The Asians Who Made Sucker Punch

As you all know by now, Sucker Punch has a lot of Asian American talent, not just on the screen (Jamie Chung and Vanessa Anne Hudgens), but behind the screen as well.

Three Asian men were key players in the production of Sucker Punch. While the movie was directed by a Caucasian man, Zack Snyder, these three Asians were absolutely crucial to the production, thus why I call them the “Asians Who Made Sucker Punch.”

I got a chance to sit down and interview these three people, Steve Shibuya, Larry Fong, and William Hoy. Hope you enjoy it.

Steve Shibuya – Screenwriter

Sucker Punch is your first major screenplay, how has your life changed now that Sucker Punch is getting released to theaters?
I have no idea yet since it hasn’t been released yet. Whether the film is good or bad, I don’t think it matters. Either way it’s going to open a lot of doors for me. There’s no way someone watches the film and doesn’t remember. It’s going to be a good calling card for me.

You collaborated with Zack Snyder on the screenplay, how much was your involvement compared to Zack Snyder?
He came to me ten years ago with a vague idea for a movie called Sucker Punch. He had the title, the character Baby Doll, a bunch of different worlds. He had a bunch of different elements that were so insane, but so intriguing. If only we could create a movie that could combine all these crazy elements that would be a movie I’d want to see. This was all before he made his first film.

After he made his first film I started bugging him about it again. Then we started working out how to make this story work. The screenplay was like, I’ll write this section and you can write that section. Everything worked well because we both have similar styles. We would help each other on one part or another. There was no ego involved.

How were you chosen to write the screenplay for Sucker Punch?
Good question, maybe you should ask him. Haha. Actually he did tell me why once. He said because I always had some good ideas. He felt that I could really bring something to the mix.

Has your goal always been to be a Hollywood screenwriter?
It is now. But no, not always. When I was a kid I always drew. I always wanted to find a creative outlet. I did painting, sculpting. Just trying to find a medium of expression that could express me. That led me to film. I took a night course at Pasadena Arts Center. I remember making a documentary, a film about the process of life. One of the students in the class cried. I was like damn. DAMN. She was moved by it. That moment I knew it was a powerful medium. Film really combines every medium and puts it together. That’s why I pursued film, and out of that came screenwriting.

Have you thought about doing other fields in the film industry?
Yes I’ve tried a lot of different things; working with the camera, producing, etc. I think screenwriting is the most challenging and the most fulfilling aspect of screenwriting.

Have you had any obstacles while becoming a screenwriter?
The biggest obstacle I’ve faced is being an Asian American growing up in a Japanese household, where family members were interned during World War II. There was a lot of love but a lot of love. But through that I discovered that art was the way to express myself. It was a difficult childhood. But through that I gained many positive things.

I’m assuming your parents didn’t want you to get in the film industry?
No they wanted me to be a dentist or an accountant. Haha. Or a doctor. No I’m just kidding they never said that. But they always supported me no matter what. So I guess when Sucker Punch comes out it’s going to be like, “Thank you for sticking with me.”

Larry Fong – Cinematographer

Obviously, Sucker Punch has a lot of CG, tell us from a cinematography standpoint, was it difficult to film?

No, everything I do has a certain amount of CG, even when I was doing a lot of TV commercials, there was a lot of CG. In 300 it was almost all CG, so it’s second nature for me. The challenge for me was to make it the best that I could make it visually.

What separates good cinematography from bad cinematography?
I try to use cinematography that is appropriate for the film. For me good cinematography is what is appropriate for the specific film or genre. Sometimes I would use cinematography that I would never use depending on that project. But of course everyone has their own opinion, so it’s very subjective.

Tell us about how you were chosen for the job as the cinematographer at Sucker Punch?
I had a working relationship as well as personal friendship with Zack Snyder for many years. We met each other in film school over 20 years ago, and since then we’ve been collaborating on many projects.

You’ve collaborated a lot with Zack Snyder, can you comment about that relationship?
I met Zack in film school over 25 years ago. We were friends and did projects together back then in film school. After graduating we did music videos and commercials together, and eventually he asked me to do the film 300. Since then we’ve been doing a lot of collaborations with each other. Zack is an amazing director, and it’s not just me saying this, almost everyone says the same thing. Zack promotes the spirit of fun and colloboration on the set.

Does it amaze you how you’re collaborating with people from film school?
Yes, absolutely. It is very surprising. Actually Steve Shibuya (the screenwriter of Sucker Punch) also went to the same film school as me and Zack Snyder.

What are the biggest obstacles have you faced as an Asian American in the film industry?
I don’t think I’ve faced any obstacles as an Asian American. At least in my field, cinematography. I worked hard and did good work in and out of school, which allowed me to continuously get work. In my field it doesn’t matter what you look like or your ethnicity.

Since the film industry is a competitive field, do you have any tips for aspiring filmmakers to gain that competitive edge?
It’s tough, it really depends on your field. Cinematography is a little less dog eat dog. In the end, the only way I think is to just be the best you can be, practice, and really live and breathe your skills.

Do you have any tips for aspiring cinematographers?
Shoot as much as you can, not just film, but photography as well. Always be looking to create some kind of imagery. Nowadays in the digital age it doesn’t cost anything except maybe the camera. Even if it’s only a small little personal project, you should make as many things as you can.

William Hoy – Editor

You’ve done now a few films with Zack Snyder, can you make a comment on your relationship with the director?
Yeah I’ve done all of Zack’s films now. He allows me a lot of freedom to do what I want on his films, because we’ve had such a long-time relationship and we’ve built that trust. Zack is a great guy, very funny.

Are you now his go-to editor?
At the moment yes. Haha. If we still have matching schedules I’d love to do more of his films.

Have you always wanted to be an editor?
I knew I wanted to be in film, but I fell into editing. I did originally want to be a director or a DP. But I found that editing actually has a lot to do with the creative aspects of a film, and I’m very happy with what I have right now.

Any other fields in the film industry that you want to pursue?
I would love to produce something. If I got a project I would feel passionate about I would love to make it. But what I know about the process of making a movie, I feel like I could definitely help with a young filmmaker in producing something in the near future.

The film industry is very competitive, what advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
There are so many ways to make a film.

How did the editing for this film differ from other films you’ve done?
Sucker Punch was very different from the other films I’ve done. Each fantasy in the movie was shot with a different technique and look. Creatively I was able to explore with several different ideas.

Out of the films you’ve worked on, do you have a favorite?
Obviously I love the film I just finished. I also loved 300. There was a lot of stuff in that movie I really liked. Same with the movie, We Were Soldiers. I’d say those would be my favorites.

Written by Editorial Staff