Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

I'm now hanging out at Tsukui, new year has come, waiting for Maiko the Producer's mom to prepare some soba (apparently it is Japanese tradition to eat soba during new year!).

2009 had its ups and downs, but for me, they were mostly ups. Hopefully 2010 will be better, for me and you all!!!

EXHALATION shoot day 3

Last night, I shot the remaining scenes for my new film EXHALATION.

This is lead actress Kiki Sugino in her uniform (in the film she works in a Pachinko shop).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

EXHALATION shoot day 2

Early in the morning, when I returned to the location for the shoot of my new film, EXHALATION, it struck me that i was going through the last few days of 2009.

It was rather apt that, in a year which I would consider a breakthrough for my filmmaking career, I would end it while making a film.

Monday, December 28, 2009

EXHALATION shoot day 1

The 3-day shoot for my newest short film, EXHALATION, had just started. It's the biggest production I've ever taken (yes, even bigger than KINGYO).

Some photos from the film shoot today. I have only 4 hours to sleep before I get up at 5am for day two of the shoot.

The crew arrived at the location at 8:30am in the morning. Everyone started preparing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yakiniku Christmas Dinner

I remembered last year's Christmas, it was a quiet one. I miscalculated that Ueno Park or Senso-ji Temple would be open for Christmas, but I was wrong. It was a peaceful but somewhat melancholic experience.

I kinda assumed that the same would happen this year. Perhaps I would just head off to one of the cinemas and watch AVATAR alone, but something else came up, and all of a sudden, I found myself at a Yakiniku restaurant called Buchi, in Shibuya.

LOVE SUICIDES picked up Best Director award at China Mobile Film Festival 2009

(I've announced this on Twitter and Facebook a few days ago, but haven't actually done it here, so here you go...)

Just to share some good news. I picked up the Best Director Award for my short film LOVE SUICIDES at last week's China Mobile Film Festival in Shenzhen.

KINGYO reunion party

Yes, it's Christmas, but let me post some long overdue blog entries for now.

The KINGYO team had a reunion party on the 15th of December, right after the CON-CAN Award Ceremony.

Actually, it's more like a 'wrap party' instead of a 'reunion party'. Although we finished the shoot for KINGYO almost a year earlier (principal photography was done by the end of January 2009), none of us had the chance to really had a 'wrap party'. None of us were able to be at the same city at the same time, so it was great to finally have something like that.

Here's part of the team.

Part of the KINGYO team here
(from left to right: me, Kawamura-san who borrowed us his house for the shoot, still photographer Zhang Xiaolei, production assistant Seki, lead actress Luchino, production assistant An-chan, Lia the Artist/ Assistant director, Maiko the producer and Linto the post-production technician)


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The CON-CAN Movie Festival Awards Ceremony and Ando Lab screening in Waseda

Last month, the people of CON-CAN Movie Festival decided to hold an awards ceremony in Waseda University because, aside from me, another award winner Nishihara, was also a Waseda student.

The CON-CAN Movie Festival Screening in Keio University

I just got back from Shenzhen, China, two nights ago. Was there a couple of days for the China Mobile Film Fest, was mortified to be reminded again that Facebook, Youtube, Blogspot and even Twitter were blocked, hence the lack of updates. I picked up an award from the festival, but I'll get back to that later.

Last Monday (14th of December, 2009), I headed off to Keio University for a screening of FLEETING IMAGES (watch entire film here) organized by the CON-CAN Movie Festival. My film, along with 3 of the award-winning films of the festival, were screened. But that night, only me and Monica Gallab of Belgium (Special Jury Prize winner for NICE DAY FOR A PICNIC, film embedded at the bottom of the post) were present for the event.

This is Yumi the Photographer, she studied French literature.

Yumi the photographer

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My return to the ruins of Sun Hills Hotel and Fujino

Back in May, I explored the ruins at Sagamihara. It was an unforgettable adventure that stayed with me, so I decided to return to the ruins of Sun Hills Hotel again, for location scouting.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I don't think my handwriting is THAT ugly

Another sleepless night.

I developed an outline for my new film two nights ago.

Yesterday evening, I tried to come up with a rough film treatment. (it's typically the step before the first draft of a screenplay)

Maiko and Kong, along with An-chan, were having discussions about Kong's new short film, which was scheduled for shooting this month.

Me, knowing that it was a rare moment where I could concentrate without having any other distractions, took some papers and started scribbling some notes.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

TOKYO FILMeX 2009, Sell Out! director Yeo Joon Han's Q and A session.

