I think at least one other important lesson I must always remember is that I don’t get out enough.
It’s true. I’ve lived in New York City my whole life and I’ve never explored it enough to know my bearings when I venture out anywhere other than my usual familiar places when I do end up having to take the subway. The same goes for when I arrived at the Angelika Film Center for the second time since catching Snowpiercer years earlier and crossing paths with actor Gabriel Byrne as he was crossing the street. He had company at the time and so, yeah, nah, I didn’t intrude.
I’ll also add that sometimes, JUST sometimes, Google Maps can be shit. So leave it to me to find myself walking past the movie theater twice and nearly turning the wrong damn corner. It didn’t help that there were a few exterior fixtures hindering my view of the awning, but with a little bit of neck flexibility and some effort whilst nearly backing up into traffic, I found the damn place and made it safely to the location, landing arm-in-arm with some old friends I hadn’t seen for about three years, with the exception of Art School Dropouts’ Joey Min, actress and martial arts influencer Angela Jordan (@ajkick101), and the man of the hour himself, Jon Truei, who was there to host the screening of his newest shortfilm, The 44th Chamber Of Shaolin (read my review)
Also on the scene was martial artist Willie ‘Bam’ Johnson, his wife and their two sons, including young actor Marshieh Johnson who also stars in their own martial arts indie drama, 1 Out Of 100. The evening eventually saw the arrivals of R4 Films LLC founders Robert Jefferson and Hong Kong stunt veteran Robert Samuels who also appears in the short.
We all, along with Truei’s fellow NYU alumni, gathered in the lobby while waiting to go into the theater to start the screening, and so I spent most of my time catching up with a few of the guests, including actor Hector Soria (Jugando Con Fuego) who I last met at a post-UASE Karaoke party back in November 2019, as well as Min and Jordan who were collaborating again to document the screening event at the Angelika, wherein Min also decided to
ambush interview me. More on that another time. 😅
I didn’t really bother looking at a clock as I was just so caught up in the momene of it all, but the screening began around 8:30 and the film ran for about 15 minutes. Truei led the evening by introducing himself briefly before showtime, with producer Mary Pomilla capping off the night prior to an afterparty at a place called Phebes along Bowery Street. Much of the crowd dispersed, including Truei who was with his mutuals as we each headed in different directions to the bar – I galvanted with Min and Jordan along with Soria, New York locals, stunt performer Luis Orlando Candelario, and independent filmmaker Nicholas Ortiz of Deviant Children Productions. It was cold and I lost my fucking hat, but it helped to have company, especially in that temperature and time of night.
We arrived at Phebes after a bit of trekking and the place was as lively as ever. I was thirsty and so I had one glass from the tap, and stood most of the night talking to everyone within arms’ reach. I was a little crowd shy too which made mingling a bit of a challenge, as I didn’t realize until long after I left that Truei was at the afterparty, and regrettably I didn’t get to give him one final congrats before leaving.
I had fun though. I spent about maybe a couple of hours at the party with Samuels and Jefferson, Ortiz, Soria and Candelario, and to my own delight, industry stunt performer Cheryl Lewis who I first had the distinct privilege of having dinner with at a small Japanese restaurant in Brooklyn with colleague Aaron Toney back in January 2017. Lewis couldn’t make it to the screening, so the party was ample enough to convene for both us where we talked shop for a bit on her training, as well as television and comic book fandom. She even informed me about some of her own creative endeavors, and so I’m helping her to network a little bit in this regard in hopes that her project gets all the help she needs.
I’m also looking forward to covering what lies ahead for Soria who’s got something in store with some folks he’s collaborated with before and who I’ve covered, in addition to some new shortfilm content on the way from Samuels for the kung fu cinema crowd. Indeed, he showed me a few minutes of one project he has in the pipeline which I got a kick out of, and is tonally similar to the caliber of action fans of Golden Harvest and Shaw Brothers take a usual liking to.
The rest of the night Samuels and I spent talking about his yesteryear mentor, Sammo Hung, our 1980s crushes like Ally Sheedy and Alyssa Milano, while Samuels reminisced about many of the toils it took to tread through for Ortiz’s Jugando Con Fuego. I can’t say anything here in writing, but it’s really the kind of banter that could only ever be shared over a beer and a shared understanding of the kinds of risks it takes when trudging into uncertain territory to make a movie. One thing that’s notably clear for Samuels though, jokingly, is that he’s had his taste of fake blood for a long while to come.
As the evening winded down and with several folks having already left, it was down to about six of us in my immediate space at Phebes and I kept looking for Truei, who was there but unfortunately out of view. I left with Ortiz as we shared an E-train ride back into Queens. Again, my damn head was cold, but for the most part, I was fine.
It’s definitely one of the most annoying shortfalls of public events like this: never getting to spend as much time with everyone as you want. I definitely wanted to trade a bit with Truei and Pomilla before leaving, as well as the Johnsons, and maybe I’ll get to rectify these at another time, but it won’t be easy. This event was a near-miss for me considering how early it was, and so it took a little bit of wrangling to make happen. I consider myself lucky in these often few instances, especially after finally meeting Truei in person back on New Years’ Eve 2013 after following his content with Fernando Jay Huerto years earlier, with Truei really being the first person I would meet in the years since I became a fan of the online indie action community back in the early 2000s. It’s also the second time this month I got to hang with Truei following last week’s meet-up with Phoenix Eye’s Maria Tran and Takashi Hara.
Attending the Angelika on Tuesday evening was a humbling honor, and a wholly worthwhile effort, especially for some of the best people I’ve ever known, many of whom I am gifted to call friends.
Celebrate your friends. And by all means, don’t lose your hat. Brrr.
Read my review of The 44th Chamber Of Shaolin here!
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.