How I found the main cast for my Japanese film, kingyo

kingyo is the title of my upcoming Japanese project. I haven't been posting that much lately because I've gotten so busy preparing for the film. Constantly revising the script, drawing storyboards and deciding on the locations. Shoot begins next Monday.

Just to recap, kingyo is the split-screen project I mentioned about. For the script, I had gone off to even conduct a comically serious research with Akihabara maids.

I've actually been busy with kingyo even before I headed off to the Dubai International Film Fest, but then, things just started accelerating after I came back. Audition sessions were held for the three main roles: I needed a young woman in her late 20s, a middle-aged man past 45, a middle-aged woman around the same age as the middle-aged man. Audition went on for nearly a week, having not held an audition since January and February last year for CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY, I forgot how amusingly deflating they can be at times. Most who came were interested in the role of the young woman Chiri the Akihabara Maid, and I couldn't find myself satisfied with any. One was too young, one didn't look right as an Akihabara maid, one had trouble acting sad, one was too hot (I wanted a girl-next-door type, not a model!) Who could be my Chiri? Chiri is the main character in a film, someone who can carry the film is necessary!



I needed the Setsuko Hara to my Ozu, the Miho Nakayama to my Shunji Iwai, the Gong Li to my Zhang Yimou, the Liv Ullmann to my Ingmar Bergman, the Anna Karina to my Godard etc etc. (As I continued gesticulating these crazy analogies to illustrate my point after an audition session, Maiko and the assistant directors, Lia The Artist and Yamamoto, knew that I was lost in my own self-aggrandizing delusions again, and decided not to say anything.)

Then the men came in for the role of the middle-aged man, Matsumoto. One was too ruggedly good-looking for a depressed university professor, one had tremendous acting skills that blew me away (initially shooting his line-readings with a camcorder, I ended up looking directly at him instead, which is a testament of how good he was), yet he didn't look right for the role, then another had just the right looks for a dignified but depressed university professor, but he didn't seem to have the right... subtle mannerisms. I made a mental note that I would use them in different films for different roles, but not for this. Not for Matsumoto.

We were luckier with the role of Matsumoto's wife, Kyoko, as I was able to make my choice after only two (both great) candidates came for the role.

Auditions were held until December 26th, and then, Maiko the Producer and I were already in a state of panic (well, myself mostly, despite the fact that I disguised it with my usual casual coolness). On the 29th, I posted this tweet on Twitter, which was a plea, but ended up feeling like a rhetorical question. I even fired direct messages to other J-bloggers like Neil Duckett and Danny Choo hoping that they have contacts of sorts who could help me. No luck. Oh, and the latter ignored me.

After that I went off for my Kansai trip to temporarily purge my soul of these worries. From the trip I managed to conjure this video and this video, but my trip was short because I was invited to a New Year Party organized by the folks of the much respected biannual Yamagata Documentary Film Festival on the 4th of January. I brought Maiko the Producer along, our hearts weighing heavily over our inability to cast the two protagonists for my film.

"What can we do?" The voice in my mind echoed loudly before it was drowned of by the sounds of the moving train as Maiko and I were heading towards Marunouchi station. The man prideful enough to call himself the Great Swifty was starting to feel an extremely slight sliver of doubt.

Then Maiko's cellphone rang, and she answered, spoke in barely audible tones for a few moments, put down her phone and told me that it was the manager of an actress we handed the script to before I went to Dubai. She was my first choice for the role, but because I needed backup plans, I threw auditions as well.

The actress wanted to do the short film. We got ourselves our Chiri! And through a strange stroke of luck, coincidence and display of fate, and also a case of fulfilling my own prophecy, this actress is actually in this video I embedded at the end of my seriously comical research on Akihabara Maids post, long before we sent our script to her. And I never noticed this strange coincidence until last week.

We headed to the party, slightly more relieved, though still a little troubled that we couldn't find anyone to play Matsumoto. Someone with many stories on his face, and somewhat melancholic and lonely, someone like the uber-manly Hiroyuki Sanada or an everyman like Teruyuki Kagawa, or someone with repressed sadness like Kaoru Kobayashi, or someone with melancholic manliness like Ken Watanabe, or someone who looks like my mancrush Hiroshi Abe. By then, Maiko and other people at the party knew that I was just randomly rattling out names of famous Japanese actors, and decided not to say anything to me.

A man came in. Yano-san, who invited me to the party, gestured. "What about him?"

I looked and immediately I cheered up. "YESSSSSSSS!"

I gestured at the man to Maiko the Producer. "What about him?"

Maiko's "YESSSSSSSSS!" was much more controlled and polite than mine. So we approached him and spoke to him, then I asked him whether he could help me, he said yes without any hesitation. I was joyous.

The already delicious rice cakes I was tasting and experiencing for the very first time at the party suddenly felt like morsel from heaven.

And that was how I finally managed to secure all the primary cast members for kingyo.

A week later, Maiko got ourselves a major production crew, but that's a story for the next post.

(Oh, unrelated maid photo by Damien Douxchamp)