Wednesday, May 31, 2006

nothing to say

I haven't really known what to write to about recently. Not for a lack of anything going on in my life, but I am just not in the mood, if that's possible. I have really been enjoying blogging, so I am sure it is just that there is so much going on. I usually don't have trouble sleeping, and yet I was awake half the night thinking.

Anyway, I was looking through random blogs last night, and found this one. It's called "my life in bad english" and is a video blog (I didn't even know there was such a thing!). Give it a look. There are only a few episodes, so I watched them all at once. My advice, take a half an hour and watch them all from the beginning.

OK, I haven't really said much, but at least I have written something today.

Monday, May 29, 2006

petal pushing

I met a fabulously funny girl at the foreign correspondent's club of japan on Saturday night, and she has asked all of us to help her get the word out on her new blog.

Her name is Petal, and she has started a blog called Dear Ms. Petal which is an advice column for Western girls who are dating Japanese men.

Ok, so you're not a Western girl dating a Japanese man? That's ok, neither am I. (A Western girl, that is.)

Trust me, it won't matter where you or your partner is from, Dear Ms. Petal is hilarious. She's only written a few entries so far, but she promised there's plenty more breaking of cultural taboos and table-turning on the "white guy with Asian girlfriend" phenomenon to come. Enjoy!

hyper about html

I've been sort of blogging along here, not really knowing what I am doing. I've been feeling a bit inadequate about my inability to write in italics and bold or do hyperlinks. Despite great advice from Lisa R and Matt, it's taken time and the fight is not over, but...

Hey, everybody,
look whose blogging now

I just want to thank Matt for saving my world and Lisa R because she rules. Thanks, you two!

I would also like to send a shout out to Rachel because I love her puddings.

I know there is so much more to learn about blogging and html. Like, what in the heck does html stand for? I am guessing that it isn't an abbreviation for hotmail.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

a real poem, or did you write it?

What is it that makes people that know us really well underestimate the significance of what we do? Somewhere inside of us there seems to be this built-in filter which causes us to not be able to accept what are seeing for what it is if we know the person who made it. Sure there's a case for not being able to be an impartial critic when you know the artist, poet or writer. Yet it seems to me to be more than that because it carries over into everyday life, not just when it comes to "art".

"Hey, that's a great website. It LOOKS really professional."
Thanks, a**hole, it is professional.

"What a nice photo. It's LIKE a pro took it."
Because I AM a photographer.

"Nice cake. It's LIKE one you'd buy in a store."
No, it's way better than that.

I wonder if these kinds of statements aren't more a reflection on the speaker than on the person that they are talking about. Something like, "Clearly nobody that I know could do anything of any significance because I am sh*t. Therefore I am going to override any rational thoughts that tell me that what I am seeing is of any value".

People are really impressed by celebrity. Give someone the same damn cake and tell them that Martha Stuart made it, and they'd say, "Wow! Why can't you make something like this?"

Yes, I do have a chip on my shoulder today.

Friday, May 26, 2006

getting ripped off...and famous

I was working for a large, old and famous talent agency last year in Tokyo. My contract with them ended last month, and I decided for a lot of reasons that I didn't want to work for them anymore so I didn't renew my contract with them.

While I was with them, I appeared in recreation dramas, daytime call-in shows, specials, print ads and even was on stage in a touring opera. Every month I had some kind of issue with them about money, whether it wasn't getting paid the promised amount, having to do more than what was agreed upon for the amount of money or not getting paid at all.

For one job I did last year, they asked me to do a two-day photoshoot for a fee that was really low considering the big Japanese electronics company it was for. They said the photos were only going to be run in the in-store catalogues in the company's retail outlets in Europe and possible on the sides of buses, also only in Europe. "They aren't going to be used in Japan, that's why the job is so cheap", they said.

I went for a walk last night on my way home from having a few drinks at the Foreign Press Club. My walk took me through Ginza, an upscale shopping in district in Tokyo famous for the brands it attracts. My face is on the side of building.


Those bastards. The photo is from that "Europe only" shoot. I have already had calls, "Oh, you're so famous! You must be rich! Haha! You should buy us dinner."

Yeah, haha. "It should feel good to have my face on a building", I think.

The only time I ever got paid for a re-run of a drama I was in was when I happened to see it on TV and called my agency about it. "Oh, yeah. Uh, forgot about that."

You can see my face on a building from an airplane landing in Tokyo. Did they forget about that, too?!

