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Q&A with filmmaker Tony Young

Tony Young
Tony Young
Courtesy of Tony Young

Actor, writer, filmmaker Tony Young answers a few questions about his origins, his passions and his latest collaboration with director Gregory Hatanaka on the film "Violent Blue."

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. I attended Damien High School, which was an all-boys school, and fell in love with the theater after a production of Anything Goes (music and lyrics by the immortal Cole Porter.)

Where did you get your training?

I majored in English and Theater at the University of Hawaii, even toured China with their Beijing Opera troupe. My first professional work didn’t come til after graduation. My short stories and poetry would be published in the Hawaii Review, Naturally Magazine, Amazing Heroes, and even Health and Efficiency in England. (Yes, two of those magazines are nudist trade publications.) I studied the nudist movement in college.

How did you get interested in Nudist movement?

When I was a kid, we used to pass around a picture cut out of a magazine of a Playboy model. All the kids would laugh except me. I never understood why the naked human body was funny.

I've always seen the body as natural, a curiosity maybe. My appreciation of beauty came later. I think it was innocence and very non-sexual.

So when I saw this news program called the Hawaiian Moving Company which featured the North Shore Nudist Park in Kahuku, I fell in love with the concept.

There was no internet back then, so I couldn't research the history. That came in college after Geraldo did his bit.

What I noticed about modern nudism. No one ever learns anything. The same exploitation movies get made, the same reality shows make a joke out of them, the same talk shows over do the pervert angle, the safety of children, blah blah blah YAAAAWWWWWN

I've visited national nudist conventions (called gatherings) and went to several clubs on regular days, and on holidays. I even ran the Hawaii Skinnydippers.

No one knows the real story, the real issues that nudists and especially nudist teens have to deal with. So that inspired me to tell their stories.

Kids in nudist clubs deal with loneliness and isolation. Many of them have no clue about nudist history, and most rebel and keep their clothes on once they hit puberty.

Many kids in non-landed clubs (nudist clubs that are not part of a resort, but travel to them for discount group rates) have no clue that other such clubs exist. Imagine being in a church youth group and not studying the Bible, and thinking that church is supposed to be an adult activity. That's what's really going on.

I believe that sexual repression in our culture is keeping people ignorant, and preventing them from the simple pleasures in life. The joy of a nude swim is one of those pleasures. Pleasure is not a sin, but overindulgence to the point of alienating others is.

Have you incorporated nudism into your films?

I don't want to keep doing nudist films. There's an old saying in theater, if you want to preach, grab a pulpit. My first script was very preachy. My next one wasn't

I have had only one nudist script. Once I got rid of it, two more took its place. And that's my limit.

I see myself more of a dark comedy and sci fi writer, and I want to gear myself toward those genres. My next film is called Sacred Hearts Coven, and since i created it in high school, there is a nudist character, but the nudist philosophy of body acceptance (an issue I have issues with) is not a part of it.

I like to satirize and the whole trend to glamorize teen pregnancy has got to be skewered. After all, what's the difference between a pregnant teenager and a light bulb?

You can unscrew a light bulb.

What was your first film? What did you learn from working on it?

My first film was “Soap Girl” after many a botched attempts with the same company, whom I shall not name here. I’ve prepared my answer for this question ten years ago, and I swore I would say I learned NOTHING.

But I will amend that. I learned never to work with a company who doesn’t share your vision and who do not have the capacity to bring your vision to life. I wrote a dark, disturbing comedy about prostitution, and the director and lead actor watered it down and turned it into a light drama.

I am influenced by the films of Quentin Tarantino, Takashi Miike and Kevin Smith, but you would not find one breath of their work in that film. In fact, one reviewer upon seeing my ethnically ambiguous name assumed I was “some white guy who took a sex tour of Asia” and could barely speak English.

I also line produced the film, and I can honestly say it was a fun experience most of the time but not a learning experience. I had already acquired years of experience in theater and video production and I brought that to the table. Had it not been for Edwin Santos and I, that production company would not have been half as organized or as efficient in coordinating the production. Edwin and I left that company to work for Gregory Hatanaka on Mad Cowgirl several years later.

What films and filmmakers have influenced your writing and filmmaking?

See above. But also add theater. Euripides’s the Bacchae was a major influence on all of my work including Soap Girl. (No one would have ever guess that.) Comic book writers such as Neil Gaiman (“Stardust,”) Geoff Johns (“Smallville” & “Green Lantern” consultant,” Alan Moore (“Watchmen,” “V for Vendetta”) have in most recent years turned my writing around.

For instance: The character was the Crimson Avenger, DC Comics’s knockoff of the Green Hornet, 1938: “For years, everyone thought that was a sun symbol on his chest. Actually, it was a bullet hole.” --Geoff Johns, 2000

Notice how he took an iconic character and costume whom the reader was already familiar with and redefined it with just one sentence. And as a director, perhaps Tim Burton. I don’t have the budget to go as lavish, but I consider "Edward Scissorhands" one of my favorite films of all time, next to "Star Wars."

Tell us about "Violent Blue"

Violent Blue is essentially a film told in the language of music and uses music as film language. Greg created the story, and would write out a synopsis. I would flesh it out with very little dialogue, and when there is dialogue, I would work in the subtext of Greg’s intent. For instance, the psychiatrist asking Katarina if she had ever thought about having children.

What inspired you work on "Violent Blue?"

It’s Greg’s story, but he has always wanted to do a mystery where the key component was the concept of musical notes being transcribed into a written code or language.

What does the title "Violent Blue" refer to?

It’s meant to convey a mood, but personally I like it because it’s a spin on Gerschwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. It was actually Kuy Yeav who came up with that name, and I think he misspelled it.

There is graphic footage of a pig being killed. What was the intent behind that?

It was meant to convey suffering, mirroring Katarina’s plight in the cage. It wasn’t my idea but I defend Greg’s choice. I personally would have tied it into the story because I tend to be more literal.

"Violent Blue" is currently available on DVD at Go to:


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