Writer and Alhambra resident Johnny Ngo spends a lot of time at tea shops. The 26-year-old noticed that the young people who worked there did too. And what struck him was they seemed to love it; they actually had created a social environment based on their place of employment. As a film student at Pasadena Art Center, Ngo explored what happens to these people when the workplace disappears in his short "Happy Hour." Alhambra Source talked with Ngo about tea house culture, why he prefers writing in the San Gabriel Valley to Silver Lake, and his love-hate relationship with the area.
How did you think of the story?
I began to notice that these young people still came to work during their free time to hang out. Why did they do that? You spend four to eight hours working at this place and you're going to come back later? Most people don't like going to work and can't wait to leave. I thought this was interesting. I mean, these people are young, hip, gregarious people. There are plenty of other places for them to go have fun.
So I started to wonder: what were their relationships with the workplace and each other? Does that girl come to hang out because she has no where else to go and hates being alone? Maybe that boy likes his coworker so he comes back to see her even when he's not working. What does the owner think about all of this? The owner hired them all — he or she must see everything.
What message were you trying to get across?
I think the story represents regret. I feel the film tries to encourage us to move on from our regrets.
Where was it filmed?
Happy Hour was filmed in around San Gabriel Valley, mainly in Monterey Park.
Where can people watch your film?
I officially completed the project late 2010. It is only finding it's way online now.
What are you working on now?
Currently I'm working on my third feature screenplay. This one is a breakup romantic comedy in the vein of High Fidelity. I like to tell stories about people who have to start over.
How does the Alhambra area figure into your work?
I guess there's something that I can't escape really. Being a first-generation Asian family, the culture is really predominant here. I find it to be a theme in my work. It's kind of like a love-hate thing. I think being the first generation there are things that I admire and want to hold onto, but some of those values are also narrow minded and strict.
What do your parents think of your choice to be an artist?
Supportive, but they do their job as any concerned parents reminding me that there are other jobs out there. Respectfut to a certain degree. I'm very lucky.
Where can we find you working today?
I kind of jump around: Ozero on Valley, Ten Ren, Honey Badger on Main.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles you walk into a coffee shop and everybody is working on a screenplay. Not so in Alhambra. Is that good for your work or bad?
Being here is kind of my own little getaway. I can go to a tea place and not see another writer. At the same time the ability to network I know is very limited and wouldn't really be happening in Alhambra, like it might in a coffee shop in Silver Lake or maybe in Hollywood. But I like tea more than coffee anyway.
Interview was edited and condensed.
More about Johnny Ngo: