Yellow Fellas is a comedic film that follows Howie Hiroshima, an angry young man, as he attempts to put together an Asian militia to fight back at what he sees as the Caucasian community's racism towards Asians. As his movement grows, he starts to lose control, until finally it is wrested from his hands by his formerly meek lieutenant Shelby. While poking fun at racial stereotypes, director Tetsuro Shigematsu (who also plays Howie) at first makes us laugh but, as the film progresses, we become aghast at the blatant ignorance on display.
Yellow Fellas was a labour of love for Shigematsu. He spent 7 years developing the project and six months filming on a budget of $5,000, which was spent on a camera and a computer to edit footage. The film professionals and actors all volunteered for the project; he only spent his own money to buy hot meals for those on set.
After the film screened, Shigematsu stayed for an informal Q&A session. There were many professionals and film students in attendance who wanted to know the logistics of filming a full length feature, on such a small budget. There was also discussion on such topics as how to secure funding, pitching movies in Hollywood (where the director now resides), and writing compelling screenplays.
Many people, if not everyone, have an idea for a film and wonder if they would be right for the industry. Tetsuro Shigematsu's answers to the audience questions certainly provided insight into the processes involved, and what it takes personally to "make it". Here are some quotable gems from his Q&A session:
"As a writer you have to assume that the director is a fool even if you are also covering that role. The screenplay must be so good that the director can't screw it up."
"Wayne Wang once told me that if you aren't willing to rob a bank for your film, you aren't ready. I don't think he was talking metaphorically either."
"If it takes you more than 90 seconds to explain a film to your friends, it's D.O.A."
"When your film is ready to screen, you're only 66% through the process."
"If I could do this film again, I would storyboard everything so that filming could be done in 10 days instead of 6 months."