Archive | December, 2010

Thoughts from the Director of Photography

29 Dec

As the clock ticks down and we rapidly approach our departure, I get more and more excited about the adventure ahead of us. I have spent the last 7 days eating as much as I can with chopsticks, and using Japanese greetings with people who have no idea what I am talking about. I spend my time thinking about the characters of Persimmon and how they view their world. What do they see around them? How do they see themselves? I am mildly obsessed with perceptions and perspectives and how they influence each other.

How do I as a artist translate this story into images? I am trying to figure out how to effectively appeal to, and respect the Japanese style of cinema while also bringing my style and perspective into the visuals of this film. There as been a lot of eye opening moments for me in the process of visualizing this film. I constantly unfold new layers and pockets of emotion and depth within the story when I discover new information about Japanese culture and life. The story continues to grow and deepen as I experience my life more and as I gain new understandings into the characters lives. My task has been to decipher the best way to capture these characters and the story and present them to the audience in a true, meaningful, and beautiful way.

One of these ways is with the simple contrast between lamp light and window light. How do these characters choose to light their surroundings? One attempts to light his own way, while another receives his light from an outside source. This element will enhance the characters and add the emotions of the scene.

These photos are from other various films that I have referenced and drawn inspiration from.

After many readings of the screenplay, countless hours of conversations, buckets of diet coke, and many many moments of divine inspiration, I believe we have formed a good understanding and basis of the visuals for Persimmon. I am extremely excited to work with this crew. Every single person on this film is extremely talented and more importantly they have wonderful hearts. I  have full faith in my teammates as we set off to make something truly beautiful. I am thrilled to be apart of the process of capturing this story and bringing it to life.

-Zack Gladwin

Thoughts from the 1st Assistant Camera

29 Dec

If you would have constructed a time machine and gone back to the year 2000 and found me in junior high and asked: Do you think you will be making a movie in Japan in college? First of all I would have to steal your time machine and then I would have said “No”. (present self) I would never had thought I would be doing this with such awesome people telling an amazing story!

The camera team and I have been hard at work figuring out how we are going to pack over 60 pounds of camera equipment into the TSA approved luggage sizes and follow their very strict rules on carrying batteries on the plane (apparently they explode… sometimes)

We are shooting on the Red One Camera (Red’s Website) which has been used on films like District 9, The Lovely Bones, and most recently The Social Network.

My job as the 1st AC involves putting all the pieces of the camera together so it works properly. Also switching lenses and filters according to what the DP wants. But the most important job is to make sure the image is in focus so it doesn’t look like this

I got a great new tool for christmas that I can’t wait to use on set. I recorded a little video showing it off

I can keep things in focus, because the lens has feet marks for different distances, if our lead actor (Yugo Saso) is standing 5 feet away from the camera then I can check that and change the focus to 5 feet on the lens! and like magic he’s in focus.

Our planes leaves in only 6 days! I can’t wait to get off the plane in Tokyo and see what adventure awaits us

-Trevor Smith


Thoughts from the Camera Operator

29 Dec

One week. That’s how long it will be until we’re traveling to Tokyo, Japan to begin production on “Persimmon.” It’s pretty crazy how fast it’s all coming together.

My name is Joey Kennedy and I am the Camera Operator for the crew of “Persimmon.” Basically, that means it is my job to make sure the image the camera is seeing (called the “frame”) is always just the way the Director of Photography wants it, while at the same time keeping my eye out for any potential problems with things being inside the frame that shouldn’t be (microphones, crew members, etcetera). I love doing this job because it allows me to be involved in the process of creativity while still being involved with the technical aspects of the camera team.

Over these past months, it has been exciting to see “Persimmon” come together both as a story and a production. I’ve especially enjoyed getting to work with Zack (the DP) and hearing his ideas for the visuals of the story. I’m excited to take part in helping a talented and capable director and DP make  Tomotsu’s world a reality.

And hopefully, along the way we’ll eat some crazy awesome Japanese food too.


Thoughts from 2nd Assistant Camera. Scene 27A. Take 87. Marker.

