A Joe Diamand interview: “Miami Connection”


My interview with Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, the fearless star of the rediscovered martial arts film “Miami Connection,” at the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival had concluded and other reporters were waiting to speak to him.  Kim, though, had other ideas, and said that I should continue asking questions, this time to the man sitting next to him the entire time, Joe Diamand.

Earlier that morning, Diamand, who in “Miami Connection” plays Jack (a college friend and Dragon Sound bandmate of Kim’s character Mark), had already sorted out an escalating logistical misunderstanding on behalf of the Grandmaster with staff members of the interview venue.  Better to solve such matters with patience and calm, to paraphrase what Diamand had said afterward.  However, it turned out that this was not the only time that he had stepped in to the Grandmaster’s aid in a major way.  Diamand is also credited in “Miami Connection” as a production supervisor, associate producer and, notably, a writer.  Having never penned a script before, Diamand – credited in the film as “Joseph Diamond” – had to complete this task from scratch after an initial cut of the film depressed Kim so much that he slept for two straight days.

“Miami Connection” heads back to the big screen in the U.S. and Canada this fall, this time courtesy of the RiffTrax team (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) who will provide commentary as part their RiffTrax Live! 2015 tour on Oct. 1, with an encore presentation to take place Oct. 6. Our interview with Diamand took place the day after the movie’s showing in New York in 2012; this is the first time that it has been published in full.

Yuan-Kwan Chan: You know, I did ask Grandmaster earlier about the original screenplay and then how that changed with the reshooting of the film.  Were you involved with both of those scripts?

Joe Diamand:  Right.  So, originally, I just showed up because I was Grandmaster’s student.  I was going to just show up and kick and punch.  I thought that was going to be a lot of fun.

And then they asked me to be production manager.  So I had to coordinate getting everyone to the set.  The set kept on moving.  It was almost a nightmare to try to coordinate everything. I needed to know how what I’d gotten myself into.

And then he asked me to be associate producer. I said, ‘Okay, I’m doing all this other stuff, why not?’  And then finally he asked me to be a screenwriter.  They would then rewrite the script and I’d never done a screenplay before.  I didn’t even know what that was all about.  So, I went out and bought eight books and locked myself in my room and kind of read them all over a few days. And I came out and said, okay, let’s write a screenplay.

And we did it.  You know, that it needs a certain formula…the original story didn’t have—didn’t really capture the true essence, the true martial arts spirit of what Grandmaster Kim is all about.  So we wanted to preserve the great atmosphere of the movie but we also wanted to at least inject a little bit of his philosophy in there without changing the charm which, after 25 years, people have finally discovered.

And with some of the fight sequences, you know, how did you—I assume this was your first film?


Right.  So how did you find fighting in film versus, you know, [real life]?

Well, it’s a very good question.  With my training with Grandmaster Kim, we’d go through all the fight movements so I knew how they were called, how they’re done, how they’re done effectively.  So, it’s very documented, very easy to explain to the cinematographer who, by the way, did an amazing job.  I mean, all those fight sequences usually in a regular movie, they’ll have multiple cameras rolling.  It was just one camera man as the director of cinematography.  He did a really excellent job.

It was almost entirely shot in Orlando, is that correct?  Like a lot of the swamp scenes and so on or were there parts of it in Miami as well?

Right.  So, the opening scene was actually shot in Miami…in Orlando, we had a great number of students, locals.  But in Miami we did the same thing.  We had really true martial artists that joined us on the set for that scene.  And then we wanted some of the road scenes with the bikers and things of that nature were also shot in Orlando.  So, we kind of mixed everything up and we got the sense of, you know, we weren’t just based in Miami. That’s where the cocaine was being acquired.  One of their outlets was Orlando and that was the connection.

And after this film experience, or this first film experience, was it what you’d expected?

As martial artists we love what we do and we love our Grandmaster, but we’d also watch martial art films.  I think every martial artist wants to promote their art and one of the ways they can do it is through film.  That’s why Bruce Lee made his movies and Chuck Norris made his movies. And I think, hopefully, finally now the world will recognize Grandmaster Y.K. Kim as well.

And what’s your involvement now with the Grandmaster in terms of the schools?

Well, right now, I’m very, very involved wth the school.  I think you’ve got a little bit of a taste for where Grandmaster’s going with his fitness programs.  There’s so much more if you get a chance to ask him some more and you’ll learn so much more about what he’s doing.  He’s totally revolutionizing martial arts, not just in the USA but in the whole world.

Video: Interview with Grandmaster Y.K. Kim and Joe Diamand – 2012 New York Asian Film Festival

interview by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine
video by Ben Chan / Meniscus Magazine
sound by Darrell Thimoléon / Meniscus Magazine

Video: Grandmaster Y.K. Kim at the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival

video by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine