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Filmmaker, Writer & Blogger Kat Asharya

by Serena Liu on June 22, 2009

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kat asharya

Photo by: Jane Srisarakorn

The lovely Kat Asharya from my favorite fashion (music, pop culture, et al) blog talks about her film making, what’s in store for NGFM and where she goes for a BLT.

Name: Kat Asharya
Occupation: Filmmaker/writer/blogger
Borough/Neighborhood: Harlem/Morningside Heights

Tell us a little about nogoodforme and how you got started and how it evolved into a troika: I started solo in 2003, when blogs were kind of a new thing in general. There were a handful of blogs that dealt with fashion, most of them from an insider/professional perspective, but I wanted to write about style from a sort of normal, “girl on the street” point-of-view. I kept it going till I went to film school, where it went on a bit of a hiatus as I got incredibly, crazily busy with my MFA work. After a lot of “Where did you go?” emails, I brought on my old zine friend Liz to fill in the gaps between my entries and opened up the content a bit beyond fashion so that we were a little more free to write about what inspired us in pop culture in general. About a year later we got Laura Jane (who we also knew from zines) on board. Something about three is a magic number — we’re able to inspire one another and keep something going on the blog, no matter how busy someone gets. (And we all go through periods where things get a little insane for any of us.) I’m pretty psyched about the direction it’s taken and where it’s going, and it still feels pretty fresh and fun for us, even after six years on my part.

Phoebe 2:13AM, actress Stephanie Ellis

Phoebe 2:13AM, actress Stephanie Ellis

You are also a filmmaker? What are you currently working on? Any upcoming screenings we should look out for? (I know a few just passed…) I’ve been making films since forever (okay, really since undergrad) and worked in the film industry for awhile right after graduating from college. I’ve been getting my MFA in film making at Columbia for the past few years and have been doing most of my film making within that framework, although my producer Tobey List and I are starting up a production company and will be making work under that umbrella soon. A film maker’s always juggling a million different projects due to the unpredictability of making movies, but lately I’ve been concentrating on developing a lot of feature script ideas, ranging from a female werewolf story to an interracial romance set in contemporary Bangkok to a sort of 1990s zine girl/grunge era epic. I’ve also been working on a few short ideas for my thesis film and trying to get the financing together for that. I have a short film, “Phoebe, 2:13AM,” that I’ve just started submitting to festivals. It’s already screened a few times so far in NYC, but hopefully there will be additional screenings in other cities in the upcoming year. Film is such a protracted, drawn-out endeavor… even I have a hard time keeping all my film projects straight.

Phoebe 2:13AM; Doug A. Roland, Stephanie Ellis

Phoebe 2:13AM; Doug A. Roland, Stephanie Ellis

How does fashion and music translate into your film making? I definitely think all the arts feed into one another when it comes to film making, including fashion and especially music. Sometimes I joke that I only want to make films so I can put together soundtracks for them; sound and music are definitely a hugely important part of the film making process for me. Sound and music function like a film’s subconscious, and really great uses of music do it in ways that don’t just “illustrate” a film but add or complicate it. In terms of fashion, I actually do costume design and wardrobe supervising on films a good amount, so I’m pretty attuned to how actors and characters use clothing to define themselves and visually communicate who they are. Interestingly enough, I find in my own films that I have to rein in my fashion eye a bit — you generally don’t want to “date” your film with too much fashion. You want to be true to the world and to the characters, and sometimes that’s not too fashion-centric.

Any other projects you’re working on that you’d like us to keep an eye out for? We’re always up to a lot when it comes to… we’ve done a benefit and curated a show in the past through the blog. There’s been talk of a zine project or a film screening, but since we all do the blog while balancing about a million other things, it’s a little unpredictable.

Favorite music to listen to when writing: What I listen to when writing depends on the type of writing I’m doing. If it’s for nogoodforme, I like to listen whatever I’ve just bought or downloaded recently (lately, Moderat, the Phenomenal Handclap Band, Crystal Antlers, the Horrors and old Neil Young), or I like to listen to WFMU, which plays a fantastic mix of really out-there stuff. If anyone wants to know why my writing sometimes gets a little loopy on nogoodforme, it’s probably because I caught the tail end of the black metal show or something on WFMU! But if I’m working on a script, I pretty much stick to the particular soundtrack I’ve made up for that project, and that depends on the story and the scenes I’m working on that day. For my 1990s Chicago zinester epic, for instance, there’s lots of old, kind of bad industrial music that reminds me of that time and place!

