After premiering at this year’s South By Southwest Film Festival and drawing acclaim through festival screenings across the country, David Boyle’s latest film, the winning “Surrogate Valentine” is available this month in the Cinema Asian America section of XFINITY On Demand. A black and white, indie, rock’n’roll road trip film, “Valentine” follows San Francisco musician Goh Nakamura (playing himself) as he criss-crosses the west coast playing concerts, coaching a wannabe actor on the ways of a working musician, encountering oddball groupies, and reuniting with a girl who might just – or maybe not – change things completely. With a sly humor and a soulful touch, “Valentine” is one of the brightest spots in American independent filmmaking this year.
“Surrogate Valentine” is built around the San Francisco singer songwriter Goh Nakamura, who plays none other than Goh Nakamura in the film. What was the starting point, the kernel of inspiration which made you realize you wanted to make a film with and about him? I first met him at an after-party for my last film, “White on Rice,” and just watching the way he interacted with people was really interesting to me. Some people are just interesting to watch, and that’s when I started to think that he might be a compelling character in a movie. The story development came later; at first it was just this idea of following Goh around that was appealing to me.
Tell us a bit more about Goh; he has been playing music for a number of years, and is quite well known in the Bay Area. (Two of Goh’s music videos, including that for the title song “Surrogate Valentine” are available to view for free on Cinema Asian America this month.) Goh’s just an all around good guy, and an exceptionally talented musician. He’s pretty even tempered, tends to take things as they come, and he almost never overreacts to things. I’d say the fictional “Goh” of the movie is quite different from the real Goh in many respects, but in essence they are pretty similar. This movie isn’t even his first foray into film–he’s played on the soundtracks of several Ridley Scott films among many others.
Something very exciting about “Surrogate Valentine”, is that it is part of a new wave of American independent films that are made on very small budgets, but have great production values, and even better stories. Your previous films, “White On Rice” and “Big Dreams, Little Tokyo” were made on much larger budgets. Why was it important for you to work small and economical with this film? I just want to keep being able to make movies. I have a couple of larger films in the works that I’m very excited about, but projects in the millions of dollars tend to take a long time to get off the ground. In the meantime, I’d like to continue to develop my skills and become a better director. The only way to do that is work on budgets that are easily recouped. The experience of distributing “White on Rice” gave me a good idea of what my target budget should be, and I stuck to that.
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There are many cinematic influences which helped shape “Surrogate Valentine”, including that it was shot in black and white. Can you tell us a bit about some of the references which you were inspired by while making the film? I think “A Hard Day’s Night” was the single biggest influence in tone and style. Goh is a much more melancholy presence than the Beatles though, and it’s really his on-screen character that defines the vibe of the movie. Other movies we talked about include “Don’t Look Back,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Five Easy Pieces.” This was always meant to be a modest, intimately scaled movie almost like a short story or novella
I understand the success and experience of making “Surrogate Valentine” has resulted in a follow-up film, which you are currently working on. Can you tell us a bit about it? Yes, we took a break from our promotional tour to quickly film a follow-up story to “Surrogate Valentine,” which will be the second chapter in a planned trilogy. Goh and I had such a good time working together, and we really loved the characters we had developed in the first film so when the opportunity arose to continue the story, we jumped on it. I’d rather keep the story itself a surprise, but suffice to say I think fans of the first movie will have lots to look forward to!