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東京 ジェイソン・グレイのブログ 

  • English-Subtitled Screening of "Magic Kimono" in Shibuya!

    I'm pleased to announce there will be an English-subtitled screening of the feature film I produced, Magic Kimono (Futari no Tabiji, ふたりの旅路) at Uplink in Shibuya this Thursday, August 24th at 8 p.m.

    Please find relevant screening details and background on the film at Tokyo Filmgoer.

  • Year of the Sheep (in Wolf's Clothing)
    Dear decrepit blog; please forgive my neglect. But as a "weblog" entering its 16th year (!), a metabolic slowdown is to be expected. In 2014 there was not a single erection to be seen here -- the first year missed since 2000. I flushed Facebook a couple of years ago and don't miss it one pixel. Twitter continues to be my outlet of choice.

    Last year was an eventful one offline. Loaded Films, the company I run with my wife Eiko (which does sport a Facebook page, admittedly), had a reasonably robust year. Two of the films I translated won prizes: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's My Man took best film and actor at Moscow and Masaharu Take's 100 Yen Love best Japanese film at Tokyo fest. And two of the films we handled overseas PR for were also awarded: Ayumi Sakamoto's FORMA in Berlin and Hong Kong (great to go back), and Atsuko Hirayanagi's short film Oh Lucy! in Cannes and Toronto. Handling festival bookings/negotiations and print traffic for My Man and other titles has been illuminating. I love learning about all sides of the film business.

    Other work highlights included: planning and line producing the Japan segments for documentary Why Horror?; translating the screenplay for SABU's latest film; and working to achieve the successful theatrical release of Rewind This! in Japan.

    Hitting Toronto during the festival after some years was a great pleasure. Time with family and friends is irreplaceable, and TIFF 2014 marked my 25th year as an audience member. In a new initiative, the streets surrounding Bell Lightbox were closed to traffic in order to host all manner of events. You know you're truly attending a film festival when people line up for rush tickets to any film. If things ever become that participatory here, wake me up. On the job side, we had the good fortune to handle PR for some very strong titles: Shinya Tsukamoto's Fires on the Plain, Ryuichi Hiroki's Kabukicho Love Hotel, and Sion Sono's Tokyo Tribe. Tsukamoto-kantoku couldn't believe I had seen Tetsuo: The Iron Man on the big screen at TIFF in '89. All three directors were in good spirits and had fantastic screenings. Toronto audiences still rule!

    My feature project, Where Wolves Fear to Prey, was selected to participate in Puchon's Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF), its second project market following Tokyo in the fall of 2013. NAFF/PiFan was a blast, and an extremely valuable industry event. Wolves is now with a new, experienced producer whose collaboration has really set the wheels in motion. I felt pretty sure the latest draft was the strongest thing I had ever written, but like most self-doubting creators, had no idea if others would respond. Thankfully, actors have been very enthusiastic -- a massive relief. Writing roles that actors would want to immerse themselves in was one of my chief aims. Our trip to Los Angeles (for the first time ever, unbelievably) was a high point of the year. More soon.

    Following our mid-term goal of moving into production, we're also involved with another Japan co-prod. The director and (famous) Japanese lead actress have worked together twice before, but this looks to be their strongest collaboration yet. Hope to announce something in time for Berlin.

    Friends who are based here or know Japan intimately also have some very interesting co-productions in the works. As I predicted in a magazine piece I wrote 5 or 6 years ago, this trend is gradually increasing in a market that can't thrive on domestic gains alone (unless you're Toho).

    Here's to a 2015 that is anything but sheepish.

  • The Company of Wolves
    I had planned to update the blog once a season, but as fall encroaches on a brutally hot summer in Tokyo I now realise that was unrealistic. The plan was to leave the old blog up and running as a space for missives on items related and unrelated to my work under Loaded Films. Instead, I blurt things out on Twitter. After four years I still have an affinity for tweeting, though at just over 6000 tweets I'm tiring of my own voice. How people get up into the 20k~100k range I find difficult to fathom. So let me dust things off here with a few thoughts.

    The last couple of years have been interesting. The simultaneous transition from freelance film work to running a company, with the steady move away from film journalism to focusing on my own projects has been mind-bending at times, but wholly positive. After seven good years and a combined total of approximately 500 online and print articles at Screen International I left this spring (a guest piece on Hayao Miyazaki's retirement earlier this month notwithstanding). There were also various articles for other magazines, newspapers, sites and books and a large amount of blogging throughout the noughties (all archived here in its ingloriousness). Add to that a decade of translation, whether subtitles, screenplays or other film materials, and I now realise what a writing machine I've been...