If only I hadn't cancelled my contract with them...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

japanese lesson 1: doing your best

Japanese is a great language and really fun to learn. The way of conjugating verbs is especially entertaining once you get the hang of it. The verb we are going to learn today is GANBARU: to do one's best. I dedicate this lesson to Matt at (pretend this is a hyperlink).

GANBARU: do one's best

GANBARIMASU: I do my best
GANBAREMASU: I can do my best
GANBARERARERU: I am able to do my best
GANBATTEIMASU: I am doing my best
GANBARITAI: I want to do my best
GANBARITAKUWANAI: I do not want to do my best
GANBATTA: I did my best
GANBATTEITA: I was doing my best
GANBARANAKATTA: I did not do my best
GANBARITAKUWANAKATTA: I did not want to do my best
GANBARE: do your best
GANBARINASAI: you had better do your best
GANBARENAKUREBANARENAI: you must do your best
GANBATEKURE: do your best for me
GANBATEKURANAI TO TATAKU: If you do not do your best for me, I will beat you.

Good luck with your Japanese study, and remember: GANBARE!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

catching the blogging bug

I do love a good list. I am sure a psychoanalyst would have a thing or two to say about that, especially given the chaos of my life.

Today's list is "I know I've caught the blogging bug when..." Do keep in mind that the only blog I have actually read in depth is "saving the world", so I am basically just taking the piss out of Matt. And myself.

I know I've caught the blogging bug when:

1. I blog about blogging.

2. I worry that if I don't blog today or briefly explain why I can not blog today or explain why I did not blog today when I do blog tomorrow, that "my people" will be disappointed; or worse, they will give up on me.

3. I check the links to my blog on the blogs that people have linked to my blog to make sure the links to my blog work. (This one can double as a tongue-twister: "How many blogs can a blogging blogger link to a blog-linking blogger's linking blog?")

4. I wonder why I have more comments on some entries and none on others; what is it about a certain entry that gets people's attention? I want to write more of those.

5. I think it's possible that that guy who keeps leaving the "You have nice design site" and "Hello webmaster you site useful" comments really could be an anonymous non-native English speaker who likes my blog a lot.

6. I look at people with more than one blog and think, "I could do that".

7. If I think of two things to write about today I post only one and save the other for tomorrow in case I run dry.

8. I tell people about my "really hectic day" when all I basically had been doing was surfing the net and writing my blog. The hectic part only came when I realized what time it was and had to rush around to get some real work done.

9. I check if there will be internet before I make plans to go away.

10. I no longer think of my blog obsession as a sickness or something to be dealt with, but rather as a "charm point" (as the Japanese say), something quirky that adds to my character.

How many apply to you?

2-4 Take a vitamin c and step away from the computer.

5-7 Intervention is imperative. There must be a hotline to call.

8-10 There is no hope. Marry your ego with computer officating the ceremony.

Monday, May 22, 2006

blog tag

Matt, of "saving the world" fame and my friend who was the officiating priest at my baptism into the world of blogging, has "tagged" me. It's not at all unlike those annoying chain e-mails you get from time to time that require you to answer questions about yourself so that your friends can learn more about you. In fact, it's exactly like that. Here goes:

I am...a "filmmaker". Just kidding.

I become a "filmmaker". No, seriously.

I wish...people would call me a "filmmaker". Ok, I think this joke has just about worn off its humour.

I hate...being a "maker of films". Sorry, that was the last one.

I in Japan.

I miss...bean-filled doughnuts and plum wine when I am traveling abroad.

I fear...a long, painful death but not actually the dying itself.

I hear...people talking about me when they think I don't speak Japanese. "He's so cool. He looks like Beckam!" Yeah, right.

I wonder...why people always need to someone to hate.

I regret...alot of things, even when I say I don't.

I am self-absorbed as some people think. Really.

I make people laugh.

I sing...karaoke and love it.

I cry...not nearly as much as I want to.

I make with my hands...nothing that comes to mind which I can write here with good conscience.

I write...this blog in the hopes that people read it.

I confuse...the qualities that you look for in a mate with the qualities that you look for in a partner all the time.

I feel like I am useful.

I should...become more responsible.

I start...things that I sometimes can't finish.

I finish...things that sometimes other people have started.

