Store.

The Crumbles will be available on iTunes and Vimeo On Demand starting in June. And if you add us to your Netflix queue, we'll be there one day soon. Also available on DVD through Amazon and our website TheCrumbles.com in the near future.

The soundtrack is available on iTunesAmazon, and TheCrumbles.com.

For a FREE DOWNLOAD of a Crumbles song, visit our website.

Please look us up on Facebook and Twitter!

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