Archive | January, 2011

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

Persimmon, The Tale Behind the Tale… – The Poem

23 Jan

Load up all the equipment! Jump on a plane!

Fly through the night, watch the moon wax and wane.


Land in Japan. Drive for an hour.

Us a two prong grounder to get power.


Jump on the train. Go on a tech scout.

Listen to the Asian people bustle about.


First day of shooting, here we come!

Our big production has just begun!


Lights are set. Camera is ready. (finally…)

Unlike Jitensha we’re not using a steady.


Here we go. Alicia cries “Action!”

And, what do you know, we’re shooting in a whole new nation!


Off we go. Late nights, early mornings.

Ignore the guards and the station warnings.


Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! You’re not gonna make it!

But hurry we did, and, oh, we made it. 😉


Yugo’s awesome! That’s a wrap!

Now’s I think it’s time for a good long nap.


Here, we are, Tokyo!

Where Yu would translate “Hi!” as “Yo!”


So let’s go, see some sights.

Lucky there weren’t any fights.


Walk around, do some shopping.

Then on the train, extreme purchasing.


Have a party in Japan!

Then off to the airport we all ran.


There we go, Sayonara!

Say good bye to Dean Yamada!


Back to the states we all fly,

some of us depressed, by the by.


But now that we’re back in the states,

we’ve got to sit down at a whole new slate.


It’s postproduction we’re in now,

and it’ll be tough to chew that whole cow.


We’ve got a new task, a new adventure,

And hopefully the footage we won’t butcher.


But come this May, you wait and see,

It’ll be finished by you and me.


Sitting there, everyone will have on thing on common,

We’ll be all in rows, watching Persimmon.

Okay, so… that was my horrible excuse for poetry… but it kind of chronicled our trip to Japan, and, though it was long and hard, and amazing and rewarding, the job’s only half done. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go in the post production process, and we can’t forget that!

We’ll look forward to keeping you guys all updated as the film unfolds and the story is finally brought to it’s climax as it goes through the edit!

Thanks for your prayers and support (and thanks for reading my awful awful poem which was meant for the soul purpose of your enjoyment, ha ha)

Brian T. Ulrich

Production Sound

Recovery and Discovery

19 Jan

Filmmaking is often less about creating than it is discovering. You write a script, but that is all it is: a script for what you think is going to be in the film. Of course, the problem is that during shooting, you come up across roadblocks that you never expected, and have to work your way around them.

For this reason, a huge part of filmmaking is not just discovery, but recovery. You come across a problem, and depending on the magnitude, the fate of the entire film may depend on how well you deal with it. Many a good script has been killed during production with problems the filmmakers couldn’t overcome.

Reflecting back on the production of Persimmon, I see something different then the usual recovery patten. Instead of being on set trying to save the film, I watched as the director helped the actors pulled out nuances of the script I had not seen before, the production designer found things on set that became a perfect part of the color palette, and a location found the day of shooting became one of our favorite locations.

By the grace of God, aided by the dedication of the crew both Biolan and Japanese, this film grew in the making. And as someone who has seen every bit of the footage in detail, I am more confident in our footage than I have ever been in a film. I look forward to sitting in a darkened theatre, waiting for our beautiful persimmon to grace the screen… not to mention Yugo Saso.

Andrea Cottrell

Lost in Tokyo

18 Jan

We had just finished eating our last and most grand dinner together as a crew in Tokyo. Heading our way back home to the TEAM Center, this was going to be our last time on the train. That means this would be the last time our producer Ellie will have to yell out, “Make sure we don’t lose Angela!”

First, let me tell you: I have never gotten lost, not even close to being lost. And you know…producers worry a lot, and I understand. 🙂

Second, we were in Shibuya, one of the most amazingly jam-packed places in Tokyo. When it’s late at night, this place is alive. The only thing is Shibuya isn’t that cool when you’re in the train station an hour before all the stations close.

So when everyone had their tickets out, and had passed through the ticket scanner, I was still on the other side, looking through my little fanny pack for my ticket I just bought. I couldn’t find it. But when I finally found it and scanned it through the ticket scanner, the crew was nowhere to be found! Where did they go?

That’s when I realized how overwhelming Tokyo really is. With everyone walking at different paces, I felt like I was standing before a sea of people, with waves wildly unpredictable and undying. Or like Simba from Lion King, overwhelmed in the midst of a stampede that won’t die out.

I ran up the stairs and found the platform that looked most familiar to me with the striking Hey! Say! Jump! (Japan pop band) poster. I searched for my crew and then I knew. I was officially lost.

So I jumped on this train because we always did. But as soon as the doors closed, a second thought hit me: I could be on the train that goes the opposite direction. So at the next stop, I hopped onto the train that goes back to wild Shibuya. I walked up to the service center in the train station and asked for directions to Mitaka. The lady pulled out three maps until I understood what she’d been saying. Sorry, English o kudasai!

