In director Jon Truei's YOMYOMF Cherry video "Secondary Education," three high school students discover that their Chemistry teacher has been living a secret double life as a crime-fighting Power Ranger during an after school detention, and unwittingly become embroiled in a showdown with an escaped mutant lobster in a hybrid throwback to the educational After School specials of the 90s and the Japanese Tokusatsu genre.
The short video recently screened at the Asians On Film Festival in North Hollywood where I had a chance to meet with Jon and his cast.
Jon generously took time to answer a few questions about his YOMYOMF Cherry video
What inspired you to create this project?
All of my movies have been focused to some degree on nostalgia and nostalgia culture. Earlier on in film school when I was pretty much just making lame copycat movies that were stale carbon copies of movies that everyone has already seen, a good friend of mine told me that I wasn't ever going to get anywhere if every film I ever made was just a rehash of another movie, without the introduction of a fresh perspective or element that could make it my own. I spent a while thinking about movies that do possess a strong throwback element, but can stand as tremendous movies in their own right, and the one movie I've always ended up coming back to is Brad Bird's "The Incredibles" (which is one of my FAVORITES). That movie is essentially a heartwarming family comedy disguised as a superhero movie with the plot of "Watchmen" (adapted to PG) starring the Fantastic Four. In that way it is definitely an extremely derivative film, but it's in the COMBINATION of those separate elements that I find the movie to be as brilliant as it is, and I've wanted to achieve something like that for the longest time.
With everything said and done, what I wanted to do with Secondary Education was to make a movie that had the action and effects and campy appeal of Super Sentai/Tokusatsu type shows like "Power Rangers," but still had well developed and genuine high school characters like the ensemble in "The Breakfast Club." There's a healthy amount of "Magic School Bus" in there was well, with the entire adventure being centered around a valuable science lesson that they need to learn.
Tell us about your cast and crew.
We were blessed to have an incredibly talented host of cast and crew members from both New York and LA working with us throughout the project. Eric Lim, who plays our schoolteacher hero, Mr. Yamamoto, along with our VFX team, hero/monster suit fabricators, the designers for the fictitious Salty Sam's Tasty Taste Sticky Chews candy, our poster artist, and our sound designer Rich Arenas, are all based out of LA. The rest of the cast, preproduction design teams, and our on-set production crew were based out of New York City and New Jersey. Most of them were my friends and classmates.
What was the budget?
From pre through post, our final budget for the film ultimately ran in the low $20,000s. It's cost us a lot more though on top of all that to submit to festivals, pay for promotional artwork, etc.
How were you able to finance the project?
This film was produced while I was still in film school, and like just about any other film student, I had trouble affording it. Rather than try to crowdfund from dozens of individual parties who would have little to no stake in the film, I sought out larger contributions from individuals who would have an active participation in the film, in this case, my Co-Executive Producers, Eric Lim and Lincoln Smith, who were also the star and the VFX supervisor for the film, respectively. We were able to lighten the financial burden for the film as a team.
How did you create all the great FX shots on micro-budget?
Lincoln Smith, our Co-Executive Producer and VFX Supervisor, has been working professionally in design and VFX for years on titles in TV like Key and Peele, Children's Hospital, NTSF: SUV, etc. He spearheaded the VFX on the project through his own personal network. Of course though, all of our VFX work was helped out incredibly by our on set practical effects, through Chris Mills and co. at Silver Shamrock Labs, who created our Metacaptain hero suit, and our mutant lobster suit for Clawster.
Where can audiences find out more about your film?
We've currently been posting news coverage for our film along with behind the scenes peeks at our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SecondaryEducationMovie
When and where will the film screen next?
I'm going to be presenting the film again soon at NYU's annual First Run Film Festival this Spring in New York City, alongside all of the other recently completed NYU thesis films.
What new projects are you working on?
After I completed Secondary Education, I shot a short kung fu film demonstrating applications of the Chinese fighting style Xing Yi Quan with my friend Sifu Keith Min, who is a stuntman based out of Chicago. That film is now online and can be found at: http://youtu.be/R3KkFfrotqI
I'm currently working with my Secondary Education team to develop the concept behind the short film into a live action series for tweens, and searching for/developing scripts and concepts for other concepts that I would be interested in directing and producing.
Thanks to Jon Truei for this interview.