Kern Saxton’s ensemble thriller, SUSHI GIRL was one that I really enjoyed (see the IOF review HERE). The film hit dvd/bluray this past Tuesday, and ICONS OF FRIGHT recently spoke to Saxton and co-writer Destin Pfaff about the film. Read on!
SUSHI GIRL seems to have already found its audience; did you expect it to be as well received as it’s been so far?
Destin Pfaff (DP): I guess we hoped so (laughs).
Kern Saxton (KS): Yeah, that was the goal (laughs).
DP: It’s definitely found a really cool audience, and that audience keeps growing.
You guys recently sold out of the film at your signing at Dark Delicacies?
DP: Yeah both DVD and BLURAY. People were coming in, and they had to go to Best Buy to buy more copies to bring in. It was cool.
How did the project come about for you guys?
KS: We were drunk at a bar. We were kind of just drowning our sorrows in in the fact that we were working on a project that we couldn’t find funding for because it was too big and we weren’t “established”. Destin said “we need to make a smaller movie” and at the time it wasn’t really that big of a movie. I think the budget of SUSHI GIRL at the end of the day ended up being more than we were trying to do with that. So he said “we need to make a smaller movie” and I looked at him and said “a smaller movie, how small?”, and he said “one room.” So, that’s kind of how it started…and from that, it birthed a HORRIBLE IDEA. It was all of these gang lords from various gangs, like the mafia, and the leader of the Yakuza, and the leader of the Crips,…and they all came together from dinner.
DP: It was cartoony. It wasn’t terrible.
KS: It was terrible, but it was more of a comedic, off the wall, bizarro idea. I don’t know, it was just inspired by all of these Japanese movies we were watching at the time. It was very flamboyant, and I think some of the over the topness of that idea was carried over into SUSHI GIRL, but it has much more of a lethal edge than what we originally came up with. That was just spitballing for fun, we weren’t really serious about it at the time. When we stumbled onto the girl covered in sushi, we thought that could be a really cool visual and we kind of stayed with that and thought “well, how are we going to build a story around that?”
DP: Yeah, she was much more interesting than anything else we were coming up with.
KS: yeah, and the irony of it is that we ended up making the gangsters into what holds your interest during the duration of the movie.
DP: and they were so fun to create. Like Kern said, we kind of held onto the over the topness of it, and us going back and forth just creating the stories, they were fun and they were juicy. You get to take your favorite bad guys and make them however you want them to be, and they grew to be cool kids.
KS: I think what we wanted to achieve and we pulled off is that we wanted a fun balance of terror and comedy. We knew that we needed it to be a situation where it could swing from more light humor moments to dark humor moments and into not ugliness, but real horror.
The cast is pretty amazing in the movie, did you guys write it with specific people in mind, or did you just get lucky finding actors that ended up working with each other?
KS: Well, I think at the beginning of it we were going to make it for really no money at all, and with our friends, but when we write, we write with certain characters in mind. In the process of writing it, we thought “well if we COULD get a little money, it’d be cool to get these guys,” Tony was definitely in our minds when we wrote Duke, and Jimmy Duval was definitely in our minds when we wrote Francis. We already knew Andy Mackenzie so that was a no-brainer. Mark was not in the picture until later in the game, and what he did with what we wrote was really fantastic.
DP: He really hooked into this character that Kern and I wrote, and what we thought the character should be, and he came in and he really owned it…we couldn’t have been happier.
KS: He made it into something better than it was on page, because it definitely had those beats on the page, but they weren’t nearly as engrossing or entertaining in writing as they were visually and audibly coming out of his mouth. I don’t think we had established the look at that point. It’s kind of weirdly iconic in a way, with his terrible stringy hair, his pink shirt, black tie and his vest, and all of that stuff. That stuff wasn’t formalized in the script.
DP: The Paul Williams look.
KS: Yeah, the Paul Williams look. That wasn’t in the script, that was something we came up with after we cast Mark. Before he came on board, we had someone else, who wasn’t anything like Mark. It became a very different vibe.
The movie has a feeling to it, that’s really reminiscent of ‘70s crime, exploitation movies, was that intentional?
KS: Oh, completely intentional.
KS: I’m so glad you didn’t say RESERVOR DOGS.
(They both laugh)
Yeah, the Tarantino thing, I’ve been hearing those comparisons a lot, but I don’t see that, other than the fact that it’s in a room, I think it stands on its own.
DP: Thanks man! The thing about it is with our movie, is that Kern and I are influenced by a lot of movies that influenced Tarantino. It’s not so much that we’re doing a “Tarantino knock-off”, it’s that we love a lot of the same things that inspired his films. We were also inspired by a big group of movies that he doesn’t acknowledge, not that it’s purposeful, but we do. It’s just a completely different world.
KS: Yeah, but I’m not going to sit here and say that he isn’t at least a point of reference for us, because he definitely is. We both grew up watching his movies as well. I feel like he does what he does very well, and it is really hard to make a one room thriller without at least referencing RESERVOIR DOGS. We kind of owned that, and said “yeah we’re going to reference RESERVOIR DOGS with diamonds and the situation”, but other than that, it’s a real superficial resemblance. They’re completely different stories.
Awesome. Well thanks for taking the time to talk with us, always appreciated.
KS: Thanks man.