Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday night. Rainy Tokyo. Had a decent week. My friend Ed Godziszewski (did I spell that right?) is in town. I've known Ed since 1999 when I met him in LA and we've been good buddies since. The thing that started our friendship was a mutual interest in Godzilla, Japan's most famous "actor." But fringe interests such as that can only sustain a friendship so long, and I've found Ed to be knowledgeable in a great number of areas. He's also one of the most patient people I know. Not to mention a good listener, which anyone who knows me, knows is important as I tend to run off at the mouth a lot. 

I've written for Ed's excellent Godzilla / Japanese monster mag, "Japanese Giants" and that was always fun. Ed's a good editor and a decent guy to write for. Our relationship really jelled when we made the film "Bringing Godzilla Down to Size," which he wrote (along with Steve Ryfle) and produced. Although hardly a seasoned producer, he knew enough to let me and my staff do our job and not impose when out of his field. One of the worst things that can happen on a film is when people who don't know what they are doing insist on things, as if simply watching films gives you expertise in making films. I'm thankful for Ed (and Steve) for giving me the opportunity to hone my filmmaking style further and for giving me the chance to apply to film some of the things I'd learned from the hundreds of days I've spent on the set of the past several Godzilla productions. 

Last Sunday Ed and I got together with my friend Shusuke Kaneko, who directed the 90s Gamera series, the Death Note films and the Godzilla epic GMK. When the three of us get together it's a non-stop romp through film history, with each of us praising or condemning as many films as we can set our teeth into. Our main topic was the 1965 film Doctor Zhivago, directed by David Lean. Although nominate for an Oscar for Best Picture, I feel it to be a hooky film with questionable sentimentality. Kaneko's new film "Pride" just opened and Shusuke went over various aspects of the production and the recent PR tour he did. Ed and I hope to see the film (although, as mentioned earlier, I saw it at the Toei lab back in December). 

I spent the day today (and the rest of the coming weekend) working on my new script and starting to think on how to approach my next film (not the one I'm writing). I really want to take my filmmaking style to the next level. Man... if you only knew how tough it is... But that's cool. I like the challenge and I know that no matter what I do, someone will not agree with my choices. But that's life. I'm fine with it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Reaching the end of... FEED ME!

Got back into the editing of FEED ME. This is a new film I've been working on with my friend JR Lipartito. We shot it over the summer and are nearing the end of the edit. It's kind of a sad time when you reach the end of the line on this kind of thing, especially when it's enjoyable and stretches you creatively. 

One of the things I enjoyed about working on FEED ME was that the cast and crew were, with the exception of our DP Rob and ghost actress Mariko, for the most part non-pros (oh, yeah, and one of our PAs was Ultraman director Takeshi Yagi). It was a good opportunity to see what makes a pro a pro. This in no way means that the people working on the film didn't give their all. They did. And the results exceeded my hopes in many ways. It's a small film with a budget of around $1,000, which the final results, in my opinion, belie. 

The film also marks the first time I could work with JR, a fellow New Yorker living in Japan I first met back in early 2002 during a talk show given by director Shusuke Kaneko and monster suit maker Fuyuki Shinda at the Okamoto Taro museum. JR, like me, has wanted to be a filmmaker for the longest time and, like me, is working to make that desire a reality. Actually, he worked on my documentary "Bringing Godzilla Down to Size," so I guess you can say this is our second time to work together. But on that film he had the less-than-glamorous position of P2 Card handler. For FEED ME, JR took on the task of producer and editor. As one of the most agreeable people I know, it was and remains a pleasure to work with him and we are already planning our next film, a story that I wrote called IT'S ALL GOOD.

Speaking of this, I'm a little unhappy because I was supposed to have shot that film last week, but my lead actress got a gig in a US film and had to leave Japan. For the moment the production is pushed back until she returns. More on this film when there is something to write about.

For now, FEED ME is coming to an end. When it's done I'm thinking to make it available on the web via a download. More on that when there is something to write about.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kind of a lame two days. As my cheap ass, just bought last year LCD monitor developed a line right in the center of the screen. I had no choice but tighten my belt and head over to one of my most hated spots in Japan: Akihabara.

I didn't always hate Akihabara. In fact, Japanese electronic stores are a joy to maneuver thru. And no where is this more obvious than in Akihabara, where everything under the sun is on sale somewhere, and at a discount if you shop smart.

So, what's the problem?

About 3 years ago the "anime otaku" culture took over Akihabara. Today, there are lots of girls in maid outfits on the street trying to get you into their idiotic stores for coffee or whatever served by girls wearing cat ears and french maid outfits. I don't have a problem with cute girls, but this is beyond the pale. As a man, I find it demeaning. But that's just me... And to be honest, I guess I'll get coffee at one of these places just so I can see how far Japanese culture has deteriorated

By mistake, my friend Mike and I wound up in an anime store and were pressed in an elevator between 20-something nerds with backpacks stuffed with "goods." The walls of the elevator were awash with drawings of unrealistically busty women. It was all we could do to get the hell out of there are fast as possible. Actually, we thought it was a game store as we're both looking for a used PSP. The store we wanted turned out to be the same shop's sister store next door. Ah! The horror!

In the end, I picked up a nice 26in Samsung computer monitor. The thing is so large I don't even feel like I'm looking at a computer. It's like looking out a window! I mean, 26in! That's bigger than the TV I grew up with back home in New York. And now I have to sit with this thing about 1/2 a foot from my face? Still, it's cool and I'm happy with it.