So actually I was going in the right direction on the right train. All I needed to do was to get on the right train, switch onto the Chuo Line at Shinjuku (ask Ellie for help if you are having a hard time pronouncing), and exit Mitaka. Then home. But it was already past 12am and the stations were about to close. At this point, I knew I was doomed. Just kidding. At this point, I suddenly realized how much my team must be worried about me, intensifying my own worry and desire to find my way back. I just wanted to see a familiar face and know I was safe.

Thank God I was able to make it to Mitaka. As I reached and walked out of the Mitaka station, I saw Dean! A familiar face! There was nothing like it to know that I was found. I felt so bad for worrying the crew. Imagine Ellie and Rachel stressed out. And then Dean. Everyone had gone back to the TEAM Center, while Ellie and Dean waited for me for 45 minutes. But by the time I reached Mitaka, only Dean was there to meet me with a really shaky voice. Bet you haven’t heard that voice yet!

The next part really defined what this trip meant to me. The entire last semester, I was struggling over my place and significance on the team, which really played with my confidence concerning my relationships with the team and my contribution to this film. But on our last day in Tokyo, it seemed like I had to get lost in Tokyo in order for me to recognize that I did have a defined place in this team. But it wasn’t just about that. It was more than that.

When I got back to the TEAM Center, each person gave me a really long and hearty-tight hug and asked me what had happened. By the time the last person hugged me, I teared up because I realized what I meant to this whole crew. Like how Zach likes to call our time together family time, I finally daburu (double) understood it. I know that if the same thing happened to anyone else in the crew, we’d all react the same way, and that’s because we’ve come to rely so deeply on each other as a team, or I should say, family.

I guess this is what working on a 15-19 hour-day film set does to you. Nah! I realized how powerful it is to open up and to be vulnerable, to look stupid or even sound ridiculous. I mean talking about osowake, sharing became the glue to our cohesiveness—Joey mentioned it. It’s pretty cool that we had all originally signed up to work on a film, yet, not knowing that from making this film we would be at a place where we learned to share life.

So after all, maybe you should come see the film when it’s completed and let it change your life 😉 No, really.

A. Kwan


17 Jan

It’s official. We’ve been to Japan and back, wrapped on the filming of “Persimmon” and are now entering into the post-production process. It has been an amazing journey and one of the best experiences I’ve had in film school thus far.

It was amazing to see the crew come together as a cohesive whole. Over the course of many long days of shooting and what seems like a thousand train stations, every person on this crew gave their all to “Persimmon.” It was especially cool to see the way that the Biola crew and the Japan-side crew collaborated despite our differences for the good of the project. We truly could not have made this film work without assistance from Yu, Takaki, John, Steven, Izumi, Maki, Kevin, Julie, Eric and all the others. As we worked together, ate together, traveled, laughed and even sang together, I was able to experience a unique kinship between crew members that I don’t think I will ever forget. I love the fact that Osusowake (sharing) became far more than just a theme of the short film we were making: We truly put it into action together every day. I can only hope that I will take what I learned and allow it to change the way I work and interact with others in the future.

After Japan, there are countless memories…far too many to be expressed here. We shared experiences, travels, inside jokes, new and exciting foods, and the excitement of convenience stores and vending machines together. We exercised creativity, creating beautiful images with the RED and probably thousands others with our brigade of SLRs. We froze on a metal roof for a night, we experienced Japanese karaoke to the fullest, we ate food from a street fair and drank pancakes out of a can. These are a few of countless memories I will never forget, and I am so grateful for the people I got to share them with.


– Joey Kennedy

Camera Operator

You know Osusowake?

17 Jan

I grew up thinking that Japan had something that I didn’t and by going there, a part of me, maybe some cultural identity section of my existence, would be completed. I suppose this wasn’t inaccurate, but I expected to visit solely as a recipient, not as a benefactor. It was a reminder and a wake up call arriving in Japan hearing Yu Shibuya state the heart he wanted us to have on this shoot: something along the lines that we are here to bring hope to a land that has wandered into an ether of tradition, naturalism, and unsteady spirituality, starving for a beacon to an absolute truth. We were commissioned here by something greater than ourselves to tell a story hinting at the ultimate and the real. We were not here to just receive from Japan, but we were here to bring a gift.

I became ill on the way to the airport to Japan and my immune system only deteriorated over the long flight. I remained sick for the first location scouting day, and with my nose incessantly draining runny battery acid into my neck, I had little hope of recovering in 4 degrees celsius weather on five hours of sleep a night. Eventually I had to take a day off, my body revolting against my audacious behavior, and I felt like I was betraying the team. My job was to be present, physical, and at the ready, and instead I was unable to even move out of my bed to eat. I began to despair, and wondered why would God bring me here to just waste a chance to experience the land of my ancestors, and to not fulfill the role that this entire family of friends entrusted me with? But I remembered that this was a mission for Japan, not just a film for our benefit.

