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Sunday, January 31, 2010

40 hour editing marathon for EXHALATION

I was supposed to put together a rough cut of my latest short film EXHALATION by today.

I took almost a 2-week break from its editing to wait for Maiko the Producer to finish her Masters thesis, Torigoe the Sound Guy to the sound mixing (he had 3 productions lined up before him, EXHALATION, unfortunately, was number 3), and for Woan Foong the Composer to send me the music pieces (we last worked together in my last completed and still-unreleased short THE WHITE FLOWER). To kill time, I ended up helping to put together Kong's film, which is now called LADYBIRD'S TEARS.

But once Kong's film was out of the way, and Maiko was done with her thesis, and Woan Foong had sent me her avant-garde music pieces, things were set into motion again in order to hit today's deadline.

On the 28th, I went to Tokyo University of Arts at Yokohama to do some additional voice recording for actor Hiroyuki Takashima. It was actually my first time in Yokohama, I was surprised by the Western-styled architecture. I snapped photos like a tourist.

Building in Yokohama

Landmark Tower

That's the Landmark Tower, tallest building in Japan. When Maiko told me about that, I didn't know that the tower is actually really called Landmark Tower, thought that she was just referring to it as a landmark tower.

Streets of Yokohama

That's the Tokyo University of Arts.

Tokyo University of Arts

Inside Tokyo University of Arts

Its hall was what the less cultured would have called 'arty fartsy'.

"How artsy fartsy!" I remarked when I entered the main hall.

After that I saw a man who looked vaguely familiar and I thought I might have met him somewhere before. Thinking he was probably someone I might have met before, I started waving to him, before I remembered he was director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a lecturer in this university.

Maiko then introduced ourselves to him and passed him a KINGYO flyer.

kingyo poster

Great job Maiko!

After that we prepared our sound recording in one of the studios.

There's Torigoe setting up, and Hiroyuki reading the script.

Setting up a voice recording session

Mickey Mouse was in the room too.

Mickey Mouse victimized

The sound recording went well, but a problem occurred. The plan was to immediately let Torigoe do the sound mixing after that, I brought my hard disk with me, the film was in it, but the film was in FINAL CUT PRO form, and apparently the computers in Tokyo University of Arts had an older version of FCP, so they can't open the file at all.

"Well, at least it's comforting to know that the computers in my editing lab are more up-to-date with Final Cut Pro compared to Tokyo University of Arts," I remarked dryly, though not really finding any comfort at all.

In order to speed up the process, the only other solution was to get all the recorded audio materials from Torigoe and do the sound mixing myself when I return from Yokohama. I was only supposed to put together a temporary rough cut anyway.

Returned to the editing room that night, started working on the audio myself. Worked until 5am in the morning (on the 29th). Went home to sleep.

Woke up at 12pm. Went back to the editing lab, continued working. Mixing the music, the audio, adjusting the scenes based on the rhythm dictated by the new audio.

It was surreal, yet exciting, to watch my own film with proper sound for the first time. Night came. I realized it would be pointless to go home and sleep, so I plowed through an entirely sleepless night in the editing lab. (I did take a break and head off to the nearby McDonald's for some food at 4am)

30th of January. I walked out of the lab and realized that it was already 8:30 in the morning.

A few scenes didn't have any sounds. Some I managed to rectify by downloading sound effects from the Internet, but the rest was tricky. Grabbing hold of a sound recorder in the afternoon, I headed off to the station nearby to record sounds of the crowd, then I blitzed off to one of the buildings in Waseda University to record sounds of... well, a sparser crowd, in an indoor environment.

As I returned to the editing room, it was around 1pm, I found myself about to doze off when I was listening to the sounds I recorded myself (... listening to random environment sounds aren't exactly the best way to keep yourself awake, especially if you didn't sleep at all the night before). Went off to buy some chocolate bars, managed to stay awake for an hour. But felt tired again, decided to have a proper meal when I remembered that aside from the McDonald's visit at 4am, I haven't had an actual meal at all, even if McDonald's was... an actual meal, I didn't have real food for 10 hours. Headed off to eat.