29 Dec

Ever since my first viewing of “Lost in Translation,” I have felt the need to visit Japan. The film romanticized Tokyo for me, so I applied to go, possibly in the hopes of making a great film, possibly in the hopes of meeting Bill Murray. After a semester of preparation with a God-ordained group of filmmakers, I have learned a few Japanese phrases and my anticipation to experience the city and culture has grown. Anticipation is really the right word. It’s also a word to describe my feelings for what we are really doing in Japan: telling a story.

Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up in the Midwest, or maybe it’s the fact that I grew up in the Midwest, but when I was handed a script titled “Persimmon,” I had no idea what it was. Now, in exactly one week I will be on a plane to Japan making a film about one, except not really. The story does include a drying persimmon, but it also includes drying people. These are characters whose lives are spiraling away from them, and the only way to stop the spiral it is to let it continue. The film is not about futility, but about fruitfulness, and sometimes we must let go of our seemingly futile attempts to control things before we can gain the fruits.

It’s an incredibly important story, and I am privileged to help bring it to life as 2nd Assistant Camera. My responsibilities include aiding the camera team, transferring footage to hard drives, and slating each scene. While this position doesn’t always include creative input, I feel deeply invested in the story. Our director and D.P. have a strong sense of visual style for this project, and we have all spent time talking about how to convey emotions and themes visually. Our camera team as a whole is likely the most talented and passionate I have ever worked with, and the creative energy we gain from one another is regenerating.

I have worked as 2nd Assistant Camera on several short films before, but this guy is a professional. He is also on YouTube, and I’m confined to the words of this blog page. He can explain my position better than I can. He’s a professional.

Here is a picture of a slate. You probably call it a clapper.

My Best Friend

Lost in Translation - Inspiration for going


I am looking forward to working in Japan with a team of people who all seem to share a similar goal of telling a truthful story. I have not seen ego in this team, but instead I have seen love and encouragement. The process of making this film is unique in that we are all united under the banner of the story. I’m not sure how often I will get the chance to work like this on a film, so I will savor every victory, frustration, and doubt that I have.

Shitsurei shimasu (I am going to leave – very formal)

-Aaron Kessinger

2nd Assistant Camera

Thoughts from Script Supervisor

14 Dec

Konnichiwa! Hello from Annie, Persimmon‘s Script Supervisor.

When I applied for this film, I had never held the position of Script Supervisor (“scripty”) before. But having worked on the set of a feature film, I knew what a scripty did, and I knew it was something I would be passionate about.

What particularly interested me about Japan Film was the ability to go across cultures, make a film about another culture, and bring it back here. Having lived in England for a year and spent extensive time traveling through Europe and Turkey, I am passionate about multicultural perspective, and especially about the international church. I wanted a chance to experience another culture and work with Christians in that culture to produce  a work of art, especially a film, which by its nature is collaborative.

To prepare to act as scripty on set, I have been focusing on my knowledge of the script itself and my knowledge of Japanese. When the next version of the script comes out, I’m going to sit down with Junko-sensi, our Japanese teacher, and write out every bit of Japanese dialogue in the script in romanji, the roman alphabet letters. This way, I can memorize the entire script in Japanese, so I can hear the lines and know what is going on. Plus, I can give all of this information to the editor at the end to help them know the dialogue in each take. I want to have all of this memorized, so that I can be as aware as possible, given the language barrier.

I am getting more excited every day to go to Japan and see its people. Tokyo and good sushi, here I come.

Signing out,


Thoughts from Production Sound

9 Dec

“You’re the sound recordist. Make it work.” – Peter Jackson’s King Kong

And that is my job!  To make it work! I’ve been sound on student films for the past couple years, and sometimes it ends up being just that.  Despite the wind noise, the faulty XLR, the broken boom pole, or the lack of a boom op, I have to capture the sound for the film, and capture the “voice” of the film.  I have to “make it work.”  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been running sound on other projects, working and getting some experience with my awesome boom op, Angela, and getting geared up for Japan, testing out a number of ways to capture the sound, taking the diverse locations we’ll be shooting in.  Wireless lavs, boom poles, XLR, M-box, Roland Field recorder, sennheisers, and Mackieboards. I’m heading to Japan, fully prepared to professionally capture the audio on Dean Yamada’s next endeavor to bring yet another awesome story to an eagerly awaiting audience, reaching lives and touching hearts for the glory of God, with Biola’s next Japan Film, “Persimmon.”