I tag...lisa rullsenberg because she left a nice, encouraging comment for me and her blog is the only other blog I have looked at aside from Matt's. Sorry, lisa, I don't know how to make a fancy hyperlink yet, so I'll just type your address here:

maker of films vs. filmmaker

I make films. But I have never made any money making films, so I usually say I "make films" rather than refer to myself as a "filmmaker". At the end of the day it's all semantics, but here's my two cents anyway:

You may be a maker of films if:

1. Your friends introduce you to people by saying that you "make films".

2. You have looked up the spelling of the word "filmmaker" for your CV.

3. You talk about your "production company" that doesn't actually exist.

4. You use the pronoun "we" when actually you have written, directed and edited your film by yourself.*

5. You can be heard at parties declaring loudly "I am a filmmaker".*

*If both numbers 4 and 5 apply, there is strong possibility you are not only "a maker of films" but also an "auteur".

You are probably a filmmaker if:

1. You aren't sure if "filmmaker" is one word, two words or has a hyphen somewhere in it and aren't really bothered about it.

2. Your account with your post production facility has been sent to a collections agency.

3. You refer to "capturing" data in Final Cut as "digitizing".

4. You are so busy making films that you rarely have time to watch any.

5. You don't care whether people call you a "maker a films" or a "filmmaker". You just want to make films.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

married to the media

Making a film is a real commitment. A commitment that I have rarely been able to make in any other part of my life. It's a commitment that requires more than you could ever have imagined; one that tests your love every step of the way. It exposes you in a way for which you can never prepare; one that shows you for who you really are.

Our film, "the ballad of vicki and jake" did just these things. We have gone over budget, over schedule so many times that I have lost count, and I no longer remember what it was "supposed" to cost or how long it was "supposed" to take. In the end, the audience doesn't care about any of that anyway. All they care about is what they see on the screen.

Before we brought the film to compete in Nyon last month, I had been ready to move on. I had been submitting the film to festivals for a year and was having trouble getting people "to get" the film. I had started to move on to my next project, something the others who worked on the film had already begun to do. I went to Nyon knowing that we had a good film and that we could theorectically win an award, but part of me was also ready to come home unrecognized, having had a good experience but more certain that it was time to move on. Then we won the top prize in our category. The initial euphoria has worn off and now the work on the film has begun again.

There are mistakes in the film that I think need to be fixed, things that can be cleared up in order to make the film more accessible to a bigger audience. The film needs to be shortened. The film's recognition needs to be promoted. A distributor needs to be found. But these things take time and money. And commitment.

The remaining crew, those who are willing to reconfirm their commitment to the film, are looking to me to decide what the next step will be. Am I going to decide to put my limited resources into realizing the potential that I think this film has, or am I going to use that money for my next film? Making documentaries, we always talk about doing what's right, ethical. So I guess it feels kind of bad to have it all. like everything else in this world, come down to money.

Can I renew my commitment to this film and honour all that that entails? This time, I just don't know.

Friday, May 19, 2006

documentaries and popcorn

I went to see a documentary today with a friend. Because we both had appointments we had to go to directly after the film which would run through lunch, my friend suggested we stop by the convenience store and buy a couple of riceballs to eat during the film. I suggested that perhaps it wasn't the kind of story you'd want to watch while eating lunch, and she responded that having a riceball wasn't any different than eating popcorn. I think my point was that I can't remember the last documentary I watched and thought, "I could really use something to eat". Whether it's a documentary about war, a police cover-up or a nature program on the mating habits of African elephants, there's been plenty of times I could use a stiff drink; but popcorn?

When our film, "the ballad" showed in competition recently at the Visions du Reel Festival in Switzerland, I excitedly called my editor, Lizzie, to tell her we were showing in a theatre that sold popcorn. Then we had a good laugh at my naivete; is our film, about addiction and homelessness, the kind thing you watch while eating popcorn? When Lizzie and her assistant, Anthea, flew out for the screening, I made sure we had everything we needed; I skipped the popcorn and made sure that everyone on our team had a drink in their hand during our film. And it just felt right.

The film I saw today was a documentary about a prostitute who served high ranking American officers stationed in Japan after World War II, called "Yokohama Mary". It was amazing, heart-breaking and beautiful. The riceballs stayed in my bag. But damn, I could have used a drink.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

you should make a film about...

When I tell people I make documentaries, I am often told, "I have a film for you. You should make a film about..." It seems that everyone has a great idea for a film.

It's funny because as a somebody who makes films, I am never at a loss for an idea of a film I want to make. What I don't have is money to make them. You know, I never hear, "You make films? Hey, I know where you can get some funding."