Found myself rejuvenated. Managed to put together the rough cut, with sounds and stuff, by night. Proud that I could do a decent job at sound mixing, pride fed my narcissism, inflating my ego, all traces of weariness faded away... or maybe because I took a short 20-min nap earlier in the evening in front of the computer.

Then I started making DVD copies of the film.

31st of January, 4:36am. I was home. The past two days felt like a blur.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maiko the producer receives Waseda University's cultural award

Yesterday, as I walked out of my place, the sky was very blue.

Blue skies outside Wakeijuku

Blue skies outside GITS building

An award ceremony was held in Waseda University to give out student cultural awards for students who had outstanding achievements in their respective fields.

The student cultural awards ceremony

So some where athletes, some had qualified for the Winter Olympics, some won in some intercontinental IQ test etc.

Here are some award recipients.

An award being presented

Someone receives his award too

It was a grand affair.

Of course, Maiko the Producer was also honoured with a cultural award for producing KINGYO, which premiered Venice Film Fest and then screened in numerous other film fests, and until today, it is still receiving numerous festival invitations too. Other than that, it also won two awards at Japan's Eibunren Awards. Most of all, it is a loose adaptation of Yasunari Kawabata's work, so definitely, she had contributed something to the university's culture and glory etc.

This is her receiving the award.

Click here if you can't see embedded video

After all the work that she had done for KINGYO, and my subsequent works, I was definitely more than happy to see her receiving some form of recognition for her efforts. It's not everyday you'll meet a producer willing to totally believe in you and commit fully in realizing your own creative vision.

Besides, I'm not the easiest guy to work with. (those who were with me during my days in Murdoch University at Perth can testify to that)

Congrats, Maiko.

Maiko and her award

Although the day was entirely Maiko's, and I was only there to take photos (despite my recent foray to black and white photography in my previous posts, I've decided to switch back to colour, for the day) The organizers recognized me as the director of KINGYO and asked me to stand in front of the stage after Maiko received her award to pose for the photographs too.

After that, Maiko was approached by a slew of fans to take photos with her. I popped in because I am narcissistic and I like to have my own photos taken, to the chagrin of many.

At the Waseda cultural awards ceremony

At the Waseda cultural awards ceremony 2

At the Waseda cultural awards ceremony 3
(the chick on the right is holding a KINGYO flyer)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The busy labs in Waseda University's GITS building

GITS = Global Information Telecommunications School.

The final thesis presentation for Masters students is drawing near. Everyone's been busy in their labs.

Last night I went to check out Sakai Lab (lab of WHITE FLOWER assistant producer Liu Jin and Lia the Artist).

And Liu Jin was indeed busy with her preparations. She was depressed.

Liu Jin is depressed

Xiao Yu from Taiwan, who didn't have to submit her thesis until a year from now. Was depressed too.

Xiao Yu is depressed

I was the man in the mirror.

Man in the mirror

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change)

In the same lab, Kelly is still prepping for her upcoming short film.


But yeah, Sakai Lab was pretty busy.

Sakai Lab is busy

The following day, I went to visit Zhu Dan's (THE WHITE FLOWER actress) lab.

Zhu Dan was busy too.

Zhu Dan is busy

This is Zhu Dan's Thai labmate.

Zhu Dan's Thai labmate

Kong dropped to fraternize with his countrywoman. Even though her thesis isn't due until a year from now, she was busy with a final report for some course she was doing.

Kong meets his countrywoman

Maiko the Producer came to our lab in the evening.


Mostly to check out on the editing progress of our new film EXHALATION, which I had taken a break from for more than a week.

Maiko poses

Kong asked Maiko for help with doing the Japanese translations of his new film "LADYBIRD'S TEARS" (I wrote about it here, I am producer, editor and writer of the film)

Kong and Maiko busy at work

Meanwhile, the other producer of LADYBIRD'S TEARS, An-chan was hanging out in the lab too.

An-chan working

She was busy.

