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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I stumbled into a role as an extra in a new film with Love Exposure's Mitsushima Hikari

More incidents of stunning coincidence. More insane synchronicity.

On Monday, during a lab meeting (held every two weeks between film students in uni), my professor announced that two events will be happening in Waseda University on Wednesday (today):

1) Director Tran Anh Hung was going to do some location hunting around the campus for the film adaptation of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood.

2) Director Ando Momoko (sister of Love Exposure's Ando Sakura) will be having a film shoot in university grounds and some volunteers are requested for help.

However, due to the fact that the entire meeting was conducted in Japanese, I was a little confused about what was happening, what I put together then was "Director Ando Momoko will be helping Director Tran Anh Hung do some location hunting around the campus for the film adaptation of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood and then she will have a film shoot, so shee needs some volunteers". Which was too confusing, so I didn't say anything, besides, I had Japanese oral classes in Wednesday mornings anyway.

On Tuesday, yesterday, I was in my professor's lab with Maiko the Producer. I told her that it was time to get the ball rolling for my new short film. As I'm leaving for the Dubai Film Fest next week, I was hoping to pass some tasks for Maiko to do, like contacting possible actresses for the film, or calling for an audition.

I told her that I've just seen LOVE EXPOSURE last Saturday (read my review) and I was very blown away by actress Mitsushima Hikari's acting. So jokingly, I told Maiko that maybe we should recruit her for my film.

Love Exposure's Mitsushima Hikari
Mitsushima Hikari in LOVE EXPOSURE

Showing her blog to Maiko, I said that no doubt Mitsushima Hikari would be the perfect candidate as the complex and tormented heroine of my new short film. Unfortunately, after starring in a film by an internationally acclaimed director like Sono Sion, and also having another high-profiled film coming out next year, perhaps she's already on the verge of stardom, if she isn't one already (by the way, she also played Light Yagami's younger sister, Sayu Yagami, in the Death Note films).

I sighed dramatically and looked at the sky in soulful angst. Yes, she's beyond our grasp.

But because I was in my professor's lab, I ended up looking at the ceiling instead of the sky.

I thought of the Ando Sakura, who was wonderful as the villain Koike in LOVE EXPOSURE, and mused to myself her availability.

"We can get her, actually." Maiko said. "She was in Sketchbook."

I had a quick flashback. Sketchbook was the thesis film of a senior, Kageyama, that I watched earlier this year. He even gave me the DVD.

DVD cover of the short film, Sketchbook, by Taka Kageyama

The Sketchbook DVD sure looks good!
The portrait on the DVD is Ando Sakura's

I said I would ponder, but I also pointed out at some other alternatives in the same talent agency. Meanwhile my professor enters the lab with a piece of paper, a name list of the cast and crew members that were coming for the film shoot the following day. One single name on the list caught Maiko's eye.

"Hey, Mitsushima Hikari's coming to Waseda!" Maiko exclaimed.

I looked at the list and saw the name too. Maiko told my professor what we were discussing about and I pointed at the website of Mitsushima Hikari that was still on the web browser of the lab computer.

"Guess you'll have to come." My professor said with a grin.

I blinked once. Twice.

Today morning, I went for the Japanese oral class. When it ended, I wondered silently what have I missed, and I wondered whether the film shoot was still going on. And then I wondered whether I could find it. I was carrying a tripod and had intended to go to Yoyogi Park (I've attempted to go there for the past 2 days, but something would happen and distract me from going), so I thought to walk my friend from Germany, Judith, to her class before I head off to Yoyogi...

... and then I walked right into the shoot. They were about to do a crying scene. I walked past Mitsushima Hikari as she was sitting on a bench, preparing to cry. And then I saw my course mates, standing at the corner, stopping trespassers, controlling traffic and observing the shoot.

I joined in the fun. My professor popped by as well. After a number of tries, the scene was done, and everyone had lunch, The next scene would be an indoor lecture hall scene. The crew members started carrying the filming equipments into this lecture hall at the fourth floor of the building. There were lots of heavy stuff.

I helped to carry... a box of chocolates intended for the crew and placed it on a table. At the same time, some production assistants were herding the extras to their seats.

I decided to get out of the way.

"Yes, can you please sit here?" One of the production assistants asked me as I was walking past a chair.


The guy nodded. "Can you do it?"

The camwhore in me, coupled with my hidden desire to become an actor, made it hard to reject him. So I sat at the second last row. I couldn't help but feel that my sudden stumbling into a role as an extra in this film was somehow similar to many films.

How odd, to see my life unfolding like a movie.

Mitsushima Hikari was brought into the lecture room, and she sat at the row behind mine, separated from the others. Drowning in youthful melancholy. And just a few feet away from me.

My professor also had a cameo role... as a professor in the lecture hall, giving a lecture about Gunter Grass' The Tin Drum. But the first thing he did was walk up to my seat and introduced me to Mitsushima Hikari.

"This is Edmund, a director from Malaysia." My professor said.

We greeted each other. "Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu." I said, my Japanese skills suddenly increasing a couple of levels.

Then my professor and Mitsushima Hikari had a brief conversation about The Tin Drum. Mitsushima Hikari said that she loved Volker Schlöndorff's 1979 film adaptation, even doing a quick imitation of Oskar's (David Bennent) high-pitched shriek.

David Bennent as Oskar in Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum

As my professor was walking off, I told her that I liked the movie too, then I told her (in halting Japanese) that I was at the world premiere of LOVE EXPOSURE last Saturday. She seemed surprised, and laughed. "You saw me do this?" She struck a martial arts pose and pretended to punch. I grinned. "Your performance was great. It was fantastic." I shifted back to English when I spoke the last line because even with my sudden miraculous increase of Japanese skills, I still suffer from a lack of Japanese vocabulary. She said thank you and smiled beautifully.

The shoot began and I displayed my sheer versatility as an actor by playing a university student who was listening intently at my professor's Gunter Grass lecture.

After it ended, I turned to the guy sitting next to me, ironically, he was German too.

"Wow, this is my Japanese screen acting debut." I exclaimed. (ignoring the fact that I might not even be in the frame at all during the whole scene because I'm happily delusional)

In my previous post, I spoke about synchronicity. The incident of the supposed cinematographer of my CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN-influenced short film doing an internship for the actual director of CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN.

But now, you have me writing the review of a 4-hour film starring a particular actress. And then, two days later, joking with my producer about convincing said actress to act in my own short film, and finally, at the following day, I stumbled into a role as an extra in a film with said actress.