Post 4: short and sweet

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

my bad engrish

I would like to be the second (Matt was the first) to announce to you the launch of website which is about, well, "the ballad of vicki and jake". If I were to tell you any more than that, it would be defeating the purpose of having the website.


The other day, my brother in law pointed out my declining English ability. I admit he was not the first one to point this out, either. This July I will have lived outside the US for six years. Granted, a year and a bit of that was in the UK (when I was filming "the ballad", but even that was in international housing). The rest of the time I have been in Japan.

In the beginning, the Japanese I was learning simply replaced the French that I had learned while at school. I wasn't fluent, but I could check my coat, order a beer and request a lapdance at eighteen*. I'll end this story here.

This system of Japanese in, French out failed when the French became exhausted, and then the Japanese began to battle it out with the English. Insert favourite distasteful war joke here.

This English bye-bye trend is hastened by several factors. Among them:

1. Entire days of not speaking English.

2. Becoming accustomed to the mistakes that non-native speakers of English make, so much so that the incorrect grammar begins to make sense and actually sound right.

3. Intentionally using bad grammar with non-native speakers of English because the point will get across easier and the correct grammar is too difficult for the listener. This, of course, has two added disadvantages: a) reinforcing the bad grammar in the listener and b) reinforcing the bad grammar in the alledgedly native speaker.

How do they do it, those people who speak six languages? I start to learn one and all hell breaks loose.

Three posts down.

*This age is significant as it is the legal drinking age in Quebec, compared to the 21 in upstate New York (on the Canadian border) where I lived.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

the pressure is on

The only other blog I have ever followed is Matt's, "Saving the World". Occasionally I go to another blog he has linked for a quick look, but I have basically been in this committed, monogamous relationship with Matt's blog. Now it feels a bit weird doing it all by myself.

My lack of blog exposure means that I don't know the unwritten rules of blogging; those things which are seen as annoying, old-school or just plain rude. Based on my knowledge of one blog, I will list some of my observations so far.


1. Being linked to someone's blog is a rite of passage to be celebrated and publicly announced.

2. Bestowing this link upon someone else is a knighting, a "you're one of us" affirmation.


3. If you don't have time to write your own blog, you can just quote someone else's blog and then link to it. Then your quota for the day can be neatly filled.

4. If you are going away or have a concert to go to and don't have time to write your blog, you can just say that and then tempt your readers with the promise of a good story when you are back.

5. If you are going away for a long time, you just get other people to write your blog for you.

6. If you don't want to write a lot that day, fill up the space with LOTS of photos.


6. You can read the paper and then just blog about what you have read. To make it better, you can go off on a tangent and rant and put in a bunch of strong opinions.

7. If you want people to respect your opinion, it's best to throw in a bunch of quotes from philosophers that you read as an undergraduate. This will confuse people and make them feel stupid, thereby ensuring they respect you for what you allegedly know.


8. Make outrageous, particularly funny or insulting statements, anything to illicit comments. Once you get comments, respond to them in a way that makes the person who wrote them write more. This gets people who don't write blogs a little taste of the blog and makes them want more.

9. Suggest to said people that they may enjoy a blog of their own, but present it like it will be too difficult for them and they won't be able to handle it. This will make them want to rise to the challenge.

10. Give them advice about how to write a blog, things like "write everyday for two weeks and see how it goes" and "read other blogs you like to get a feel for how it is done".

I have already committed several violations of the above in just this one entry alone. And I've violated some new ones, too. I should write down the one about "blogging about blogging".

I've decided to take Matt's advice and blog everyday for two weeks, but I'm not going to read any other blogs yet.

Quota for second day: completed

Monday, May 15, 2006

beginning somewhere

The website for our latest film, the ballad of vicki and jake, is almost online. I asked our webmaster, Matt, to create a director's blog for me on the website, and he suggested that I write one here at He thought it would be easier for me handle. What is that supposed to mean?

We'll see how it goes. I feel rather exposed writing this and putting it out there for everyone to read. Is this how my subjects feel when I am making a film about them? All is fair in filmmaking, I suppose. It reminds me of something I said during filming once that was caught on tape. "How can we be out of line? We're making a film here."

Is filmmaking an excuse to let out all the stops, to run through people's lives with reckless abandon? I hope not. So what did I mean, then, in this moment of candid honesty?

To learn more about our film "the ballad of vicki and jake", please visit our website