Later, Maiko asked An-chan to come over to help out with the translation. At that time Zhi Feng had also returned to the lab and was surfing the net too.

Ando Lab is busy too

So yup, daily (BLACK AND WHITE!) snapshots of the labs in my university.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Black and white photos do seem more dramatic...

This is a quote from one of my heroes, Andrei Tarkovsky, on colour cinema.

When we watch something going on we don't notice colour. A black-and-white film immediately creates the impression that your attention is concentrated on what is most important. On the screen colour imposes itself on you, whereas in real life that only happens at odd moments, so it's not right for the audience to be constantly aware of colour. Isolated details can be in colour if that is what corresponds to the state of the character on the screen. In real life the line that separates unawareness of colour from the moment when you start to notice it is quite imperceptible. Our unbroken, evenly paced flow of attention will suddenly be concentrated on some specific detail. A similar effect is achieved in a film when coloured shots are inserted into black-and-white.

Colour film as a concept uses the aesthetic principles of painting, or colour photography. As soon as you have a coloured picture in the frame it becomes a moving painting. It's all too beautiful, and unlike life. What you see in cinema is a coloured, painted plane, a composition on a plane. In a black-and-white film there is no feeling of something extraneous going on, the audience can watch the film without being distracted from the action by colour. From the moment it was born, cinema has been developing not according to its vocation, but according to purely commercial ideas. That started when they began making endless film versions of classics.

None of my short films had actually made use of black and white, even though I've often been mesmerized by the cinematographer of some black and white films, especially Tarkovsky's own IVAN'S CHILDHOOD, or Fellini's 8 1/2, or Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN, or Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS.

Three days ago I updated my camera (it's a Panasonic LX-3) with a new firmware, so there's a new HIGH DYNAMIC feature, and from the feature, I can choose whether to take photos in colour or black and white. The previous post about the GREEN DAY concert had photos mostly taken with that feature, that's why everything became much more vivid.

Now, with black and white, I realized that I can take some random photos of random moments and suddenly it became noirish and dramatic.

For example, this is Kong and Teng Fei.

Kong might not even be looking at Teng Fei, and Teng Fei might be saying something to me. And all of a sudden, it seemed like an intense photo of Kong and Teng Fei being in an argument.

Teng Fei vs Kong

Or this one, where Kong was checking out something on the computer (and saying something to me) while Teng Fei was pondering over something, yet it seemed as if Kong was being disdainful towards Teng Fei, whilst Teng Fei's all resentful! Oooh, the power of black and white photography!

Teng Fei is resentful, Kong is disdainful

Yesterday while in Shinjuku, I was initially taking photos of the truck advertising "Hidarime Tantei EYE" when a man and a woman wandered into my shot. They are both strangers, but the photos seem to tell a different sort of story!

Random dude vs Random chick

Much angst between random dude and random chick

Even my own shadow seemed cooler.

My own shadow

Unexpectedly ended up at the GREEN DAY concert in Saitama!

Green Day concert tickets

Yesterday, while I was having lunch with a friend at Acacia restaurant, Shinjuku, she told me she had two free tickets to the Green Day concert in the evening at Saitama and whether I wanted to go.

Acacia Restaurant

"YES!" I said. I didn't even know that Green Day was in Japan.

So we went.

I always thought that Saitama's sort of like Kanagawa, somewhere in the countryside, and wondered why, of all places, would Green Day have a concert there.

When I stepped out of the train, I was shocked by how futuristic Saitama city looked. (city was new, founded in 2001)

Outside Saitama station

Buildings at Saitama

Saitama-Shintoshin Station

Green Day poster at Saitama Super arena

Me with Green Day ticket

The Saitama Super Arena (max capacity: 37 000)

The Green Day concert crowd

click here if can't see embedded video

The opening act was Prima Donna.

Click here if can't see embedded video

And then, there's GREEN DAY. Everyone rose up from their seats, no one sat for the next 3 hours.

