2 Dec

Persimmon: “An edible fruit that resembles a large tomato and has very sweet flesh.”

Unless you are a fruit connoisseur, chances are you have probably never tasted one of these strange looking golden fruits. You have probably never even heard of it.  Neither had most of our crew, yet here we are, preparing to make a movie about a young Japanese man who is attempting to dry one.  Apparently, not all persimmons are naturally sweet, but if you dry them as many Japanese do, their flavor sweetens.

This is one of the random facts that our crew has discovered during our weekly class sessions on Wednesday afternoons. During this time, we spend an hour studying the Japanese language. Already we can count, order food, and apologize for stepping on someone’s toes on the train! Then, after time spent praying for each other and the project, we apply ourselves to developing the script and preparing it for production.

This process has been incredibly rewarding for our crew, and we have all learned so much thus far in the semester. So, at this point, we would like to invite you to share in our discoveries before we head off to Japan. This blog will be a place to learn about our progress and to meet each of the crew-members. Until we leave on January 4, students will blog about their involvement in the project and update you on what we are currently working on or things they learned this past semester. Later, when we arrive in Japan, you can expect to see daily blogs from the crew.

To learn more about the film Persimmon itself, click on the About link. We would also love to answer any questions you may have about the project, so feel free to contact us at persimmonthefilm@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading and supporting us!

Rachel van der Merwe
(One of the producers)

Rebuilding and Reinventing a Creation

21 Feb

Over the course of pre-production and shooting this film, I have seen what filmmaking can be.  I was surrounded for 5 months by a crew that nurtured creativity, loved and feared God above all else, and made it the easiest thing to become like family with one another.  I cannot praise these friends enough.

And now that my role in the film has come to an end, the experience of making Persimmon has prompted me to take a break from filmmaking for the next half year.

I racked my brain over this, and I can’t compare this God-centered approach to Persimmon with any other filmmaking experience I have had in my entire career as a film student here at Biola.  Prayer made this film, and I saw God working and moving every step of the way.  Where there was strife and conflict, Jesus’ nurturing and healing hands were there.  Where there was anxiety, prayer and the Holy Spirit’s unifying peace were there.  In being a part of this tangibly divine production, the shortcomings and misconceptions in my own views of God and film have come to the surface with more poignance and conviction than ever before.  It’s prompted to work in turning film from an idol into a blessing, tool, and gift that God has given me.  I’m taking time off to reinvent filmmaking in light of Jesus Christ and to place God in his rightful place as Creator above the creation of the creation.  Through the making of Persimmon, God has shaken me.  He has shaken me to my core.  And now begins His work in rebuilding me for the better.  I love this film’s cast, I love the crew, and I love God’s mysterious way in which He has brought me to my knees.

I wish the best to Persimmon in post-production and pray that God gives His children the heart and stamina to bring to fruition the great work that has been started here.  Thank you everyone for the experience that was and is Persimmon.  It has truly been something life-changing for me.

God bless,


Because I Love You

2 Feb

School has officially started again, but it feels like I’m going back to pretend life. After working on Persimmon, going to classes and eating at the cafe just feel weird. I keep waiting for Ellie to give me my yen for lunch. I keep asking people for kohi o kudasai and they just stare at me blankly. What’s wrong with this part of the world? Why doesn’t anyone wear anything from UNIQLO?

The point I’m trying to make is that going to Japan changed everything (not to sound melodramatic). I will always miss the people I was able to work with (will I ever get to attend the wedding of Yu and Ai?). I will always miss the surprising beauty and diversity of Tokyo. Even though I still get to see them, I’ll miss working with the best Biola crew ever assembled. Oh, and most of all I’ll miss that time that En Yama sang All Star at the karaoke place from Lost in Translation.

En Yama: The All Star


That’s a wrap!

Alicia Gaynor – 1st AD

Entering Post

2 Feb

As we enter the post-production phase for Persimmon, reflection upon the last few months is definitely appropriate. Back in September, when the Biola crew met together for the first time, all of our preparation and planning was hypothetical. We planned and planned down to the detail, as much as we could, but knew in the end we would have to be flexible when we arrived in Tokyo. Being prepared for the unexpected is hard! But with the Lord’s help, we managed to pull things off.

I cannot say enough how proud I am of our crew. We shot for six days straight, putting in roughly 15-17 hour days. We figured out the metro; we mastered turning a mini van into a grip truck; we took off our shoes every time we entered a house; we survived freezing cold conditions; we survived extremely small conditions; and of course we branched out in our food choices J

Now that we are back in LA, the post-production process will begin; where we take all of our hard work and fun experiences, and shape them into a finished product. I cannot wait for everyone else to be able to see all of our hard work. I am so excited about the footage; it looks in credible. I believe the film will be very successful, not only in festivals, but also in spreading truth and wisdom to those that see it.

The Lord has taken us this far in the making of Persimmon, and I cannot wait to see what happens in these next months.