Favorite place to eat in the neighborhood: Harlem itself has a lot of great little restaurants; there’s a genuine sense of community up here. Lately I like to go to Little Senegal and try out the restaurants there. There’s really nothing like it in the rest of Manhattan. I like Africa Kine a lot; the service is kind of terrible sometimes, but the lunch is delicious. But in my neighborhood proper, I’m ashamed to say that I eat out a lot at Deluxe, the local neighborhood slightly-up-the-scale diner. It’s really good, though — it’s got a great BLT sandwich, great fries, just a great selection of solid, hearty fare, and the milkshakes are delicious. The staff are super-sweet and friendly. Community is a new-ish restaurant that I like a lot — generally it takes a seasonal, fresh, local approach to food. It had a fire recently, though, but it should re-open soon. (I hope!) Kitchenette is always great for brunch, and I also like to stop by Sip for breakfast or a snack as well. Everything’s half-price on Mondays, too!

Little known fact about your neighborhood: I forget that Grant’s Tomb is up here sometimes — and I had no idea it was the largest mausoleum in North America.

Favorite watering hole: I actually don’t drink a lot in my neighborhood — I tend to go out to other areas to meet friends for drinks. Most bars are kind of overrun with Columbia undergrads in Morningside Heights, so I do what I can to escape. The old classic is 1020 at 110th and Amsterdam, but I like going to the Abbey Pub instead when I’m in the neighborhood dive mood. The Village Pourhouse works when you’re in the mood for beer, and they have a pretty vast, rather overwhelming selection to choose from, including a nice little variety of Belgian lambics, which are my favorite.

Favorite place(s) to shop (clothing, shoes, food, etc.): My neighborhood’s not so great for shopping, which can be both bad (boring!) but good (not spending money!). What’s great up here is books, which is not surprising in a neighborhood dominated by a university. There’s Book Culture, which used to be Labyrinth Books, which is a great independent bookseller just down my street. Bank Street Bookstore is a children’s bookstore, and I actually really love to go in there because it’s so charming. There are a lot of random street sellers with tons of books, and you can get great bargains from them. In terms of fashion, I’m actually around the corner from Liberty House, which is kind of a boutique stalwart that sells hippieish clothing, toiletries, and stuff like that. (By “hippieish” I mean old-school hippieish, not faux-hippies from Brooklyn.) But I discovered it carries Orla Kiely bags, which are so tempting, and if you dig a bit there is more contemporary clothing as well. But really, my favorite place in my neighborhood is Riverside Park, and I love going to the Studio Museum in Harlem on 125th Street as well. For food, there’s a little farmer’s market up here on Thursdays and Sundays, and Westside Market, which is open 24 hours and is responsible for me doing my grocery shopping at 1am!

Best pizza in your hood: I always end up at Coronet Pizza on Broadway and 110th for one of their mega-gigantic cheese slices. You get a slice as big as your head for slightly less than $3; I always end up sharing with someone because it’s so big! I’m not sure if it’s the best, but it definitely hits the spot at 2am after a night out drinking, which is about the only time I eat pizza.

Best coffee in your neighborhood: Morningside Heights is not really a great coffee neighborhood, and I’m not a huge coffee drinker myself to be motivated enough to seek out the great neighborhood caffeine fix. There’s an Oren’s, and I like to grab a cup at Artopolis on Amsterdam every now and then. But you can’t really beat Hungarian Pastry Shop in terms of neighborhood feel. It’s always crowded, good people-watching, a real hub, and great hot cider and strawberry shortcake.

If there was a movie of your life, what neighborhood would grace the opening scene? As a filmmaker, the opening scene would be my final home and the rest of the film would be a flashback, so hopefully I’ve ended up in my favorite neighborhood to live — which is the Marais in Paris. What can I say? Aim high!

What is your all time favorite monster and/or horror movie? Oooh, I love horror movies! Not the super-gory ones, but the ones that are really suspenseful and gripping. I have to say that my all-time favorites are the untraditional ones, though, like Let the Right One In and Trouble Every Day. Both of those films are visually ravishing, and the “horror”/monster aspect takes a backseat to other emotional and intellectual concerns. (Although Trouble Every Day has one of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever watched in a movie, hands down… shudders!) But I love the old classics, like the first Halloween, the first Poltergeist, and some Japanese horror as well.

“Fashion” movie? It’s a toss-up between Smithereens and Henry & June for me. Smithereens has amazing New Wave and punk costumes from the early 80s, but Henry & June is really beautiful, vintage-y and elegant, and I love the whole idea of Paris in the 20s and 30s. Those aren’t the usual “fashion-y” movies, but they both represent my sense of style in different ways. Oh! And I love Three Women, the Robert Altman movie starring Shelley Duvall. It’s one of his more experimental, left-field movies, but it’s very “1970s in the desert” in terms of fashion, very visually striking. It’s a great movie, really dreamlike and enigmatic, but with a real sense of Altman’s humanism throughout.

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