Dave Boyle, Goh Nakamura and Lynn Chen Craft a “Surrogate Valentine”

Dave Boyle, Goh Nakamura and Lynn Chen Craft a “Surrogate Valentine” (photo)

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There isn’t a whole lot of imagery cooler than a man carrying a guitar case across the hills of San Francisco, unless that man is Goh Nakamura, the unconventional star of “Surrogate Valentine.” Shot in black and white, Nakamura cuts the profile of a lone drifter confident in his sense of purpose as he traverses the streets of the city and…

“I was doing that around here [in Austin too] because I don’t want to leave the guitar in the car,” Nakamura demurred while at SXSW. Okay, so maybe Nakamura was more interested in practicality than to come off as a screen icon, but in the first role for the musician whose songs have always struck a melancholy chord between low-key nonchalance and touching humanism, it’s obvious he’s got the gist of this movie star thing already.

“Surrogate Valentine” has much of the same appeal as Nakamura’s music — it’s offbeat, a bit rough around the edges and undeniably amusing as it tells the story of a musician named Goh (Nakamura) hired to teach the guitar to a TV actor (Chadd Stoops) for his latest film role and winds up taking him on a tour across the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles to give an idea of the life in addition to proper chord progressions, a trip that becomes considerably trickier for Goh when he encounters a classmate (Lynn Chen) he had feelings for in high school.

Like many road trip movies, there are plenty of detours while traveling well-worn territory, but in the hands of Dave Boyle, who last directed the fish-out-of-water comedy “White on Rice,” it’s the kind of film you want to hug. While in Austin, I spoke to Boyle, Nakamura and Chen as they embarked on another tour, beginning with its world premiere at SXSW, that will see the filmmakers barnstorming the U.S., playing festivals and taking the unusual step of simultaneously releasing the film on DVD before making the film available on VOD, later this fall. In the meantime, they spoke of how “Surrogate Valentine” came together, the film’s loosely autobiographical moments and talk already of a sequel.

How did this come together?

Dave Boyle: Actually, it kind of started at the premiere of my last movie “White on Rice.” I met Goh at the afterparty and started talking to him because I knew about his music. We’re both pretty quiet people and he seemed a little freaked out that I was “oh, I’m such a big fan,” right?

Goh Nakamura: I wasn’t really freaked out because I just saw you at the Q & A and I thought “That guy’s really funny.” He’s a great Q & A guy. Then you came up to me and were like “Goh!” I was shocked you knew who I was.

DB: But over the course of the next year when we were doing festivals with “White on Rice” and distributing it. I was traveling all over and I ran into him a few more times, all on different stops where he was promoting his album. We just got to be really good friends and I asked him to play the lead in my next movie just because I thought even though he had never acted before, I thought he could be a really interesting character. So he ended up writing it with me and it became kind of autobiographical for both of us in a lot of ways.

How did the story coalesce? Was Goh’s music a major influence on the script?

DB: Goh’s music definitely had an impact on the story, mostly moodwise because we don’t try and slavishly try and replicate anything he sings about necessarily, but we were trying to capture the same kind of mellow vibe that he has in his music. Storywise, it ranges from stuff being totally made up to things that are basically transcripts of real-life experiences that we had on the road or relationships going sour. So what’s a good example of something that was verbatim from real life?

GN: That whole gun scene pretty much happened verbatim.

DB: The record guy [Goh and Danny] visit in Seattle, he was the bandmate of my [director of photography] and one time when we went up to Seattle to color time “White on Rice,” we stayed at his house and we pretty much had that exact same experience. [The scene shows a record industry exec showing off his gun collection to the bewilderment of the main characters.] We went and he was showing us his gun collection and busted out a guitar and started playing this crazy music, so we’re like man, we’ve got to get this guy into the movie. He’s such an oddball character, so he was the main reason Seattle became a part of the plot in a lot of ways. [laughs]

GN: Dave took a lot of chances with this movie because that guy had never acted too. We were driving up, talking to him on the phone like “is this going to work?” But it ended up working really great.

Did the story dictate the road trip or was it the reverse?

DB: At first, I was really worried about making the plot all fit together, like what’s going to happen in each place? But if you watch the movie now, [Goh] goes back and forth between L.A. and San Francisco a couple different times. He goes up to Seattle twice. I wanted to capture the feeling of never really knowing where you are. You’re kind of discombobulated just because you’re in a new place every week, which is how I feel when I’m promoting one of my films because you’re moving around so much. And I think Goh has the same thing.

GN: [pointing to DB] Him more so than me. Sometimes I’ll have no idea where you are and you’re like “you’re in L.A. again?”

DB: So I think it influenced each other, the road trip aspect and then what was actually happening with the characters. We tried to let it happen organically and hopefully it feels that way too.

Was a lot of this was shot catch as catch can?

DB: When we were scripting it, we were trying to keep location descriptions to a minimum so if something fell through, we could shoot it wherever. That’s why we have so many scenes that take outdoors on the street. Plus, when you’re shooting in San Francisco or Seattle, you just have naturally built-in production design if you’re outside because they’re such beautiful and charismatic cities, so we tried to get outdoors as much as we could. We never had permits for anywhere, but we didn’t get hassled too much. There was a lot of improvisation on the production side and sometimes it even felt like we were throwing the script out the window, but when I look back at the script now, we actually held pretty close.

03192011_SurrogateValentine1.jpgThe wonderful thing with Goh with the guitar case trudging around, it’s like instantly iconic. Plus, you get to shoot in black and white. How did you come to that decision?

DB: It was definitely influenced by films like “A Hard Day’s Night”…

GN: “Manhattan”…

DB: “Don’t Look Back.” We wanted to have a retro vibe to it. The other part was practical because you save a lot of time and money if you’re not worrying about color temperature and it simplifies production aspects. Another part of it was that I knew from the beginning I was going to self-distribute this movie and shooting it in black and white would lock me into that decision because you can’t really get distribution for a black and white movie anymore. So in a sense, this was like crossing the Tiber in a way.

Did it affect how you as actors related to the camera?

GN: A little bit.

Lynn Chen: You know what was funny? Initially, Dave had done some camera tests and he was like, “no patterns!” But I already had something with stripes, so he liked the way the stripes looked, so everything I got was striped! And he’s like “Okay, go easy on the stripes.”

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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