Monday, December 21, 2009

Death Kappa

Keeping up with this blog is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Or maybe it's just because I'm at one of the busiest points in recent memory.

First things first: My film "It's All Good" is moving along. A little slower than hoped, but everyday sees some kind of progress. I recently completed all the ADR. That is such

a chore and one of my least liked phases of the filmmaking process. Especially when an actor has to match their lips to a close up. It's precision work that's hard for them and hard on me. And it's not until I'm working with the audio clips later on if I really know whether it's working or not. But, it went well and I'm happy to put that behind me.

The premiere of the film has been decided and when all the details are finalized I'll announce it officially. But for now, the word is that it's going to premiere at one of Japan's largest film festivals two months from now. As you can imagine, I, along with the rest of the staff that worked so hard on the film, am very pleased with this, the film's first screening.

I recently made the set of "Death Kappa," a film directed by my friend Tomoo Haraguchi. I've known Haraguchi for over ten years, meeting him first on the set of "Gamera 3." Haraguchi also put in a performance in my first film, "The iDol," playing the character Boss Goro. Good filmmaker, good sense of humor, good guy, good friend.

The first day of my "Death Kappa" visit was a lot of fun. I went over with one of the producers of the film, who works for Media Blasters and who I've known since their "Machine Girl" production. We piled into a staff van one early morning and road out of Shibuya and over to somewhere around Mt Fuji.

The film was being shot in some kind of converted boiler room in a seemingly abandoned and entirely dilapidating building. Fairly dusty and not a lot of room to move around within, the boiler room was dressed with some war era equipment, a human-sized X to which the main actress spent most of the day strapped to, several "gill men," half-man / half-fish things in WWII solider outfits, the mummified remains of mad scientist, a large mural of the same guy with eyes that would glow and move around the room, and, finally, a large Hinomaru flag hanging behind the whole scene.

The stars of the film, Misato Hirata and Yukiko, were in the day's scene, so I was able to chat them up and share some set laughs. That's always fun. On hand too was one of Japan's more famous directors putting in a cameo performance. Sorry, but as of this writing I'm not allowed to divulge the film's secret guests.

A couple of days later I journeyed over to Yokohama where the giant monster battles where being shot. It was right on the bay, across from the large Ferris wheel. I think the last time I was here was in 2007 when I was a guest at World Con for a panel talk on – what else? – Godzilla.

I've been on more miniature sets than I can remember. I've seen the whole gamut of production scales from top dog Godzilla down to shoestring budget "G." Death Kappa falls somewhere in between. Fortunately for the film (and me) the art director for the DK monster scenes was Isao Takahashi, who's been doing this sort of work since Godzilla 85. I first met Isao on the set of "Godzilla 2000", but it wasn't until the GMK production, when I visiting the set daily that we got to be buddies.

During the shooting of "GxMG" and "Tokyo SOS" I spent the production in Toho's studio 9 with my desk space right next to his. We used to argue long and hard on philosophical and social issues, the ways of filmmaking at Toho Studios and, better yet, would take photos of the other if one of us had fallen asleep or done something on the more idiotic side. I'd often come into Toho in the morning only to find some large 8X10 photo of myself from the day before showing me asleep with my face pressed hard against the desks of the art department and dribble spilling from my mouth. In turn, I'd get shots of Isao eyeing photos of scantly clad women in magazines such as Friday or Weekly Playboy. So, I was thrilled to find Isao was in charge of the miniature work on "Death Kappa." Other than bumping into him here and there, the last time I saw him at work was on the set of Godzilla: Final Wars where I had to listen to his non-stop complaints about the script and the production as a whole.

I would say it's been four or more years since I shot stills of giant monster's battling it out. I'm happy to report that it's like riding a bike. As soon as I found my place on set squeezed in between the official set still photographer and the camera crew, and with the monster suit actors positioned on stage and action called, it was as if I had never left. I mean, the smell of the set, the banter of film set Japanese, the smell of the "fog," the gathering around to check playback, the stock of buildings stacked off the side, the boxes of miniature paraphernalia, the suit actors waiting between shots half in / half out of their monster suits... I love being on these sets!

I'll be doing a feature piece on "Death Kappa" for Fangoria magazine, but next week I'll have a teaser piece up on the Fango website.

As soon as it's up, I'll update the blog with the link.


  1. Sweet! As always Mr. Norman, look forward to your hard work that you provide, really is a labor of love after all isn't it? ;)

  2. Sounds like you had fun. Can't wait for the teaser! And Happy New Year!