Friday, April 24, 2009

Feed Me – There you go!

Well, I've finally finished FEED ME, my short, low-budget, first-foray-into-horror film. The homepage is up and can be found here:

The cool as crackers website Sci-Fi Japan has done a story on the film, which can be found here: did a piece on the film too:

The film itself is kind of a mixed blessing for me. I'm always happy for the chance to make something, but the budget was extremely low and it was shot in a rather unorthodox way. I also spent way too much time editing it, which has the unfortunate effect of deadening you to the film. But it's like that with any art form. I know it was the same when I was making music with my band, although live shows help as the audience response can re-awaken your interest in whatever song it is you're playing for the millionth time.

I've ended my relationship with FEED ME by making it available as a download on the film's website. And I'm charging for it too! What? Has Norman gone capitalistic? No way! At $2 a shot I can hardly call that being greedy. I think it's fair enough given the amount of work my staff and I put into it. And any money I do make (which I don't think will be all that much) goes right into my new film, IT'S ALL GOOD. I just want to keep making films and hopefully the next one will have higher production values than the last. (Although, in the case of IT'S ALL GOOD, the production value is already heads and shoulders above FEED ME.)

Hmmm... I guess that's the source of my angst with FEED ME. I love the film, but it's got lower production values than my last two. Still, despite it's rock bottom budget, I like it a lot.

My favorite things about the film are as follow:

The Story – It's something I've wanted to do for a while. I've always wanted to add a viciousness to the Japanese ghost girl genre. I like the dialogue and I like the story structure. Even though I wrote the basic script in a day, it was a summation of ideas I'd had brewing in me for a while.

The Irehi – Hats off to Kaveh who made the film's totally awesome looking Japanese grave marker and to Ryoko for making the Shimenawa that was its finishing touch. It looked so real on location that Japanese walking by were stopping to check it out. It now sits in my room where it creeps out people who come to visit.

The Music – Pepe really gave me what I wanted. And even where it diverges from what I expected, it's still cool. I was also able to work with Pepe and apply some of my musical training. This is what I like about filmmaking. It's not just a single discipline. To make a film requires a lot of knowledge about various things. I should also mention that my friend Anne allowed me to use two songs from her catalogue of work. They were songs I loved on first listening and I'm glad they could find a home in my film.

Ryoko – She plays Mamiko, the star of the film. Ryoko was brought into the production via my producer JR. While I wouldn't call her an actress, although she has taken some classes, she has a natural style and she added an aspect to the character that I hadn't expected. And, as a person, Ryoko has become an important friend. This is another joy of filmmaking: human relationships. Filmmaking is NOT a solitary art form. You make friends (and enemies!). Getting to know Ryoko was a blessing as she's a very special person with a lot of potential and a bright future.

The Staff – Everyone on the staff and in the cast was cool, even if I think many of them didn't fully know what they were getting into. Working with Rob (camera operator) is always fun and he helped the production from day one to the final day through his great generosity. Rob edited The iDol too and if I had to list everything he's done for me or taught me this blog would never end. Working with Mariko Naka, a really great actress I met at Yubari Film Fest last year, helped give meaning to my going to that somewhat worthless film festival. Mari is also a lot of fun to be around and is the kind of actor you want on a film set. Yukiko Arai, our makeup person, did a terrific job putting together the look of Mari's ghost from all the junk JR and I picked up during postproduction. As I had ZERO expectation for the look of the ghost, I have to tip my hat to her for putting something together heretofore unseen. Mike, who plays Freddy, was a pain at times, but I can say this because he's one of my best friends in Japan and I enjoy giving him a hard time. Also, no one pulls weeds like Mike! Jon, who plays Jason, was total fun and actually put in a decent performance. Rachel, who plays Regan, I appreciate a lot too. I know she was in over her head, but she did what she could and gave the film a dimension I hadn't expected. And thanks to Vinnie for that cool ass title he made! I thank you all!

JR- FEED ME's production was held together by one of my oldest and closest friends in Japan. It's ironic to think that when I met JR he was just another Godzilla fan who knew my work writing for trashy fanzines. JR is the kind of guy who I feel compliments my annoying qualities, which is what a film producer needs to be. Directors are a particular breed and can't always be expected to have basic people skills. I can't thank him enough. I think it's enough to say that we are working again together on my new film, IT'S ALL GOOD. I hope the relationship continues beyond this too.

I know I'm leaving people out, as everyone did so much, but I gotta end this somewhere! Sure, it was tough at times. But we had some good times, like when everyone came over my place during post-production trying to make the Yubari Film Festival deadline, which we didn't make. But that all-nighter was a blast and it was a sight to see 5 guys on their Macs crammed into my room, each working on some aspect of the film and passing files around through their wireless connections (I was a PC guy at the time and so couldn't get in on the fun).

In any case, FEED ME is officially done. It's on-line and there for the world to see at $2 a download. I don't pretend to think it's going to change the film world, but I believe that we all made something a little different and unique. I hope those that download it will keep this in mind and not judge it against productions that cost thousands of times more than the $1,000 it cost us to make.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pre-Production FUN!

Shooting creeps closer... Busy week of meetings, order giving, finger wagging, yelling matches, beatings, and secret interment camps. You know, the typical stuff that makes filmmaking such a FUN activity!