Sick in Tokyo

Spiritual warfare is real, and I saw this sickness as well as that of some of the other crew as confirmation that this film was a maneuver that was important enough to be noticed. It made me realize this is something the opposition doesn’t want made. Which probably means we are doing something right. Going over the gorgeous dailies when the rest of the crew got back that night, it made sense. What we were seeing was almost too good to have been made by our mere hands. We had gotten some kind of help elsewhere. We needed God and we needed each other to do this, and it was a project and a process that would only be possible if it was shared. There was not one person who would or wanted it to be about them.

I think this theme of sharing with a neighbor some of a large gift you’ve received, or Osusowake as it’s called in Japanese, really became the theme of the shoot. Our mission in Japan was not merely to make a film, but it was to share the gift we’ve received from God with the people of Japan and everyone who would see this film. We were living the beauty of the message of the film each day: the beauty of what death can be and the enrichment it can bring to life. I think the knowledge that this film would have a death, that it wouldn’t be everlasting made each day something worth cherishing, and the death of the shoot is in a way the birth of the film, and we were all working towards this paradoxical goal as a team, sharing with one another everything. From food, to jokes, to even a cohesive attitude of tenacity and trust, we were all there to serve each other.


Even our director Dean Yamada, who could have easily tried to micromanage the many creative and technical aspects of the film which he delegated to mere college students, he trusted us in doing our jobs and granted us the honor of truly being able to give ourselves to this project as much as we wanted within our roles.

Happy Camera Teams come from La Mirada

Jordan Crabtree cut together a beautiful montage of scenes from the film just for the first wrap party to see, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve felt the kinds of emotions that I did while watching that preview. Dean did a brilliant job directing the actors and orchestrating the story, Yugo’s performances were arresting, Zack and Nick’s work composing the shots and dressing the set and look of the film was visibly effective and gorgeous… I could go on. But I didn’t see names. I saw all of us all at once. I saw Joey and Trevor helping Zack compose the shots that even were inspired by the lights Jordan set up with Steven and I, and that couldn’t be divorced from the energy that Nick, Takaki or Angela displayed at a lunch break, which we had because Rachel, Ellie, Maki or Brian were all doing their jobs so our worries were minimized to our own tasks, which is rare for a crew that small. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone and honored to be serving such a God in such a way, with people like this crew.

About to get our Oishii on

So in the end Japan did give me a lot. It gave all of us a lot, and others can talk about that here, and I really hope that we can give back like how I know the crew has been giving to each other during this entire trip.

Persimmon. A film by a family who received much and just had to share.

– Jordan Nakamura.

After The Bitter Comes The Sweet

14 Jan

It feels surreal to be wrapped. We arrived just over a week ago; after six amazing days of production, we have a film in the can– one that we are all extremely proud of. We collaborated; we pressed on through the long hours and cold days; we created art and built relationships that will exist forever.

On Monday and Tuesday, the team had the incredible privilege of being in the presence of three brilliant actors. As director, I needed to create a safe environment and give them the space to do their best work. Without authentic performances, this film would be nothing but beautiful, empty images. It was important for the students to see their process as we searched for inspiration and blocked our scenes. Because these actors understand their craft deeply, they need to find ways to put themselves in the scene, whether through connecting with a piece of wardrobe or wanting to know why their character would stand in a specific place of the frame.

Our lead actor Yugo Saso made the film happen with his generosity and his performance. Throughout our rigorous shooting schedule, I never heard one complaint from him. He trusted our process of making this film and was always ready to go. After working with Masayuki Yui (who plays Hasegawa), it was easy to see why Akira Kurosawa would want to cast him in four of his final five films. Yui-san is a naturally gifted actor who can read a line ten different ways and still keep it fresh while making it his own. Sakae Kimura (who plays Hasegawa’s son) is the consummate professional, who came well prepared with many ideas about his relationship to each character.

It was an invigorating time of creating art. Production was like a 144-hour long day with three hour naps interspersed throughout. When we wrapped our final scene at the convenience store, the owners wanted all of us to sign a commemorative card and take a photo with them. It was such a surprise to have them bring us coffee and dried persimmons. As I bit into the dried persimmon, it was a bittersweet moment to know that our time, though not without its challenges, had come to an end. We have made it through production without much compromise, and I’m so excited to begin our journey through post-production and into the festival world.

Thank you for sharing in our joy.

Dean Yamada

Shooting on the roof of the abandoned clinic.