Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anime Jay

I had a wonderful meeting today with fellow ex-pat and artist Jay Horinouchi (aka @Jaykun) about creating an animated sequence to open my new documentary. Understandably, Jay needed to first watch the film to see if it was a project he wanted to work on.

We talked about the film for a couple of hours after he watched it, but the short version of our conversation is: He's on board!

After he works on his ideas for the opening, we will have another meeting next week to talk more specifically about how the animation will look, etc. And meanwhile, I still have a LOT of work to do before I can officially say that we are through the 'rough cut' stage and into the 'fine cut'. But even still in its rough stage, Jay really seemed to interact with the material and I was so honoured to hear his reaction and feedback.

Colin and I are so excited to be working with Jay and to welcome him to our team.

Jay blogs (here) and you can see his showreel, here:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No news is... well...

I have been busily working on the PAGES of notes I have received from Colin, my producer in the UK. This is the stage where we start turning the 'rough cut' of our documentary into a 'fine cut'. The story of the film is now solid and we are working on the transitions between scenes and the overall pace of the film. Also, we are securing an artist to do an animated sequence and a composer to score the film. That is about all the news on our documentary.

Meanwhile, in Japan there has been LOTS of news. Or was that just lots of prime ministers? Yes, our 6th prime minister in the past 5 years (!). Yes, really. This is a great example of "truth is stranger than fiction".

Speaking of news, I will end this post with a couple of articles. The first is about a group of moms in Yokohama (south of Tokyo) who have formed a group to monitor the radiation level in their children's school lunches.

And here is an excellent article by David McNeill for the independent.

Friday, August 26, 2011

iPen and iPaper

Technology never ceases to amaze me.

I started working on my first documentary, "the ballad", eight years ago. We shot in the UK, but in the middle of post-production I had to return to Japan. Our UK editor would burn DVDs (!), send them through the post (!) and then I would give her my notes on the phone (!). Eventually we reached the limitations of our system and I had to travel to the UK a couple of times toward the end of post-production. Even still, at the time I remember that we thought we were so modern, doing the edit in different countries.

Since then A LOT of things have changed and we no longer use DVDs through the post (we send compressed data over the internet) and we Skype rather than phone. This week I have had a couple of such viewings and meetings with our team members in the UK. They are a world away, and yet it is like having them in the studio here in Tokyo.

One thing that hasn't changed for me, though, is the 'paper edit'. This takes a different form each time for me, but this time it has manifested itself in the form of a wall full of sticky notes. Each of these notes represents a different scene or piece of the narrative of the film. Physically moving them around on the wall is the only way I can envision the story; it just isn't something I can do on the computer.

To work and edit a film, I need all the modern tools: iMac, iPhone, iPad. But to get the narrative right, I first need my good old iPen and iPaper.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

So many people to thank!

I have always thought it was obnoxious when people talk about how many 'friends', 'subscribers', or 'followers' they have.

But now that I can't resist the urge to note that I now have 200 subscribers to my YouTube channel, I realize that it is not about self-promotion; it is about recognizing and thanking all of the people who have supported and encouraged me.

So thank you- all of you who have helped to support and encourage me through these last 5 months!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Director for Hire

Making documentaries is like having a drug addiction. And like an addiction, I sometimes have to do things I might not normally do to support the habit. Like, for example, make promotional videos (gasp).

Today I had a meeting at a very posh hotel and hot springs resort outside of Tokyo. I directed a short promotional video shot with a stedi-cam for them last year. The result can be seen here on the hotel's website (push play on the movie icon to see the video).

This video was delivered in standard definition and now they have asked me to come back to re-shoot some of the areas of the hotel that were re-furbished over the summer and to deliver a longer version in high-definition.

We all have a price. And mine enables me to pay the rent while working on the documentaries that I really care about.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Not just 'I(an)' in 'Team'

Over the past five months, I have received such wonderful support from so many people around the world. They have thanked me for the work I have been doing to document the situation here in Japan and have encouraged me to keep working. Recently it has occurred to me that I haven't had much time to talk about some of the other people on our team who have made this film possible, so I would like to briefly introduce just a few of them here.

Colin O'Neill is my cameraman and producer. On my YouTube channel, he is the guy I am talking to in all of the "Children of Minamisoma" videos. In April, one month after the nuclear meltdown and explosion when so many foreigners evacuated from Japan, Colin got on a plane from the UK and came here. Not only did he come here, he traveled with me into the 30 km radiation zone to document what was happening to the children living there. Colin is my filmmaking partner, working as an adviser on my first film ("the ballad") and shooting/ exec producing our second film ("Jake").

