|LIFE IN JAPAN
|Courtesy of Alec McAulay
Time in Japan:
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Alec McAulay spoke to Melanie C. Redmond.
Do you know someone who
has an interesting life in Japan? Email us at email@example.com