Well, even though it has, it’s not like things have slowed any, and several nifty gigs rest yonder on autumn's horizon. But, as far as the summer of 2015, is concerned: The jobs are done, the bills are out, and all's ancient history!
My work at Eiga Hiho magazine goes well. Despite being in the middle of the Toei shoot, I managed to not miss a deadline (two of them). In fact, after three years of writing for Hiho, I’ve never missed one column! But, really, when in the midst of a shoot this can be rather tough. Sometimes I have to literally sit on a rock in the woods with the set in sight as I bang away on my laptop. Once a setup is ready to rehearse (most stills are shot during rehearsal), I drop my laptop and race over hoping I didn't miss a good photo op. My latest piece in the current issue is a tribute to director Wes Craven...pretty upsetting to see him go so suddenly like that.
And speaking of magazine work, I did my first print story for Fangoria in, like, a coon's age. It's a retelling of the work I did on Takashi Miike's "Yakuza Apocalypse." The cool thing about the article is that my editors let me do it in first person, which they are usually fully against. But because it is a story about working on a Miike film from a staff POV and not the usual "reporter dude goes to set and jots down what they've seen and heard" article, I got away with it. Awesome cover too. Who doesn't love Elvira? It's the current issue, in case anyone reading is interested.
First off, studio films in Japan are run like military outfits. They are highly regulated and there is a kind of weird hierarchy that makes me think I've walked onto the set of "Full Metal Jacket." Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there is enough of this to make me pull my eyes in tight every now and then and think, "WTF?" The crew makes the most of it, but they do so almost like privates making the most of boot camp. But like anything, there is a good side and the Japanese set's good side being that it’s pretty predictable and run like clockwork, which on a long shoot like this is very much welcome.
The shoot circled around three locations, one up in Yamanashi, one down in Chiba, and sets at Toei Studio. The Yamanashi location was pretty much a drag due to the humidity, but the set was well dressed and it was enjoyable getting photos in such an unlikely place. The Chiba location was fun, with a great view of Mt. Fuji. (The photo at the top of this blog entry was taken on that location.) Here, we exploded a house and did some other destructive things, which is always a good way to spend one's working hours. And of course Toei Studio is a lot of fun to work at. While not as big as Toho, it's a decent sized studio with access to lots of stores in the surrounding area.
Right in the middle of the shoot we had a "moral boosting" party in Studio 7 that was a lot of fun. Tons of food, and gallons of great beer. As I can't really run photos from the film, the two shots above are from the party (the one below is one I don't think the studio will mind since it's just AD Murakami, Kaneko at his monitor, cameraman Kugimiya in his Batman shirt and his assistant Yuka pulling focus). In one, Kaneko is giving us some sort of pep talk (in his ugly yellow shirt), and the other is one of the few shots I have with me in it. This one is with the awesome camera crew.
All in all, I'm super happy with the stills I took on set. With each job I do I see improvement in my work and a deeper understanding of the craft. However, it's still a very difficult job because of the limited space on the sets. Also, there are always those on the crew who simply look down on the still photographer. So, while it's a fun, challenging job, sometimes the challenges are more like hindrances. I mean, at least 1/5 of the time I am leaning sideways from the hip with my neck twisted up trying to keep a very heavy camera centered in a tiny space between the camera operator, his two assistants, an AD, and the boom operator. In fact, I had to go to the hospital one day near the end of the shoot having screwed up a back muscle. So, if anyone thinks this is an ideal situation for taking quality photos, then be my guest and give it a try. I'll send you a box of tissues following your mental breakdown one week into the production.
Anyway, I have another still gig coming up in November, a horror film with a US director. That's sure to be a freezing set, but I'll break out my heattech and I should be fine. Also, as it's an American director it should be a whole new experience for me, although it is still basically a Japanese crew.
Well... Until next time.