Satin Steel

Why did a Bay Area filmmaker journey to China to ask for Quentin Tarantino's help?

Quentin Tarantino arrived at the bar in Beijing around 11 p.m., following an intense conversation with David Carradine. Deep in pre-production on Kill Bill, his female martial arts/action revenge flick, QT was even more wired than usual. "He was being a little bit of a freak, and it was entertaining," says S.F. documentary filmmaker Amanda Micheli, one of those waiting in the bar. She needed a huge favor from Tarantino, but that didn't stop her from getting into a vociferous discussion with him about American Movie (the cult doc about no-budget filmmaker Mark Borchardt). "I can't lose my personality just because I'm arguing with Quentin," Micheli insists.

Actually, the key point of intersection between Micheli and Tarantino is New Zealand stuntwoman Zoe Bell (Xena: Warrior Princess), who's doubling for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and is one of the subjects of Micheli's doc-in-progress, Double Dare. (The other is veteran stuntwoman Jeannie Epper, who worked on the classic B-movie Switchblade Sisters, which Tarantino had a hand in rereleasing.) Over drinks, QT said he could give Micheli three things: 80 percent assurance that she'd have access to the Beijing set, guaranteed entree to the L.A. set, and "a great interview for your film." "It made him feel good to know that he would come off as the hero" for hiring Bell, says Micheli. Nonetheless, much of this depends on Thurman; stars get awful snippy when cameras are around. Presumably Thurman will bond with Bell -- who is going to be bruised and bloodied in the service of making her look good -- and not be an obstacle. Micheli and co-producer Danielle Renfrew (Groove) are aiming to have a rough cut of Double Dare (the title may change) by October to submit to Sundance.

House Party "It's been like Dresden in here for nine months," California Theater manager Dale Sophiea says. The Berkeley landmark, which celebrates its 90th birthday this year, raised a ton of dust with a seismic retrofit, an upgrade to improve handicapped access, and renovation. "The green Addams Family-esque lighting in the snack bar is gone," Sophiea cheers, replaced by track lighting. He directs attention to the enormous ceramic medallion in the ceiling above the snack stand, which the crew uncovered and restored. Best of all, the theater boasts recushioned and reupholstered seats and new carpeting, paint, and plumbing. "It's always been the nicest place to see a movie in Berkeley," asserts Sophiea. "Now, with the seats not poking your butt and caving in on you, it's an extra plus." The Cal reopens June 28 with the rerelease of Cinema Paradiso (which centers on a movie house, you may recall), followed by the Men in Blacksequel July 3.

Friendly PersuasionRod Pulido's decision to self-distribute The Flip Side, his comic study of an assimilated Filipino-American family (see "Walk on the Flip Side," Night & Day, Page 24), is unusual but not surprising. "Since most distributors don't know much about the Filipino community, I would have been doing most of the promoting and they would have gotten most of the profits," he says with a wry chuckle. "I made the film under my own steam and with full control, so if nobody in Hollywood wants to distribute under my terms, I might as well do it myself."

Recalling that The Flip Side hit a major chord with the opening-night audience at the 2001 S.F. International Asian American Film Festival, the Southern California filmmaker chose the Bay Area for his world theatrical premiere. Pulido opens his film Friday, June 21, at the Century 20 in Daly City (a town whose population is 30 percent Filipino), plus the Four Star in the Richmond District. If you're inclined to root for the underdog, Pulido's your guy: Lacking a budget for newspaper ads, he's counting on word-of-mouth and grass-roots support. As an added lure, Pulido and his cast will be at the Daly City shows all weekend.

 
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