Green Day concert in Saitama Super Arena

Green Day concert in Saitama Super Arena 2

Green Day concert in Saitama Super Arena 3

Here's a short video of audiences singing along during their performance of Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Click here if can't see embedded video)

All proceeds of the concert were to go to Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Erna reviews KINGYO

The woman (Rukino Fujisaki) whispers something to the man (Takao Kawaguchi)

I was just saying in my previous post that it's not everyday someone would bother to write a review of your short film.

I need to rephrase that.

It's not everyday that you have TWO people writing about two different short films of yours.

Here's an excerpt from Erna's KINGYO review.

An ex-colleague of mine was rather disdainful about Edmund, saying that he thought far too highly of himself.

He obviously didn’t get Edmund at all. He’s a funny soul, who is often misunderstood. If only they could see past the hilarious fascetiousness on his blog and see the sensitive soul with a gift and love for narrative.

The disdainful ex-colleague was, well, overly disdainful. I can't get it when people think that I think far too highly of myself when I'm pretty much the humblest person in the universe. My modesty is an overlooked art that truly rivals the masterpieces from the renaissance era.

But ah, the rest of Erna's KINGYO review can be found here.

Tis' the KINGYO trailer.

Click here if you can't see embedded video

Emil Kloeden reviews FLEETING IMAGES

[Fleeting Images] Varanasi

I was a little surprised when I was contacted by Emil Kloeden yesterday via Twitter for permission to use one of my FLEETING IMAGES screenshots for his review.

It's not everyday that someone would bother to write a review of your short film. Thanks, man. Here's an excerpt:

In this time of heightened tension, a Malaysian film that speaks to the universality of human experience is all the more appropriate.

Edmund Yeo (aka Swifty) is a Malaysian filmmaker, currently residing in Tokyo, Japan. On December 15 2009 his “experimental” (2) short film, Fleeting Images, won the Grand Prix at the sixth Con-Can Movie Festival, an online-based short film festival where voting is open to the public.

Fleeting Images is a part philosophical, part meditative exploration of what it means to live and to experience the passing of time. The narrative – as much as there is one – (as the title suggests, the plot is comprised of a series of images or snapshots) is told in voiceover from the perspective of a young woman who receives a series of emails from a male friend, travelling through India and Japan. The correspondence she receives is a collection of his musings (what do the blind see in their dreams?) and observations (that time itself seems to move slower in rural India).

Link to the rest of the review.

FLEETING IMAGES trailer (click here if you can't see embedded video)

Yes, you can watch the entire film here (member registration is free)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Visiting the ancient city of Kamakura

My friend, Kelly (she's from Taiwan), had been preparing to do a very small-scaled short film, and had enlisted Kong's help to shoot it.

She had wanted to shoot her place in a traditional Japanese house, and so her friend Anna, offered to let Kelly use her great-grandmother's house in Kamakura.

Yesterday, Kong and Kelly decided to go to Kamakura to look at Anna's house.

I decided to tag along because I've never been to Kamakura before.

We arrived in the morning at 10 to meet up with Anna. Kelly's the one with a white cap and Anna's the one on the phone.

Arriving at Kamakura

That's the Kamakura station.

Kamakura Station

We started walking to Anna's great grandmother's house.

Street of Kamakura

I think it was a 10-15 minute walk before we reached the house. Anna's great grandmother is already 100 years old and she had been living by herself in this house most of the time. The house had been sold to someone else recently, but the new tenants haven't move in.

Outside Anna's great grandmother's house

As I entered the place, I cannot help but think of the very fine anime film, SUMMER WARS, by Mamoru Osoda, when Kenji followed Natsuki back to her 90-year-old great-grandmother's place.

Click here if you can't see embedded video

Garden of old Japanese house

Traditional Japanese house

Anna paid her respects to her great grandfather.

Click here if you can't see embedded video

Kong, Kelly and Anna look at the garden

Kong and Kelly examining photos

Japanese bamboo fountain (Shishi-Odoshi)

click here if you can't see embedded video

Kelly examines the scenery

Anna's great grandmother's bedroom.

Anna's great grandma's room

She was a painter and also a fashion designer.

Photos of her greatgrandma and her paintings too

Anna told me that this is a photo of her great grandmother, and Giorgio Armani.