Brian Ulrich
Production Sound

Thoughts from the Key Grip

7 Dec
Japan has always been this place that I felt was calling me. Like some kind of necessary beckoning, the land of my heritage has always remained the unknown island holding secrets to identity and shrouded in a mystical void of communication, given that America doesn’t seem to have a need to have anything to do with the place, except cast Tom Cruise as the last samurai and remake the Karate Kid in China. Now that we have less than sixty days until flying over, I can’t help but feel an unusual sense of duty, now that we are making a film about Japan instead of merely visiting it.

There was one event in the film program that I told myself I couldn’t miss, and that was this project. Since hearing about it early on in my freshman year, I knew three things: that it was unlikely for me to get on the project given my experience, that it would be impossible financially, and that somehow it would happen. Now that it has, I feel another layer of duty to fulfill this position that God clearly gave to me as a gift.

I’m the Key Grip and I move things around and make sure things that should stay still don’t move around. I didn’t write the script, I won’t shoot the visuals, but I’m helping to make the message happen. As the people who are making this film, we are collectively the only thing standing between the story and the world, so our relationships become directly tied to production. I think we’ve been working on this quite well. Listening to each other in class and trying to be open about ourselves as real people dealing with a stark humanity may not seem like a film related activity, but if we can’t relate to each other in the classroom, it’s not going to magically happen on set. The exciting thing is, our crew seems to have been not only a special group to begin with, but we have grown together to become something more. Professor Yamada told us he thinks that we may be onto something very unique. I could talk about the technical preparations we’ve done so far, and the progress we’ve made on inventory lists, airfare, scheduling, concept art, and a dozen other steps of progress we’ve taken, and they are important, but this electric anticipation is the only thing that feels worthy of reporting. This raging buzz in all of our hands, the quiver in the air as time plummets down as we try patching up our parachutes. The years of promised longing for the soil of this island country, and the whispers of something exceptional waiting to be made by our trembling hands, guided by the invisible. We are praying so hard.

Gravity is now pulling us forward.

Jordan Nakamura
Key Grip

Thoughts from Production Design

5 Dec

3 months ago I knew absolutely nothing about Japan.

I knew about Harajuku girls, Nintendo, Sushi, and Kimonos. I think that’s about it.

Over the course of working on this film, my knowledge (and love) of Japan has grown exponentially. I have learned so much about the people, the history, the fashion, the music, the art, the problems, the obsessions, and the language. What started out as something distant and simple has become a much more fleshed out understanding of Japanese culture, and I hope to incorporate this knowledge into Persimmon.

One thing that has come out of doing some soul-searching and long conversations has been the idea of isolation and how it seems to run throughout the entirety of the film. Each character seems locked in their own little bubble, without any real hope of getting out. Tamotsu is stuck inside his own head, searching for answers to life’s unanswerable troubles. Hasegawa is trapped in his bed, yearning for youth but lacking the motivation to keep living. Mei is wrapped up in relational troubles and personal strife with no real sign of changing. In order to emphasize this idea, there will be a lot of integration of technology and extra spaces where people should be. Our plan is to have as many people on cellphones, other random electronic devices taking the places of humans (such as a roomba, which is a robotic vacuum cleaner), and extra chairs everywhere. My plan is to have as many empty chairs as possible in homes.

After reading the first draft of the screenplay, I immediately fell in love with it. The characters, the metaphors, and the implied colors seemed so vibrant to me. From the moment I read it I knew that the colors orange and teal were going to be important. The color of the persimmon seemed so crucial: describing everything that is key to the film. It’s freshness, it’s ripeness, it’s symbol of life.

Throughout my search for the right look for this film, I tried to find as much inspiration as I could. Here are some of the images that I found.

Most of these images might only be inspiring to me, but I hope that they are some help with my overall ideas for this film.

So far, this film experience has been one of the best that I’ve had. I have never been so encouraged, so loved, and so creatively inspired for a film. I am thoroughly enjoying this process so far, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I know that once we get to Japan it will all come together and our team will thrive.

-Nick Chavez

Production Designer


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

Thanks for reading and supporting us!

Rachel van der Merwe
(One of the producers)