Stay tuned!


Ellie Pappuleas

(one of the producers)

Time to Start Chopping

31 Jan

Wow. Stage 2 is complete.

As one of the producers, that’s a huge burden lifted off my shoulders, even as we enter into a fairly intensive season of editing, re-editing, and packaging together a “product” that we can submit to festivals around the world. But thankfully, Persimmon is more than a product: it’s an incredible story that each crew member now feels a close kinship to. It’s a story we all earnestly desire to share with the world.
I, along with Trevor, had the opportunity to attend Sundance Film Festival this January after our return from Japan. This was my second Sundance experience, and once again it was an incredible, inspiring week. I left more excited than ever to see Persimmon brought to fruition and shared with passionate movie-goers at festivals around the world.

I’m also really grateful for the crew. I’ve worked with many different film crews, and typically, there is at least one person on set who has a bad attitude or creates problems. In this case, however, every individual persevered joyfully without complaint–despite the cold weather, long hours, and various other difficulties. In addition, it has been such a blessing to me to read their blog posts and hear them share their hearts. It’s really amazing to have an entire crew filled with such enthusiasm for the film. So thanks all. You pretty much rock, and I was blessed to work with you.

Thanks also to Dean. You have always been an inspiration to me, and you continue to challenge me to think creatively and originally. I learned a vast amount on this project, and I’m so thankful that I was able to work with you. You are an extremely talented director…and, you are a lot of fun!

Readers, please pray for us as we spend this next semester putting the film together. Keep watching the blog and Facebook page for updates! Thanks for your support. We greatly appreciate it.

Rachel van der Merwe
(One of the producers)

New Lens

31 Jan

Life after Japan has been nothing but different. I could recount story after story about how my eyes were opened to a new world, and how God provided what I needed, and how we bonded as crew members and friends. But there is no way this blog post could encompass all of the amazing things that happened on this adventure. Instead I will sum up what I learned and how it changed the lens in which I see the world today.

The biggest nugget of truth that was revealed to me during my time surrounding Japan, is the power of prayer. Prayers that I prayed 17 years ago were answered. Prayers we prayed during pre-production were listened to and changed the course of the film. Prayers prayed on set and in the moment, were put into action immediately. Friends were formed, people were healed, lost people were found, a film was made.

The other beautiful thing I experienced was the theme of our trip: Osusowake. Osusowake means sharing in Japanese and I could never be more happy to have that word printed on an article of clothing. We shared everything. We shared this amazing experience. We shared all of our food. We shared ideas. We shared love. There was nothing about this adventure that was self seeking or arrogant. That is the way it should always be. I hope to continue that perspective on life and share it with those around me.

I went to Japan to make a movie. I came back with so much more.

-Zachary Gladwin

A Sentimental post of Staggering Genius

31 Jan

I hate to be overly sentimental or cliche, but God was moving among us on that trip. I know you’ve heard that before, and the fact that it is a cliche thing to say may detract some sincerity from it. I could tell you all day about how life-changing this trip was, etc. etc., and the fact is that it is completely true. This is what happens when a film is centered around God rather than the film itself.

Two weeks ago I re-planted my feet on American soil (pavement), and it wasn’t the best feeling I’ve ever had. America is a lovely place, don’t get me wrong, but when I compare it to the Braveheart battle that is Shibuya crossing, or the wild fashion and attitude of Harijuku, or the sardine-packed trains, America seems boring, monotonous, and mundane. However, God exists in both Tokyo and America (He’s not boring or mundane), and since I’ve been back He has continued to sustain and fuel me.

Tokyo was awesome, but so was the way we made this film. I like to think that filmmaking should be more about the process than the product. This may or may not be true, but it makes sense to have an incredible time making the film, so that if the film sucks then at least it was worth the time. I keep trying to understand why everyone was so on-board and excited to make this film. I don’t have the answer to that mystery, but I have hunches. Maybe it was our love for this particular story, althoug I’m sure we all like the story to varying degrees. Maybe it was the fact that everyone on the crew loves making films and loves the people we went with, and most time that’s enough to be passionate about.  Speaking for myself, I was excited because Dean, Ellie, Rachel, and Zack, our leaders, were excited. That kind of passion rubbed off on me. It’s the kind of passion that gets under your skin and motivates you to do your best work.



2 weeks later…

30 Jan

I will never forgot the time I had in Japan. As I look back 2 weeks after our production I feel even more secure in the work we have done. Last week I went to the Sundance Film Festival and watched quite a bit of films and saw alot of great films that asked deep questions about life. “Would you forgive yourself?” “Does prayer work?” “Does love last?” “Are we defined by our past?”

So I am proud to have made a film that I know asks deep question about life and death.

I think Persimmon will be a film that people will find truth in.

I just added the Post Production class too so I am excited to be a part of the film from the script phase too the festivals.


-Trevor Smith