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Sunday, March 06, 2011

My film shoot at Shirakawa-go

Yes, I've been busy the past few days shooting my new short film LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me tweeting some production stills.

It's now my birthday, and I find it rather fitting that I'm spending it in my editing room.

Anyway, I shot my film at the mythical Shirakawa village, which is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. It displays a style of building called the Gassho-zukuri. I was there from the 2nd to 4th of March.

I was in Shirawa-go once, ten years ago, in a family trip. It was autumn, I was so captivated by its coziness and distinctive beauty that I knew I would want to return again. When I was there, I saw a poster of the village during winter, where it is covered in thick snow, that was what compounded my desire to go to the place. Of course, I never expected that I would need to wait for 10 years to return, but it's worth it.

So, here's my recap.

On the 2nd of March, I left with Kong the cinematographer, Yuiko the producer and Arisa the actress.

Here are photos of Yuiko and Arisa in the train.

Arisa, Yuiko, and my head

Me, Yuiko and Arisa

The following photo summed up eloquently our perilous train ride from Tokyo to Nagoya, then from Nagoya to Takayama, where I stopped briefly for soba, and then finally, reaching Shirakawa-go.

The journey to Shirakawa-go

The order is a little jumbled up because I didn't plan the montage properly, but you get a rough idea.

Yuiko the producer also took a photo of us at the soba restaurant in Takayama.

I enjoyed the soba in Takayama

Immediately after reaching Shirakawa village, we started our film shoot with Arisa. You can see from the picture below, which poignantly summed up the first day of our film shoot, to our first dinner at the inn in Shirakawa village (we lived in a place called the Yamamotto Inn), the manageress' kids, and the next morning, when the entire village was coated with snow.

Day 1 of the shoot

When we first arrived at Shirakawa-go, I was slightly worried.

"Hmm." Kong said. "I remember seeing more snow when I came here last year." (Kong visited Shirakawa-go by himself exactly a year ago, so he was our guide)

I looked around. The sky was blue, the sunlight was strong... the snow was scarce. Not like what I saw in photos.

For a while I have feared that the 6 hour journey we took was for naught, that finally, nature decided to toy with me, to punish me for my cockiness, to let me know what is it like to have an entire production fall apart.

"Could this be possible? This is my end???" I angsted.

Good thing that everything changed in the following morning.

Shirakawa-go in the morning

Shirakawa-go in the morning 2

Shirakawa-go in the morning 3

Shirakawa-go in the morning 4

Shirakawa-go in the morning 5

Deai bridge at Shirakawa-go


Thus, despite the intense cold, the shoot was smooth. It was arduous, exhausting, tiring. But I was getting what I wanted, I was joyous like the girl in high school who made fun of the eccentric nerd with an artistic soul by gleefully trampling over his heart.


Some photos from Yuiko the Producer.

Checking cameras with Kong

Walking through the snow for the film shoot

Shooting the sunrise at Shirakawa-go

(yes, Rotterdam Film Festival, I am still carrying your bag!)

I like this particularly heroic shot from Yuiko of me brooding.

Me, deep in thought.

On the day we were about to leave, I made the decision to start our shoot at 6am. Before the sunrises, when the village remained in shadows, it seemed to glisten in a silvery light.

I was already awake at 4am, contemplating the shots, planning them mentally, just so that when we were to shoot, I knew the perfect locations, the perfect pictures to craft.


And finally it ended. It was 8:30am. We had our joyous breakfast at the inn, and then caught the 10:45am bus to Takayama. (it reached its destination an hour later than planned, but that's a different journey), then we hopped onto the train back to Tokyo.

A great shoot, an adventure, it's good to feel alive again.

I will be returning to Malaysia on tonight's midnight flight and resume the Malaysian part of the shoot.