Ed Ison is a producer and editor in the UK. He will be grading/ colouring/ onlining the film. (Basically this means that he will be giving our film its "look" and fixing all of the mistakes we made during filming). Typically, an online editor would be brought in after the film was already edited, but Ed is also a friend and adviser and has been part of the filmmaking process all along, giving advice on everything from technical issues to story points. Ed was also the online editor for our film "Jake".

Saito Yuuji is a bilingual customer service representative for an American company in Tokyo by day and an assistant producer by night and weekend. Saito-kun has worked with Colin and me since the beginning of this film. He has done everything from arranging the cars we used during production, to mapping out what roads we should use to avoid as much as possible driving near the nuclear plants when going up north. He created an emergency plan for us that included contact information for hospitals that were still open in the zone in case we got hurt and the center where we could go to get monitored for radiation exposure. We spoke to him every night we when we were in the zone and he worked from Tokyo to arrange and research everything we needed. During post-production, he has been a consultant on the English subtitles.

Katsuyoshi Ueno is a photographer and graphic designer in Tokyo. During the months following the earthquake and tsunami, Ueno-san was a prolific Tweeter of news and stories relating to issues dealing with the nuclear crises. The information he gathered was so good, that even the journalists were following his work. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by him and he not only educated me, but also inspired me to keep working. Ueno-san was the FIRST person to see the rough cut of my film and gave me invaluable advice on how to proceed.

Joseph Tame is a UK expat and celebrity blogger/ Tweeter here in Tokyo. He is a crazy, funny and intelligent tech guru. Honestly, his life should be my next documentary. Between flying off to Paris to present at tech conferences, live-streaming the Tokyo marathon WHILE running it (!) and getting stuck in a bidding war for his services, Joseph has advised me at key stages throughout this film. Two days ago he honoured me by watching the rough cut of my film and giving me the tough advice I needed. I am also indebted to Joseph for helping me out numerous times before, including filming the Q and A after the exhibition of my film "the ballad" here in Tokyo as well creating the website for my film "Jake".

And our team continues to grow!

Jay Horinouchi is an artist and coordinator for volunteers going to the devastated areas up north. I met with him yesterday and have asked him to animate the opening sequence of our documentary. He will be watching the rough cut next week, after which he will make a decision. You can view some of Jay's animation and commercial work here.

Finally, thank you all, dear readers, for your continued support and encouragement!

I would like to leave you with this video on the people that are still homeless after the tsunami. It is from the BBC and was brought to my attention my Joseph.

Five months later, there is still much to be done.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Choosing My Words Carefully

Right now, the 'rough cut' of my documentary is 1 hour and 50 minutes. While normally one would save putting the subtitles on it for the end (since scenes will still be changed throughout the 'fine cut' stage) I decided to spend three days (!) last week subtitling the film in English so that my producer in the UK could have a look at it and give me some help with getting the story right.

And, yes, it really did take three FULL days (and not the wimpy 8 hour kind, but the lots of coffee 14 hour kind) in order to subtitle a 2-hour film.

Yesterday, I asked a native Japanese-speaking colleague to come to my studio to help me go through the English subtitles one by one. I did this because as I was writing the subtitles, I became suddenly more aware of the personal responsibility I had to be accurate. In a scene where a town official was discussing radioactive water being released in to the ocean and ruining the local fishing industry, I could not afford to make a single word mistake. Mistranslating the word 'leak' could mean the difference between an assertion that the water was 'intentionally' rather than 'accidentally' leaked.

Although I do of course speak Japanese, I would feel challenged having these discussions about radiation, nuclear energy and the federal policies that govern them even in my native language.

I am sure I never thought about how much work and thought goes into writing each subtitle before I started making films myself. A person's personality, level of expertise and trustworthiness comes through in the words they choose. If this isn't taken into account in the subtitles, then entire layers and subtexts of the film will be lost. Perhaps this might not be as important for a Hollywood blockbuster, but for a human interest documentary built on interviews, if you couldn't trust what the subtitles say, there wouldn't be much left.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Please don't forget about us."

As I have been editing my feature documentary (trailer here) on the children of Minamisoma City, Japan who are living in the radiation zone 20-30 km from the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima, I have found it hard to keep up the momentum of updating my blog and YouTube channel.

Last week, I received words of encouragement from Anonymous in the form of this comment. I realized that while I have been so worried that the world was beginning to forget about the dire situation here in Japan that it was possible that there were people in the world who might think I was the one who was forgetting.

While nothing could be farther from the truth (I have been editing long hours everyday), I was reminded that I need to keep the people updated who continue to support and encourage me so much. So thank you, Anonymous, for your lovely words.

And keeping on the theme of not forgetting, no one could say it better than this man. He is a pediatrician, born and raised in Minamisoma, and is currently working there to care for the children whose parents have not been able to evacuate them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Life is Busy

Don't forget to take out the trash and pick up the dry cleaning.

Trying to forget radiation fears.

Must not forget those who died five months ago today.