Day 435 March 10th
10th Anniversary Interviews Series – Digger part 3
Was it a hard decision to leave Art Asylum when the time came and to add to that are you happy with Diamond Select Toys taking it over?
Digger - Although Art Asylum was officially sold in 2006 I had already resigned in 2005. Years before I left NYC to move to Hong Kong in 2001. I didn't leave to pioneer our manufacturing like I generally told people at the time. I left because I was completely burnt out and needed get the #%$K out of dodge. Without all the personal details (more for other people's sakes than mine - I'm open to fault) we had internal problems. We rented out the NYC Hard Rock Cafe to celebrate our acquisition of the Star Trek license and had every fat cat from every major studio was there from Paramount to Marvel.
A violent altercation kicked off at the show between me and a mess of other people. Why? Doesn't matter anymore but we thrashed some of the upstairs, tables crashed over, guitars knocked off the walls, I lost my cool...not a good scene. The short story is that next morning I woke up in my car freezing to death outside Toy Fair and I realized I was DONE. My hair was literally falling out in clumps from stress for months after years of paying the guys with my credit cards, getting screwed over hard by more than one friend/ partner and ultimately trying to get us funded so we could be the Intellectual Property company that I envisioned us to be. We had major problems internally like many families do, I was tired, burnt out and I truly wanted to go live and work in Asia so I could find myself again.
I was working on personal projects and film more and more over the next 4 years. In 2005 while my dad was terminally ill and I was going through my first divorce I wanted more freedom so I resigned and gave them my majority interest in the company to find new investment. It was all mutual really. When it's time to move on you should move on. Most of what we were doing, MINIMATES especially became turn key. We weren't innovating anything anymore, we were no longer the company I created and I wanted to direct films more than I wanted to breathe so I set out to make it happen.
What have you been up to since departing from the toy scene?
Digger - I was still doing some design work and still working with AA for many of those years but I traveled all around Asia as much as I could. Japan, Thailand, China, Malaysia and the Philippines meeting people and getting into trouble on a pretty regular basis. I was studying Muy Thai fighting for a few years under Sifu Wong in Tai Kok Tsui. I had some independent and group art shows, acted in a few films ( Ultraviolet, Largo Winch, The Vampire Effect, The Counting House and more ), and then started directing music videos to cut my teeth in the whole process of film making.
The Vampire Effect / Twins Effect I got to play a vampire and be in a film with Jackie Chan at the same time. Good times.
The Counting House
This is a really really bad Italian horror film I did in HK. Maggie Q ( Mission Impossible 3,Naked Gun,Nikita ) was among the many known faces that were in this film. As far as i know it was never released. I have a scene where I get ripped off the ground by demons and dragged into the trees Predator style.
The first video I that wrote and directed ( Dead Air Space by Dan F ) was sort of personal story that was a toyetic nightmare. I told the story with a Chinese toy factory worker that goes insane but make no mistake he's supposed to be ME. I went to all the factories i knew in China trying to secure locations for us to shoot and it was more of a bitch than you might think. I had pumped a lot of work through some of these factories over the years with Art Asylum. They owed me this at least but everyone that owns a toy factory is afraid that your going to be doing a documentary on Chinese labour issues whether it's child labour or just plain abuse and half of them turned me down even though I told them straight up we were doing an art house music video they were paranoid! In the end 3 of them came through. A tooling factory, a factory that both McFarlane Toys and I used quite a bit and another one all of them a few hours north of the China border to Hong Kong.
I teamed up with Victor Pena who's a master post production director among other things and Dan F is an extremely intelligent musician from the UK who started out as a geologist and found his way up to HK to open a very successful club that prints money while we does all his other creative stuff. Tobias Kohl did a great job shooting it and Darren Leung played the main character. Darren is an actor and big time wing chun'r. The son of Duncan Leung who was the last student of Yip Man, Bruce Lee's teacher. I really had a great group and project for my first piece and everyone was chosen for a reason. The tone of the piece is very low tech, Nine Inch Nails meets Tetsuo's Iron Man. I placed Darren in a factory worker outfit and had him act and run through the factory with the real toy factory workers. We had 3 thousand factory workers being held at a gate that were officially off work and wanted to leave and they let me hold them at the gate for one shot until I yelled action for one shot.
One of the more most fun and challenging videos I did in HK was with Maitreya. He was coming off his European tour to fly back to New Zealand and he became connected through a common friend that insisted we work together. Jamie is an amazing talent. This was a ton of work that we all did with a very small budget and less time to do 2 videos but we pulled it off. LOTALUV and CHUR TO THE CHUR where the 2 songs we chose because of their commercial appeal but in truth there isn't one weak song on the album. One of the 2 major locations for LOTALUV is a place in Hong Kong called Mongkok. This is the most densely populated spot on the face of the Earth and I couldn't have asked for a better location. The bitch was that I didn't have a bullhorn and I needed to direct everyone live, second by second and my voice was gone for weeks afterwards.
CHUR TO THE CHUR ( CHUR means CHEERS in New Zealand )
Behind the scenes
BLIND GENERATION was a song by an indie musician by the name of Gregory Moore. I met this crazy talented kid beat boxing and playing guitar on the street in Hong Kong and we became friends so when I took him into the studio at World Worm Studios to cut a track that we could do a video for. The women in the beginning of the video are both real blind beggars that I had been dying to shoot something with for years.
I art directed, storyboarded and did all the props for this Cinematic Orchestra video / To Build a Home
From the very first day I landed in Hong Kong I became close with Howard Lee (How 2 Work Toys) and legendary HK designer Eric So who was one of the earliest driving forces of the urban vinyl movement along with Michael Lau. We would share stories and views on the business which they were the best in Asia at without a doubt. They found me my first big studio in Tsim Sha Tsui which was right next to theirs. They were some of my very first good local friends that I could count on. Eric So included me in STAND BY ME , a life size painting exhibition he did with all of his famous friends from around the world and I was honoured.