Seriously, though, things are going really well. My staff is the closest. Not only are they consummate pros, they are fun, interesting, passionate folk all around.

Last Sunday, I went with DP Shu G and lighting director Ota to check out the location. It's an 80 year old home located in a quite neighborhood near Koenji. Walking into the home is like stepping back into pre-war Japan when Japanese were no more than 4 feet tall. I say this because the sink in the kitchen comes up to just above my knees. It's going to be interesting to put Stephanie and Shogen in that setting. I mean, Shogen is a whopping 184cm in height!

After that, Abbey, the owner of the house and my one-time music partner Kumi's manager, invited us to join them on the tail end of the Hanami season, or the cherry blossom viewing time, that night. A bunch of us headed over to Inokashira Park and took a spot by the lake. And have no fear, we sat on the mandatory, traditional blue tarp! Wouldn't be Japan without that totally unnatural surface to sit on.

I drank a bunch of beer and got a decent buzz going. Spent much of the time chatting with Kumi about music. We're thinking to continue our music collaboration if we can find a common ground in our musical goals. But, for the moment, until shooting is over, I really can't commit to anything. But, I tell you, I could do a lot worse. Kumi's a total talent and her possibilities are endless.

After the park we went over to "Jap Inc," a store in Kichijoji that makes some of the most outrageous jewelry and "art things" in Japan. They also provide outfits for films and music acts. I first meet the couple, Youko and Kawakami, that runs the place on the set of the film "Lorelei" as they made the outfits for the film. It's my intention to have they do the alien outfits for my dream project "Invasia," if I can ever work my way up to that level of filmmaking.

The Jap Inc people had a bar in Kichijoji, but recently closed it. In response, they've made a small bar on the side of the shop. We took over the place after it closed and proceeded to get even drunker and just had a good time all around. Youko and Kawamaki are also musicians and our musical tastes are in total alignment. I LOVE their band and can't wait for their next show in June. I'll be there, fist in the air, screaming, "rock and roll will never die!" Although, as we all know, it has.

The rest of the week was given over to meetings and planning for the shoot.

The next two weeks promise to be hectic. Not only do I have my 50th birthday coming up (please pass the cyanide!), but also "The iDol" will be playing at a theater in Tokyo and I'm obligated to go and give a talk after the screening. I also am going to attend the CD release show of Stephanie at Zepp Tokyo. After that, I'll be in the deep dark, wonderful hole of shooting. Can't wait!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Moving Forward...

Things are getting hectic! I don't even know why I'm writing in the blog... I guess it's a good way to let off steam and put things in perspective.

Work on my new film, 'It's All Good,' continues. The shooting dates are set: May 7 and 8. I have to thank my staff and cast for getting it together on this point. It's hard enough to get a couple of buddies to agree to a date to meet, imagine trying to get 35 people to agree on a date! Especially my lead Stephanie, who has a new CD coming out from Sony on the 29th of April and will be shooting my film smack dab in the middle of her promotional tour!

The location is turning out to be the biggest challenge. It's an old house not lived in for god knows how long. Some of us on the film went over to clean it out during the weekend and it's proven to be a bigger job than anyone anticipated. We could only scratch the surface of all the boxes and dust in it. I mean, the place is around 80 years old! It will take several more full days of work to get it up to snuff. But it's worth it. It's a great, unique location.

It's a little late in the game, but I got Shinji Nishikawa to do the storyboards for the film. A professional storyboard artist and designer by trade, Nishikawa has done storyboarding for, among other films, many of the recent Godzilla movies and designed many of the Toho giant monsters from over the past 20 years. I first met Nishikawa on the Godzilla set years ago, but, following the series ending, I hadn't seen him for ages until a chance meeting at the Famous Monster Event two weeks ago. The short of it is: he read my script and asked to sign on! Cool! I love his work! We had a totally fun meeting the other night full of non-stop discussion and going over the script. I'm excited to see his work. Well crafted storyboards are a real joy, and Nishikawa is one of the best at it.

Also, I'm happy to announce that our other latest staff member is Yoshihiro Nishimura, director of the film 'Tokyo Gore Police.' Nishimura will be creating the film's alien parasite. I'd originally planned to do the creature CG, but, to be honest, I always wanted to do it 'in camera.' I don't hate CG, but I also don't love it. I was on the set of Nishimura's latest feature a few weeks back and after getting home I got the idea to ask him to make the creature since his work is so outstanding. I went to his studio the other day where he looked over my designs and showed me a few samples of similar effects he's done. I'm pleased to announce that he said he'd build the thing and operate it.

*Whew* The less CG the better!

Oh, and the photo at the top has kind of nothing to do with anything I wrote about. I went to a stage show the other day in Yoyogi and it had to be the worst I've seen... EVER! But I went with Kumi, Mayu, Abbey, Mari, and Noemi and so had a good enough time. This is a shot taken during intermission. Man... I should have just left then and there! At least I got a comp ticket! To make it worse, Mayu and I got coffee before the show and didn't eat. It's a safe bet to say that our hunger pangs during the first act didn't enhance our enjoyment of the play!

That's about it for now... I have to get back to work!