Sunday, March 29, 2009

Famous Monsters Night

What an intense two-weeks! First, I went to the set of my director buddies Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu, who are co-directing an over-the-top film, which I can't detail until I'm given the OK to run my article and photos in Fangoria. Let's just say that I got covered in stage blood despite my best efforts! Took some great, if not classic, photos on the set, which I can't wait to get out into the public consciousness!

But my main focus this month was the Sci-Fi / Forry Ackerman event at which I was a guest. This went down yesterday (March 28, 2009) at the Buddhist Hall in Tsukiji (yeah, the famous fish market). I had been a bit leery as to how the venue would work out since it appeared really small on paper, but it turned out to be just the right size with a nice theater seating 200 people and a small, but cozy lobby.

I set up my booth in a corner. Though a guest, I was also selling copies of my films (need money for my new film!). The iDol I finished a while but, but my new film, FEED ME, was completed just two days ago. And, I kind of couldn't get the DVD menu right. So, for the show I had to make discs with permanent Japanese subs and a main menu that acted like a single start button. Screw it! It's still sweet anyway!

I got there early, as I had to do sound check with Kumi. We only had two rehearsals prior but the last one had gone really well, so I was confident the show would go fine. As expected, the mix on stage was not satisfactory, but that's usually the case. I was assured that it sounded great on the main floor.

The focus of the show was a tribute to Forrest J Ackerman, the man so many of us over 35 and into sci-fi and horror owe a doubt of honor too. Saki Hijiri, our fearless leader, made a fantastic opening DVD roll that had clips and images from hundreds of classic sci-fi films. I don't know if I should brag about this, but I could rattle off the titles of over 90% percent of the films.

But I had to spend much of my time manning my booth. Fortunately, I had plenty of lovely women to help pass the time with.

One of the other guests at the show was Chris Walas, who was FX guy on such classics as The Fly, Enemy Mine, Gremlins and Indiana Jones (the good one! The first one!). Chris said that when he does these events in the US all the women are over-weight. It was as if every woman at the show was a model or just pretty. Of course my favorite is Kumi, my partner. But one of the other women, Mayu, is a professional model. But looks are only worth so much, and all the women there were fun and personable too. It completely went against the notion that only geeky guys attend such events. I'm pressuring Mayu to get into acting because I think she has the perfect look for a sympathetic school teacher, and she has the look I want for a script I'm writing now (not a main character, I would not use a non-pro as the main, but as a supporting cast member I could do A LOT worse!).

One of the highlights of the show was Saki on one side of the stage and Ishida on the other, analyzing a screening of THE GOLOM, the classic German B/W film. Saki is known as "Mister Sci-Fi" in Japan, with Ishida holding the title of "Mister Horror." Listening to the two of them comment on the film (and others) was pure joy.

My first time up on stage was for the Forry tribute. Saki, who knew Forry well, started off by showing shots from his home and some clips of Forry when he came to Japan and was on TV. After that each of us got to speak for 5 minutes about how Forry influenced our lives and our personal experience with one of mankind’s sweetest human beings. I told about my first meeting with him back in 1975, when I was just 14 years old! I also could give the US perspective on what it was like to be an American and the godsend his magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, was for people like me. Finally, I could relate the trips I took to his wonderful home in the Hollywood Hills in the 1990s. Oh Forry! Why did you have to leave us!

But, Chris was the guy who knew him best. And Chris was really eloquent in summing up Forry's many good points.

After this was my turn on stage. Many of the people there knew about me and the work I've done over the past ten years in Japanese cinema. Several of the people in the audience turned out to be staffers on films I've worked on, from Godzilla to the JU-ON series. It was also my chance to show them directly the advances I've made in my own film career. I showed the trailers to my two narrative films, The iDol and FEED ME. I absolutely LOVE talking on stage and I LOVE making jokes and getting an audience laughing in unison. To pat myself on the back, I think I did a fantastic presentation. Although I was kind of annoyed that the playback of my trailers was shown 4X3 and not in wide, 16X9, aspect ratio. But, I expected that. Still, it was effective and my trailers went over very well.
The show ended with Mari Shimizu, the voice actress for the classic ASTRO BOY animation talking and then, with Kumi and Hori-san, enacting a script from ASTRO BOY. Wow! Mari is a true voice acting talent.

Following that was my turn with Kumi. She got up first and sang a song from the Toho film MATANGO. Then I joined Kumi and we did "Rejoice in the Sun" from SILENT RUNNING. Holy Crap! We played it perfect and the audience went nuts! It was my first time to make music on stage in 18 years and it was as if I had never left. I was so into it despite the fact that I was basically holding up all the music since it was just me on acoustic guitar. But Kumi's voice is so sweet and full. We had a truly big sound.

After this we retired to the lobby. Kumi was running a bar and everyone was drinking and having a good time exchanging business cards and talking up a storm. I had a lot of fun with Chris, who was really down to Earth. It's nice to talk to guys like Chris who know about filmmaking, the challenges and the joys of the craft.

All in all, it was one of my best days in Japan and today I feel really charged and ready for my new film. Speaking of which, the production is coming together. I got a fantastic cameraman and lighting director last week. And I'm working out the schedule with the actors, which is always a pain. Especially with Stephanie. She's got a new CD coming out on April 29th, and Sony wants her to do promotion at the same time I'm set to shoot. But it'll all work out. It's a tired phrase, but my motto is always, "where there's a will, there's a way." I have a lot of will!

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