Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FM Night... MORE!

Found a couple of shots on-line from reviews of the show. Didn't have any of myself, you know. I was too busy to take many anyway. In fact, I was so busy at the show that I didn't even eat all day!

The event officially came to a close the next night after all those involved had a wrap party. Chris Walas also did an autograph meet at the store Bandit near Yoyogi Station in Tokyo the following day. I got there near the end of the session and was kind of surprised to see such a long line. But I really shouldn't have been. It's mostly because of his work on GREMLINS, a hugely popular film in Japan, that drives his popularity here. In fact, one woman who came started crying she was so happy to meet Chris. As I explained to him: Japan is kind of a repressed society so when people have the chance, the flood gates are open!

After this we all went out for eats. I spent most of my time with Mayu, Kumi, Dr Abbey (Kumi's manager) and Horii, who lent me his guitar for the show. As is typical at these things everyone sat themselves in descending order of importance, with guest of honor Chris at the head of the table surrounded by Masters of Ceremony Hijiri and Ishida. I opted for the side table so I could chill with the women. (Chris admitted later that he felt I got the better of the deal... as I said to him, "It's lonely at the top, man!")

We all had a wonderful time and it put a nice cap on the show. Especially after this. The other table decided to go to Karaoke, something I hate. So the group at my table went to a small cafe and spent the time writing messages to each other in some of the leftover program books.

It's moments like this and when I'm with such terrific people that I am happy about my decision to move abroad and live in Japan.

My biggest thanks go out to Dr. Abbey and Kumi, who are two of the sweetest people I've met in Japan. Love you guys!!!

Here are some new shots from the show:

This is the main hall... It's a Buddhist temple after all!

This was during our Forry tribute... I was kind of choked up.

This is from my stage talk... Not sure what I was going on about. Something important, no doubt. (I guess I was checking my notes written in invisible ink on invisible paper...?)

This is Kumi and I on stage. Her voice is as sweet as her looks! I kicked ass too!

This is Chihiro, who I met at Yubari Film Fest last year. She's into gold...

Here's the after event group crammed into the lobby.

Here now are shots from the next day After Party:
The WAY-COOL table!
* * *

Horii, Mayu, and some white guy!

More from the COOL table!
Just in case you forgot how lovely Mayu is!
Me, Yukiko (who did makeup FXs on my film FEED ME) and Chris!
Oh my god! It's the crying girl again stalking Chris on the street!!!

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!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

It's All Good...begins!

My new film is moving right along... Still haven't worked out the exact shooting date but I'm getting closer. There are three main elements to bring together for the shoot. To get them all to meet at the point in time I wish, I have to nudge each a bit, pulling them all in until they converge on the date I want. It's tough, but it's also fun. I enjoy working with people and finding the best way to bring them into the production.

My new film is a short movie that follows a husband / wife couple who are philosophically at odds with each other. Throw into the mix an alien parasite and it's looking to be a typical story from the demented mind of Norman England.

I got two wonderful actors to star in the film. One is Shogen, a model / actor (or is that actor / model?) from Okinawa. I met Shogen at the Yubari Film Festival last year along with his manager Taka Yamashita. Both Shogen and Taka are immensely cool guys and it's my pleasure to be working with the two of them.

I'm also pleased to announce that along with Shogen, the movie will feature Stephanie, who starred in the latest Shusuke Kaneko film PRIDE. I saw PRIDE for the first time at Toei last November and really liked Stephanie a lot. Although it was her first film, she had a natural style and she fit the role to a T. But, although I had already written the script for this film, I hadn't even thought to use her. In fact, I was planning to do the film in Japanese all along. But then I cast Shogen, who, although 100% Japanese, has a strong western look, probably a result of his being from Okinawa. Stephanie, I should point out, is a mix of Japanese and Armenian blood, with her dad being born and raised in the US. Stephanie, too, grew up in LA and moved to Japan when she was 14. Stephanie is a singer by trade, and is signed to Sony Music in Japan. She has an amazing voice with a five-octave range. Check out this video or her on Youtube:

After casting Shogen I wondered who would have a look that would compliment him. It was following my second screening of PRIDE that I it hit me... "How about Stephanie?"
I'm happy to report that she read the script and loved it!

I met with Stephanie and her manager Tanaka along with director Kaneko last week. It was a fun meeting. Both Stephanie and her manager are really kind and enthusiastic. Stephanie's English is as natural as any I've heard, which is what I hoped for. Plus, she has a unique look, which is another plus for the production. Her personality is completely unpretentious too and just after a few minutes of talking I felt as if I'd known her for the longest time.

In any case, one of the first hurdles of IT'S ALL GOOD is over. Now it's trying to get everyone's schedule in sync. That's the bigger trick!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Busy... Busy... Busy...

Spent Saturday readjusting the music of "Feed Me" to my latest and *by all that is holy* final cut of the film! (Is it a crime to like to tinker?)

The man doing the score is Giuseppe Strano, an Italian living in Tokyo. I met Pepe(his nickname) a bit over a year ago at the Shimokita shisha place I frequent and we became fast friends. Pepe, like me, is a total music nut. We found that we both share a passion for artists such as Brian Eno, Led Zeppelin and Goblin. This last point was one of the reasons why I sought Pepe for the music for Feed Me. Much of my favorite film music was composed by Italians. In particular, the horror scores of men like Claudio Simonetti and Fabio Frizzi. Amazing stuff there! Not only was Pepe familiar with their names, but their work too. He knew right away what I was after. And what a great score he delivered! It's got tastes of Goblin and Frizzi, but is equally original.

Pepe's personal music is also very high quality. He played me a new track during a break. As usual, I was engaged until the end of the piece. He's asked me to play on one of his pieces in the future, as well as to direct one of his music videos. I'm all for that!

At the end of the month, as mentioned in a previous blog, I'll be a guest at the first Famous Monster's Night event being held in Tsukiji. One of the things I'm excited about is that I'll be playing a song on stage with my friend Cumy. Saki Hijiri, founder of the magazine Uchusen Magazine and our event leader, asked us to do a song from the sci-fi film "Silent Running." You know, that Joan Baez hippie ditty “Rejoice in the Sun.” It'll be my first time to perform music in front an audience in nearly twenty-years! But I'm looking forward to it. It's gonna be great!

Here's the in-progress website for the event:

I met Cumy a couple of months ago along with her manager Dr. Abbey. They are both really solid people and have brought me into a whole new circle of friends. Cumy works in Tokyo as a model and a singer. She's also done some acting in the past and is hoping to get back into the field. Besides being one of the prettiest women I've had the pleasure to meet, she's also one of the kindest. Working and hanging out with her is always enjoyable. If our stage performance goes over well we're hoping to do more such performances together. At least at future Famous Monster Night events.

In addition, Cumy is the #1 web poet in Japan! She's a very special woman!

Here’s a link to Cumy’s site:

As for my upcoming film... Looks like it's set to shoot at the start of May. I'm talking to a really cool actress for the lead female role. I also enlisted Takeshi Yagi as my Assistant Director. Yagi-san is, for those who don't know, a long time producer at Tsuburaya and directed the last Ultraman feature. I'll post more info here when I have something to report...