Today is the screening of my friend Shusuke Kaneko's film PRIDE. I was supposed to go to the premiere, but I blew it off. I like hanging with Shusuke at these premieres, but for some reason I just felt like skipping it. It's a good film and all, but I've seen it and when you've been to one premiere, you've been to them all. Besides, I was invited to my friend's birthday party tonight and I'd rather go to that.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Thursday night and I'm sitting at Shisha again with my buddies Mike and Paul. Kind of a cold day in Shimokita. I went out for dinner with my friend Motomi, and that was really good. Japanese food... Yakitori... Very tasty. One thing that really hits the spot in winter is "Atsukan," you know, hot sake. Warm feeling. Raised spirits... Kind of a fake euphoria...

I finished the Kow Otani video today. He and his singer, Aika, were really pleased with the final result. I'm especially happy with the main menu. It's the band's symbol floating in a bubble over a highway in the California desert that then pops when the viewer hits play. The background shot is one I took back in 1993 just before I moved to Japan during a camping trip I took with band mate Geoff Notkin. That's was a terrific trip. We spent days in the desert dealing with cold nights and hot days. Only down point was Geoff's veggie leaning. All we could eat was god awful bean right out of the can. But I got some amazing photographs on film, which today would be caught on digital film, resulting in a probably more accurate image yet lacking in that pathos found only in film.

One of these days I should get the best of those shots on-line for the whole world to laugh at. Or enjoy. It's up to the viewer...

Mike's engrossed in his recently hacked PSP, playing Nintendo games from the 80s on it. Some really great graphics made only possible through the limitation of 8-bit technology. His favorite film is Karate Kid and he found a tie-in game. Looks nothing like the film, but that's the point. You have to fill in the gap with your imagination.

Now that I'm done with the Otani film, I'm going to start on a new screenplay. I'm planning on taking my Macbook over to Aoyama and sit in a cafe during the afternoon and try to organize my thoughts, which I'm brimming over with, and try to get them into shape. At the moment my main character is named "Rinka," but I might change that. A character's name is important, you know. This is why I often feel that a person should be given the right to change their name upon reaching adulthood. I mean, you parents name you before they even know who you are. As a writer I find it best to imagine the character and then find a name that fits them. This is why I often start a story with one name and then change it later on. For example, in my film The iDol, the main girl started life as "Miyuki," which changed to "Mayuko" and then in turn changed to "Mayuka." It's an interesting evolution.

Christ! I still don't know what a blog is supposed to be about. Do I write about what's around me when I'm writing? If so, let me explain... I'm sitting in "Shisha," which in the US is called "Hooka". I guess that's how you spell it. I prefer Shisha, which I guess is related to the naming situation I was describing above. There are 10 others here, mostly non-Japanese. So it's "gaijin" night at Shisha. But sometimes it's all Japanese. The white girl to my left is playing on a DS, while Mike is on his PSP. In a moment I'm going to get on my cell phone and send a text message to my friend Miho in Yokohama. This Saturday is the premiere of my friend Shusuke Kaneko's new film PRIDE. I saw it last month at Toei Studios for a screening of the first print, which is struck to check the colors. In Japanese you call this kind of print "0-go". The director and DP make some comments and then a new print is struck, which is then called "1-go." So, I'm interested to see where the colors have changed, although to be honest, I'll probably be hard pressed to tell the difference. I suppose it if was my film I'm be attuned to those small changes.

Anyway... back to the real world...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm a little unsure as to why I've opted to attempt an on-line space dedicated to my thought ramblings. Some friends do it, and it gets fairly intense with their writing about perceived social injustices or a total delving into their hobby / interests. Others use it as a promotional tool.

I'm not saying that any of these approaches are wrong. I suppose my reasoning is to save myself a little time in my various correspondences as I often have to tell the same stories over and over and it gets a little tiresome. Those friends can just log in here if they find a spare moment. But then again, the stories I share are often personal in nature and when writing I keep that person firmly in mind. With a blog it's as if you're just screaming into the Ether, unsure who is listening and what their judgment will be.

With that out of the way, I'll keep things to the here and now. I'm sitting in a local café in my town of Shimokitazawa and am getting ready to put the final edit on a video I've done for musician Kow Otani.

Otani's been a good friend of mine since 2001. But even before that I was a major fan of his work. He wrote 3 excellent scores for Shusuke Kaneko's Gamera trilogy, and basically scores for TV, film and even video games. He's also a popular session player in Japan too and plays for groups such as "Southern All Stars" and "Dreams Come True." His work is everywhere!
I was fortunate to hire Otani to do the scores for my first two films, THE iDOL and BRINGING GODZILLA DOWN TO SIZE. Both scores exceeded my expectation and, beyond that, just working with Otani is a lot of fun. He's a super positive guy overflowing with musical cues.

In an attempt to repay him for his work on my other films (and, hopefully, future work) I took the task of creating a music video for the upcoming release of his CD with singer Aika in a group they call "Makuranosoushi." I've seen the group 3 or 4 times and really like their work. Otani approached me two months ago with the project and a stack of DV tapes shot at one of their shows a year ago.

To begin, I had to edit the show down from 12 hours of footage to 5 minutes. Holy crap did that take time! And I'm not an editor. Fortunately, I've been peeking over the shoulders of my editors so I had a good grasp of how to use the software, in this case Premiere Pro.

Otani and Aika came over the other day to review the final edit before I prep it for the mastering company. I'm happy to report that they were totally ecstatic over the work I did. I should mention too that I received help from J.R. Lipartito on the edit as well as Tony Mullen, who created three neat CG animations for the video.

Well, today J.R. comes by and we'll finish this sucker off!

After this I put the final touches on FEED ME, which is a whole other film and story!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Welcome to my world! (And you can keep it!)

Well, I've decided to take the plunge and enter into the self-centered world of blogging. My first order will be to import my blogs from Myspace, a site I got completely feed up with.