I felt a sense of nationalistic pride when I went to catch SELL OUT! at TOKYO FILMeX on the 24th, last month. Took me quite a while to finally catch the film since I wasn't around during the film's local theatrical release in Malaysia couple of months ago. I enjoyed the film, though I liked the satirical, comedic parts more than the musical parts. SELL OUT! Lead actress Jerrica Lai, who had a great voice and was awesome in the film, would later give another wonderful performance at the stunning WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, produced by, well, me.

Difficult to sleep because of another new project

I've been having problems sleeping again.

The past week when my family were around, I had my most normal sleeping schedule in MONTHS. Sleeping around 1am, waking up around 8-9am, it was healthy.

After finishing my latest THE WHITE FLOWER (I now have the film in screener DVDs, but there will still be some minor tweaks here and there before it really premieres), its month-long post-production leading to some of the craziest, most irregular sleeping time for myself (I would take a brief nap from 11pm to 1-2am, wake up, orchestrate net meetings with Niklas the cinematographer and Woan Foong the composer, getting materials for them to continue the progress of the film, and then updating them by uploading some footage online for them to view etc.) I started having breakfast before I sleep at around 9-10am.

_MG_6873
still from THE WHITE FLOWER


The best thing is that I get to skip lunch (which isn't served for free in my dorm, haha) since I often sleep through the noon and wake up around 2pm. I live like a peasant because my deluded romanticized view of struggling artists is one where everything is shoved aside for the sake of his craft or art.

So yes, after THE WHITE FLOWER was done, family came to visit, and I slept properly. They returned to Malaysia on Saturday morning.

I then started planning the storyline for my latest short film. Yes, my 7th short film of the year. A project that happened suddenly (more details in future posts, if I can remember) during a conversation in a cafe when I went to the TOKYO FILMeX end of last month.

My new film is called EXHALATION. I wrote the script back in April when I was in Malaysia just after the WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER shoot. It's an original script, and not another Yasunari Kawabata adaptation. The script was rather simple and I had planned to shoot it only in one night. Unfortunately, things didn't work out with the film's intended main actress, so I ended up making AFTERNOON RIVER instead (the first half of my upcoming short film AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY).

Since EXHALATION was written before I finished KINGYO, 3PM, AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY and THE WHITE FLOWER, I think I might have grown more as a filmmaker in the past 8 months (well, I hope so anyway), so I decided to resurrect the project but transplant the story to Japanese settings, and also to increase the scale of the film.

On Sunday, the day after my family left, I spent the entire day in my room, watching films, doing research, reading Yukio Mishima's DEATH IN MIDSUMMER anthology which I just bought two days earlier (funnily, as I try to find reviews of the book, I would end up finding a 3-year-old entry ON MY OWN BLOG written by guestblogger Justin). There was an idea of turning the story from a solo one-woman piece (initial plan was that all secondary characters were either out of focus, or off-screen, audiences can only see the main actress) to a two-hander (instead of being about one character, it's about two, Kong would point out that it's consistent with my usual theme with 'dualism')

By then, my body clock has already been disrupted. Again.

On Monday (that's yesterday), I hung out in the uni lab to do the Japanese subtitles for LOVE SUICIDES. Film will be screening in Waseda University (along with my KINGYO and FLEETING IMAGES on the 15th of December). Maiko the producer and Liu Jin (assistant producer for THE WHITE FLOWER) were there, so I had a few hours of brainstorming session with them. The film became increasingly dark, elements of child porn, child and teenage prostitution, incest etc. were discussed as possibilities for the film's plot. The film went from a nihilistic drama to a murder thriller, then to a soap opera, and then to didactic sociopolitical bore.

My head was spinning.

In the end we figured it was a bit too much, so we took a more melancholic route instead. With that, a story outline started to take its form. So excited with its materialization that I started typing it out and sent to Ming Jin. I then went home at 11:30pm and took a nap at midnight. I woke up this morning at 3am. Ming Jin said he liked the idea. I became more excited and started to think and think and think. Discussing more ideas with Woan Foong, looking at other films, reading about articles, all these to grab hold of the film's essence.

... and then, it's 10:30am.

Creativity is sleep's greatest enemy.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Eibunren Awards Ceremony 2009

I went to the Eibunren Awards Ceremony yesterday morning with my family (who came to Tokyo for a 1-week visit). As I've mentioned before, KINGYO had won two awards, the Semi-Grand Prix and the Best New Creator award.

The Eibunren Awards is organized by the Japanese Ministry of Culture and the Japanese Association of Audiovisual Producers usually to honour documentaries or other videos dealing with sociopolitical or ecological issues. KINGYO is the first ever independent narrative short film to receive a major award from them, so they gave me the new individual award called the New Creator award.