Suzanne Joe Kai, the producer, director and writer of the Award-winning documentary, Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres, has been nominated for a 2022 Writers Guild Award for Documentary Screenplay.
Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) recently announced nominations for outstanding achievement in screenwriting during 2021. Winners will be honored at a joint 2022 Writers Guild Awards virtual ceremony on Sunday, March 20, 2022. Click here for a list of all the nominations.
For director Suzanne, this is her third act in her life as a feature director, as she is now over 65 years+, and the film took over 10 years in the making. The result is an incredible portrait of an Asian American journalist who was instrumental in the careers of many iconic music legends. It was no secret that every rock/pop/soul music act of the 70’s yearned to be on the cover of the revolutionary Rolling Stone magazine and be interviewed by Ben Fong-Torres. Executive produced by Oscar® winning Freida Lee Mock, Oscar® nominated Bryn Mooser, award winning Doug Blush and the late Tony Hsieh, LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES shows us how the legendary Rolling Stone magazine writer and music editor, defined the cultural zeitgeist of the ’60s and ’70s. Featuring incredible archival footage and intimate interviews with Ben Fong-Torres, Cameron Crowe, Annie Leibovitz, Carlos Santana, Elton John, Steve Martin, Bob Weir, Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye and more, this film brings us the personal story of this legendary journalist.
The current award tally includes the 2021 Newport Beach Film Festival Award for Best Music Documentary, the 2021 San Diego Asian Film Festival Audience Award for Best Feature Film and the 2021 Critics Choice Documentary Honor for Most Compelling Living Subject in a Documentary for Ben Fong-Torres.
About the Film
LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES
The lights, the crowds, the music! Ben Fong-Torres covered it all at Rolling Stone as its legendary writer and first music editor. Ben’s life is an epic sweep through the world of rock and roll. The American-born son of Chinese immigrants, Ben grew up in Chinatown with only a radio to the outside world. Driven by a passion for music and writing, his groundbreaking work helped define American culture. He became a voice of a generation which changed America forever.
““Like A Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres” is a must-see for every journalist, for any music fan, and for anyone who’s ever doubted their chances of success” -The Playlist
“If you don’t already know Ben Fong-Torres for his groundbreaking work in 1960s music journalism, buckle up.” -Town & Country
“What a masterpiece. Grade A+!” –Jackie DeShannon – KLOS FM
“Not to be missed!” –Vogue Magazine
World Premiere – 2021 Tribeca Film Festival – Documentary Competition
Official Selection – 37th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Official Selection – 44th Mill Valley Film Festival
Official Selection – 30th Heartland International Film Festival Official Selection – 22nd Newport Beach Film Festival
Official Selection – 22nd San Diego Asian Film Festival
Suzanne Joe Kai received two Emmy® Award nominations and was named Best Woman News Reporter while a broadcast journalist at San Francisco’s NBC affiliate KRON-TV. She worked at KCBS Radio (CBS) and television stations KTVU (FOX), KGO (ABC), KGUN (ABC), and RottenTomatoes.com. Kai holds a master’s in documentary film from Stanford University.
Ben Fong-Torres was born in Alameda, California, in 1945, and raised in Oakland’s Chinatown, where his parents owned a restaurant. He attended San Francisco State College from 1962 through 1966, majored in Radio-TV-Film and served as a reporter and editor of the campus daily. He began writing for Rolling Stone magazine in 1968, in its eighth issue. He had a full-time job at another publication: Pacific Telephone’s employee magazine. By night, he was a volunteer editor at East West, a bilingual Chinatown newspaper. In May, 1969, Ben joined Rolling Stone as news editor. His interview subjects included Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, the Jackson 5, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, the Grateful Dead, Ike & Tina Turner, Santana, Diane Keaton, and Steve Martin. The Ray Charles interview won the Deems Taylor Award for Magazine Writing in 1974.
Ben was also a weekend DJ on KSAN, a pioneer FM rock station, from 1970 to 1980. He wrote and narrated a syndicated radio special, San Francisco: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been, which won a Billboard Award for Broadcast Excellence. He was the host of KQED-FM’s live, weekly arts show, Fog City Radio, and in 2016 created Moonalice Radio, an online station for the jam band. He programs the music and does a DJ show, 9 to 12 am and pm.
Ben has co-anchored KTVU-TV’s coverage of the Chinese New Year parades since the Year of the Ox – or 1997. He and co-anchor Julie Haener have won five Emmys. Also on television, Ben did profiles on Evening Magazine in 1977, and, in 1982, went to China as scriptwriter for a special, Cycling Through China. His most unique TV credit was his 1993 appearance on “Wheel of Fortune”. Over three nights, he won some $99,000 in cash and fabulous prizes. He also appeared on the nationally syndicated “Your Big Break” in spring of 2000, doing an impersonation of Bob Dylan. Ben left Rolling Stone in 1981 and has since written for dozens of magazines, including Esquire, GQ (where he was pop music columnist for three years), Parade, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Travel & Leisure, American Film, TV Guide, Harper’s Bazaar, Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter. He wrote the main biographies for People magazine’s tributes to Jerry Garcia and Frank Sinatra. In 1983, Fong-Torres joined the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a feature writer and radio columnist until 1992, when he left to write his memoirs, The Rice Room: From Number Two Son to Rock and Roll, published in 1994 by Hyperion (and in softcover by Plume/Dutton), which reached the San Francisco Chronicle’s best-sellers list. Ben wrote the main text for The Motown Album: The Sound of Young America (St. Martin’s Press). In 1991, he published Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons (Pocket/Simon & Schuster). The book was nominated for the Ralph J. Gleason Book Award, and St. Martin’s Press published an updated version of it in fall of 1998. In 1993, on completion of The Rice Room, Ben joined Gavin, the San Francisco-based trade weekly for the radio and recording industries, as managing editor. He vacated that post in late 1997 to work on The Hits Just Keep On Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio, which was published by Miller Freeman Books in fall of 1998. In 1999, Ben published Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll, which was followed by a second collection, Becoming Almost Famous, in 2006. He wrote The Doors by the Doors (2007) and the Grateful Dead Scrapbook (2009). A book about the Eagles has been published in two editions. His 2013 book, Willin’: The Story of Little Feat, was released in an Audible version early in 2021, along with The Rice Room. Ben narrated both books. Fong-Torres is frequently called on to emcee community and fund-raising events, and to conduct on-stage interviews at events like South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and at the Mill Valley Film Festival. He is also known for his impressions of, among others, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Both are featured in one song, “Rainy Day Bookstores,” on a CD entitled Stranger Than Fiction, featuring best-selling authors performing music. He is a real-life character in Almost Famous, the 2000 film by Cameron Crowe. www.benfongtorres.com
Documentaries eligible for a Writers Guild Award featured an onscreen writing credit and were exhibited theatrically in Los Angeles or New York for one week during the eligibility period of March 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021. Theatrical documentaries must have been produced under the jurisdiction of the WGA or an affiliate Guild to be eligible for awards consideration. Feature films and documentaries that had a theatrical exhibition scheduled during the eligibility period but had to pivot to a streaming release due to the COVID-19 pandemic were also eligible for WGA Awards consideration. The Writers Guild Awards honor outstanding writing in film, television, new media, news (broadcast and digital), radio/audio, and promotional categories. The 2022 Writers Guild Awards (74th Annual) will be held on Sunday, March 20, 2022. For more information about the 2022 Writers Guild Awards, please visit www.wga.org or www.wgaeast.org.
The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) are labor unions representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The Guilds negotiate and administer contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of their members; conduct programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to writers; and present writers’ views to various bodies of government.