Alec McAulay

Alec McAulay
Courtesy of Alec McAulay


Time in Japan:

11 Years

Where are you from? Glasgow, Scotland.

What brought you to Japan?
A 52-hour nightmare journey on a series of dodgy Air Pakistan jets, including one that fell apart on the runway at Peking Airport.

What were your first impressions of Japan?
Cramped, cluttered, dusty, organized, expensive apples and cheap bananas. Big kanji signs. So many white cars. The rainy season started, and I thought someone had set fire to the country.

Tell us a bit about tokyo propaganda; what is it, and how did it begin?
tokyo propaganda is a collection of short-form, rule-governed films, based on the concept of visual haiku. Submissions are from aspiring and experienced filmmakers looking to explore the possibilities of digital filmmaking while working within a disciplined environment. The rules state that the film must be (1) a digital film (2) shot in Tokyo (3) no longer than 30 seconds long (4) with one title, roles unstated (5) using no more than three camera set-ups.

The project grew out of the 1999 RESFEST Digital Film Festival. I got talking with producer and RESFEST organizer Andy Thomas about the creative possibilities opened up by the digital revolution, and I came away with the idea to provide an outlet for beginning and experienced filmmakers in Tokyo to showcase their talents through short films. Pretty soon Roger Clarke of 1twoone2 Productions added his creative and technical weight to the project. With the help of photographer and events organizer Philip Arneill, Volume 1, consisting of six films by artists from four countries, debuted at the EYESAW Movement exhibition at Gallery Le Deco in Shibuya in April 2000. A further screening took place at the weeklong Kyo Jiyu Ten event in Harajuku a month later. Volume 2, consisting of seven films by fifteen artists, screened at the two-day SAL VANILLA exhibition at Laforet Museum in September 2000. We have contributions by industry professionals such as Yumiko Miwa, who worked on Peter Greenaway' The Pillow Book and Jubaku, playing alongside pieces by talented newcomers such as Khalid al Mkhlaafy. With the help of Andy Thomas, we were able to screen a special edit at the Glen Eira Film Festival in November 2000 in Melbourne, Australia. We are soliciting contributions for Volume 3 at the moment.

Why the name, "tokyo propaganda"?
It dates back to a discussion-turned-bunfight at RESFEST on to what degree objectivity can be achieved in documentary films. My half of the room argued that as soon as you choose to point the camera at one thing and not another, objectivity is lost. "Propaganda" reflects that belief. As for "tokyo," well, "chiba propaganda" just isn't sexy, is it?

How did you get involved in filmmaking?
Two years ago I studied directing at New York Film Academy. The 16mm short I made there, Japan Conspiracy Theory #107, was chosen for the NEXT FRAME film festival at the Tokyo International Forum in March.

We heard you have written a Japanese script - can you tell us more about it?
It's called Muko Dewa (Over There) and it's set in Okayama. That's as much plot as I'll tell you because film people are notorious thieves... It took me two years to write. The original idea was to raise interest in Tokyo; since then I've been swept up in the digital revolution that is going on in filmmaking. At the moment, I am putting together a feature-length script set in Tokyo, to be shot early next year. Muko Dewa is being put into Japanese industry format, after which I'll start my assault on the money people.

What do you hope to contribute to the film industry with your work?
Stories that people enjoy.

What is the strangest thing you've ever filmed?
Sweaty Sawako and her Amazing Alsation. I like to think I've moved on.

What is the one thing a person should see or experience in Japan before leaving forever?
Sweaty Sawako and - no, perhaps not. I couldn't say; I think each person comes to it in their own way and takes away something that is their own.

What is your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Learn the language, and always think of your time here as temporary. Hold on, maybe that's a recipe for a happy and sane life... Alec McAulay can be contacted at 

Alec McAulay spoke to Melanie C. Redmond.

Do you know someone who has an interesting life in Japan? Email us at

360: Gustavo Marchesi
Professional tango dancer
355: Alec McAulay
352/3: Mary Frenzel
Professional singer / songwriter, bandleader & voice instructor
350: Kate Smurthwaite
Bond analyst and aspiring novelist
349: Tim Spangler
Recreational Equipment, Inc.
348: Robin Rozzell
Tribal Nation Security
347: Marco Invernizzi
Bonsai artist
346: Charles E McJilton
345: Chris Chavez
344: Donna Burke
Singer and narrator
343: Dennis Sun
Artist, freelance graphic design and illustrator
342: Martin Hope Berry
Natural food shop owner
341: Donald James Berry
Technical Adviser
340: Amy Jorrisch
Tokyo International Players
339: Anthony Al-Jamie Ph.D.
Education consultant and journalist
338: Joel Silverstein
President of Outback Steakhouse Japan
337: Neal Dauber
Termite and Pest Control Operator
336: Marcus Spurrell
CEO of No Mass Media, Internet Co.
335: Stefan Fanselow
Flight Instructor
334: Colleen Lanki
Theater Artist
333: Ben Leibson
Scuba Diver
332: Bernard Yu
Executive Director of TELL
331: Hayden "Hay-chan" Majajas
Informations Systems Manager
330: Alistair McLachlan
BootsMC Finance manager
329: Ronald Lee Davis
Missionary / Teacher
328: Ed Durbrow
327: Isabelle Maranda
Marketing Coordinator
326: Brian Marcus
Food & Beverage Director at Tokyo American Club
325: David Baran
Managing Partner, Compass Partners
324: Murali Kupusami
Furla Tea & Coffee Owner/Model
323: Angela Jones
Fire Dancer
322: Tim Tsang
Coordinator for International Relations (CIR)
321: Chris Monnier
320: David Snyder
President of Rising Crane Sports Consultants, Inc.
319: Juliet Hindell
BBC's Tokyo Correspondent
318: Sid Lloyd
Football team captain
317: Niels Frederik Walther
Chef for the Danish Ambassador
316: Jonathan Katz
Jazz musician and composer
315: Yoichi Hayase
President, True Travel, K.K.
314: Ira Bolden
Program Manager
313: Benjamin Gurnsey
Corporate Communications at Sony Computer
312: Dr Jonna D. Douglass, PhD
Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist
311: Roy Kilner
Izakaya Manager
310: Neil Day
Senior Software Research Engineer
309: Stuart Ablett
Sakaya Operator
308: Maggie Tai Tucker
Animal Trainer
307: Carmine Cozzoline
Restaurant Owner/Chef
306: Alison Noonan
305: Kevin Meyerson
Rainbow Japan Inc. President
304: Randy McGraw
DirecTV Marketing Manager
303: Roy Ron
302: Antonio Plozay-Liberatore
Economist/TV Talent
300: Miguel Angel

Issues 250-299

Issues 150-199