Anna's great grandma with Giorgio Armani

Kelly and Anna in the shadows

As Kong and Kelly discussed the film, and the storyboards, I rested here, there was a heater underneath the table.

There's a heater underneath the table

We then headed off for lunch.

Returning to Kamakura streets


I opted for some curry.

Outside a curry restaurant

Curry katsu rice

Anna had mentioned that Kamakura is known more for its confectionery and desserts, so it wasn't so surprising that the curry was a little sweeter than usual.

I decided to sample some of the sweet stuff in Kamakura.

Kamakura shopping town

That's a dango. It's some sort of rice dumpling, covered in red bean paste (there are different flavours to choose from)

Eating some dango

And these were Kelly and my cups of amazake. It's a traditional sweet, low-alcoholic Japanese drink made from fermented rice.


Amazake street vendor

We headed to the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, the most important shrine in Kamakura. It was a Buddhist temple and was far larger than it is today. Until the '1868 Shinto And Buddhism separation order', when the Meiji government, for political reasons, decided not to mix Buddhism and Shinto, many Buddhist-related buildings in Tsurugaoka were destroyed.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Little child with hamaya

People walking up the stairs of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu

We went to check our fortunes by doing the omikuji.

Anna got a 'kyo' (curse/ bad luck).

Anna got a 'kyo' (curse/ bad luck) on her omikuji

Kong got a 'dai-kyo' (great curse/ even worse luck)

Because they both got bad predictions, they had to tie the strips of omikuji on a wall of metal wires.

Click here if you can't see embedded video

I got a 'kichi' (blessing/ good luck). So it was fine for me to keep it in my wallet.

i got a 'kichi' (blessing)

I liked the courtyard of the shrine.

Courtyard at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Blue skies at the courtyard of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Shy sun hiding behind the cloud

We then went to the Kotoku-in to visit the iconic Great Buddha of Kamakura. But not before we had some more dango outside the temple.

Anna eats dango again

And there it was, the famous Kamakura Great Buddha. It dates from 1252 and was built inside a wooden temple before the building was washed away by a tsunami in 1498. The statue remained.

The famous Kamakura Great Buddha

The Great Buddha and me

Anna thought the Buddha looked a little sad.

Anna and the Great Buddha

Kelly agreed.

Kelly and the Great Buddha

The statue, to my surprise, was hollow. And for 20 yen, we could explore its interior.

going into the interior of the Great Buddha

Plaque in Great Buddha's interior

The interior of the Great Buddha

Awed by the Great Buddha's interior

These girls were wearing T-shirts with the word 'Kamakura' on them.

3 girls in Kamakura T-shirts poses with Great Buddha

The sun was setting.

Great Buddha of Kamakura as the sun is setting

Great Buddha

Great Buddha in the evening

I just found out that Yasunari Kawabata, the Nobel Prize-winning author whose works had inspired my short films, LOVE SUICIDES, KINGYO and the upcoming WHITE FLOWER, used to stay in Kamakura. In fact, he actually died in Kamakura and was buried here too (many famous Japanese people were buried in Kamakura, including film directors Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu).

His old house was pretty near the Big Buddha, so I decided to go there. But not before getting some taiyaki first.

Eating Taiyaki

Taiyaki shop

I wondered whether it was better to eat from the head first, or the tail first. Eating the head would kill the fish immediately so that it wouldn't have to suffer as you consume the rest of it. Eating from its tail seemed more like slow torture. So I chose the head.

That's Kawabata's house.

Too bad I couldn't get in.

Yasunari Kawabata's house

Sign outside Yasunari Kawabata's house

Happy to find Kawabata Yasunari's house

Kelly and Anna in front of Yasunari Kawabata's house

Standing in front of Yasunari Kawabata's house

So little time, so many places in Kamakura that I would have wanted to visit, like the Five Great Zen Temples, or the Museum of Literature (that's where Kawabata's stuff are displayed, along with Natsumi Soseki and and Ozu's) etc etc.

Maybe next time.
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