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

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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

After.

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.

Scheming

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.

Camera Con

14 Jan

Two days ago marked the end of our shoot, and also stands out in my mind as one of the most ridiculous, hysterical days of filmmaking I have ever lived through.

We needed to get a few shots inside the Mitaka train station as well as on the train, but we had no permits. Without permits, we were told we’d be shut down within a matter of minutes. The Japanese metro officers inside the stations are on constant lookout for large groups of caucasians with giant cameras and no documents.

My job was to distract these vultures while Trevor, Zack, and Joey set up the camera and pulled off the shots. Imagine the Ocean’s 11 Crew shooting a film instead of robbing casinos. We had a blueprint plan the we formulated beforehand, and we had to be quick and secretive.

I rushed into the station first, obviously wearing my tuxedo and sunglasses, and approached the observation/help desk that happened to be yards from our camera setup. I stepped up to the Japanese officer on duty, feeling a hundred percent like James Bond, except this is a James Bond who is nervous, lanky, and can only speak English. I immediately blocked his view of the camera position by leaning so far across the counter that my feet left the ground. It was a rather flirtatious position, and I think he thought the same because he almost tripped over his feet to avoid my maneuver. At this point, I hadn’t said a word to the guy, but had already established with my body language that I was interested in a mild friendship at the very least. My first question was how to get to Mount Fuji. He didn’t understand a word of the question, though, so I asked again. Still no response, so I asked again. Still no response, so I started making the universal shape for a mountain with my hands while saying “Fuji, Fuji, Fuji” over and over again. Finally he got the idea, so he pulled out a map and showed me how to get there. I didn’t understand a word of it.

Ten minutes later, I glanced over my shoulder and realized they weren’t done shooting, and I didn’t know how to distract him any longer, but one of the few phrases I know in Japanese is how to ask someone’s name. “O namae wa,” I said. He stared blankly at me for at least a good, awkward five seconds, then he told me his name. Then I told him mine. We shook hands and I was gone. I’m pretty certain he didn’t sleep that night. Call me a creep, but at least we got the shots.

-Aaron