Fans of the action films are often attracted to the genre for the extensive number of fights and stunts included in the narrative. But the new action romance thriller ‘The Girl from the Naked Eye’ takes a risky, but unique, chance by mixing a love story between the main characters with a stimulating vengeance tale after they’re separated by murder.
‘The Girl from the Naked Eye,’ which was directed by David Ren, follows Jake (played by Jason Yee), an ex-gambler who is trying to pay off a debt by working as a driver for The Naked Eye. The private gentleman’s club fronts for a prostitution ring, and Jake is stuck in his existence there. However, his life changes when he meets Sandy (portrayed by Samantha Streets), an innocent misguided runaway, and the two form an unlikely bond and give each other the will to strive for a better life.
However, when Sandy is murdered, Jake vows to stop at nothing to find her killer. He risks everything in order to uncover the truth. Jake must survive as he uncovers lies, clues and his own feelings about Sandy.
Yee generously took the time to speak with us over the phone about the action romance thriller, which hits select theaters tomorrow. He discussed, among other things, how he separated his duties as an actor, co-writer, producer and the second unit director; his working relationship with Ren, one of his co-scribes on the script; and why he looks up to Clint Eastwood as an actor and director.
ShockYa (SY): Besides co-writing the film, you also portray Jake in ‘The Girl from the Naked Eye.’ What convinced you to take on the role after you wrote the script?
Jason Yee (JY): Well, we developed the script from scratch. I was looking for a character that was conflicted and for a script that had a singular character that was carrying the story that had a lot of action. We found a script that was different than what it is now, and we developed it from scratch.
SY: The director of the film, David Ren, also co-wrote the script with you. What was it like working with him, both as co-screenwriters and in a director-actor relationship?
JY: Sometimes it was a director-actor-producer relationship. So at times, as the producer, I had to watch out for things we wanted to do creatively, my business partner and I. We also had to watch out for budget and time constraints, etc. So sometimes there were conflicts, and sometimes we were on the same page. So we were working with multiple people to make things happen.
SY: Like you said, besides acting in, and writing, the film, you also served as a producer. When you were on the set, did you try to separate your acting from your producing duties?
JY: When it came time to shooting, I tried to separate myself. But that always becomes really hard when it’s a low-budget production, because there are always constraints, having to do with time and finances. Sometimes that can take over, so that can make it really tough.
SY: Speaking of the low budget, since this is an action film, did not having much money place ay limitations on what you could shoot?
JY: Oh, for sure. Our action is pretty much limited to marshal arts and gun play. We can’t have huge explosions and car chases and chases running through multiple locations. So it is very limiting, trying to make an action film on a limited, small budget. It’s very tough.
SY: Besides being e main actor, co-writer and producer of ‘The Girl from the Naked Eye,’ you also served as the second unit director on the film. Why did you decide to served as the second unit director as well?
JY: Well, we had things we wanted to do, and like I said, at times had creative differences. We had to get them done, and we were on constraints-time constraints and financial constraints. So I had to step in and make sure these duties, and made sure the film, got finished and made.
SY: Samantha Streets plays Sandy, who Jake falls in love with, in the film. What was your working relationship with Samantha like?
JY: It was good. She pretty much got hired straight through the casting process. She brought some sparkle and charm to the character. It was great.
SY: Before making ‘The Girl from the Naked Eye,’ you appeared in several other action films, including ‘Dark Assassin.’ What is it about the action genre that you enjoy so much?
JY: Well, it kind of comes with using my assets. I’m actually pretty new to the movie business and acting. I wasn’t a child actor, I was a professional fighter and martial artist. I had a gym in Boston, and I was pretty a filmmaker and actor as a hobby, on the side.
Then I made my first film, ‘Dark Assassin,’ and I wrote, directed and acted in that, and did the whole thing. We did that really low budget, and that was before the whole digital revolution. It was very complicated to try to shoot on film and Super 16, and expensive.
But I ended up finishing it in pieces over a couple of years. It ended up getting picked by Blockbuster, and it had a pretty good run for a little $70,000 movie.
Then, from there and the success of that film, it made me make a career change. I decided to move on as I was growing, and wanted to do something more creative than martial arts and fighting.
So I decided to turn over my gym, which I had in Boston, over to my students. I moved out to Los Angeles, and that’s when started developing ‘Naked Eye,’ along with my producing partner, Henry Mu.
SY: Do you use your experience in martial arts when you’re acting in your films?
JY: Well, I would say that I use the discipline that it takes to make a project. It’s very hard to get something made. So I use all the discipline to do all the things it takes to get a movie made, so yeah. (laughs)
SY: Besides feature films, you’ve also starred in short films and television movies, including ‘Tanto’ and ‘The Blue Line.’ Do you have a preference of working in one medium over the other, or do you enjoy acting in general?
JY: I just enjoy acting in general. I just really started going out there since I finished ‘Naked Eye’ as an actor. Actually, the two TV movies were pilots that ended up not getting picked up. Those were actually pilots that were turned into movies. Shorts are just projects that come along that I’m able to jump into. There’s actually a lot more than what’s listed on my IMDB page, but sometimes it hard to get short films on IMDB.
SY: Do you have any upcoming projects, maybe acting, directing or writing, that you can discuss?
JY: I am developing a couple of projects. They are character-driven, action-thriller movies. We’ll see what happens. There are also talks of ‘Naked Eye 2,’ and I’m also working with a couple of other producers on other projects that they want me to star in. So we’ll see what comes over the next several months here.
SY: If you were to make a ‘Naked Eye 2,’ would you be interested in writing, starring in and producing it again?
JY: Well, like I said, we’re talking about making the sequel. Hopefully, we’ll have a bigger budget, and it will be more of a roller coaster ride. So we’ll see what happens. When we cross that bridge, maybe I’ll work with other producers and make my producing job easier, and focus on Jake.
SY: Are there any particular directors or producers that you look up to?
JY: There’s a lot. I guess one of my biggest inspirations is Clint Eastwood, because he was an actor who started out in genre films, like myself. Now, he’s a legendary, respected director. So he’s definitely a big inspiration.
I hope to have a career as long as his, and be directing when I’m 80-years-old. Now I feel that I’m kind of at where he was at when he was just starting his films with director Sergio Leone on the Spaghetti Western films.
SY: Are there any other genre actors that you look up to?
JY: There are a lot of actors that I look up to. Johnny Depp comes to mind, to be able to have that kind of range. Gary Oldman is another actor whose work I love. There are so many.
SY: What has the reaction been like to ‘The Girl from the Naked Eye’ been like?
JY: It seems to be okay. It seems like there are people who love it, and there are people who don’t, and then there are people who think it’s a pretty good film. So we’ll see.
As an action film, it’s sold as an straight action film, and I don’t think it has enough action to do that. I think that people are expecting that, being that it’s a genre film. The distributors are selling it as a genre film, and people are expecting much more of an all-action film.
But ultimately, as people watch it, people see there’s a lot of heart in the film and the characters. People see that stylistically, it’s a very cool little movie. It was made on a low budget, so I’m grateful that it’s being well-received so far, and getting the theatrical run that it’s getting.
Written by: Karen Benardello