    At some point a couple years ago I decided I had to cut back on that level of output or I'd never focus on my own creativity. That decision led to writing and directing Yukuharu, which is coming toward the end of a nice little international festival run in seven countries so far, finally having its Japan premiere last week at the Sapporo International Short Film Festival. There are three candidates for my sophomore effort, with one of them, entitled Homestay, looking the strongest. It's a wistful, even spiritual piece that takes place in Japan and overseas.

    On the feature film front, I am very hard at work on the screenplay for a project entitled Where Wolves Fear to Prey, which takes its title from a fragment of a poem by Lord Byron called The Giaour. We are pleased to be partnered with accomplished French producers Franck Ribière and Vérane Frediani of La Ferme Productions (see August press release here). They have produced a number of startling genre films and dramas, with a strong track record of working with first-time feature directors like myself. Additionally, the project has been accepted to TIFFCOM CoPro Connection co-production market, taking place this October in Odaiba. The market has gotten a bit of coverage in the trades (Film Business Asia and my former haunt Screen). After having my name on the byline for years, I was glad to finally see it in an industry article. That had always been the goal since I picked up an impossibly thick Cannes bumper issue of Variety as a teenager.

    Back to Where Wolves Fear to Prey. Partially based on a true case (which I've written about before on this very blog) Wolves is the story of a young man named Jeremy who feels his life has been ruined by the barbaric murder of his beloved older sister during his childhood. As an adult he journeys to Japan to take revenge on her killer, who was freed after a series of tragic technicalities. At its emotional core it's the story of a modest family living through the aftermath of an unforgettable crime. It questions the closure vengeance may or may not bring, the incessant gaze of the (tabloid) media, and the nature of communication between different languages. It's an ambitious story with a good number of characters and international locations but the through line is strong. The drama and dialogue offer a lot of meat for actors to chew on, I believe, and I look forward to seeing it come to life on set more than anything else. I already have actors in mind for both the Japanese and British roles. We'll see how many of them we get...

    As with my previous feature screenplay effort, a Desperate Hours-type thriller entitled Secure, I wrote out the story of Wolves as a one-page synopsis and then a long form treatment. It's an arduous process to begin with but through many years of screenwriting I've come to the conclusion that I can't just stare at a blank script page without knowing where it's going. In lieu of the classic index card method, I simply cut & paste sequences or scenes around within the treatment. Having said that, once screenwriting proper begins, a lot changes and new ideas come to the fore. Even the ending changes. Nevertheless I need that initial skeleton, even if it's relegated to the closet later on (ahem). How do the rest of you craft your scripts?

    Hope to update progress on Wolves and other projects sooner than later.

  • Happy New Year 2013! / Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!
    A very Happy New Year to all my friends, family and film world fellows and femmes. All the best for 2013 -- the year of the snake! 本年もどうぞよろしくお願い申し上げます!

    2012 was a banner year in many respects, with several firsts, but also a shambolic one. This year I will endeavor to laser focus my efforts to grow Loaded Films and go into production on my next short film (it's a doozy). There are a few other major goals but I'd rather announce them after they're reached!

    I'm starting to sour on Facebook slightly (for personal use -- as a company portal it's useful). Twitter is still good. Should I finally check out Google+? Maybe I'll come back to posting here a little more often. 

  • Adventures in the Japanese Film Business...

    It's been over half a year since I checked in here. I've been very busy with our little company, Loaded Films. It's going reasonably well. As we all know the Japanese film industry, and economy itself, is in a funk. But there's (finally) a growing awareness that international business isn't a just a "bonus" or "gravy" but a live-or-die situation for any company looking to do more than keep its head above water. Loaded Films is doing its small part to help companies -- some of them long time clients -- with more than just piece work, but rather a package of services that includes writing original copy, intuitive translation of all materials, festival consultation, and eventually accompanying the film overseas. Ensuring that these movies get watched and reviewed, that directors are interviewed and taken care of, and that everybody connected with the film is happy with its international life. Chipping away.

    Loaded Films was also launched to develop projects in-house. Our first little production, Yukuharu, is doing better than I expected on its festival tour. News about its journey can be read on the company blog here, but that's not the place for personal reflection. Attending the film's world premiere at Fantasia International FF this summer was a turning point. Wearing a "Filmmaker" badge instead of the usual "Press" or "Guest" badge was a big leap. I wish I could fly to every subsequent screening to witness how the film's received. Luckily I do get feedback from both festival staff and audience members -- that's priceless. My only regret is that I waited far too long to get a film of my own done, but now that I have I'm fired up and forging ahead.

    I have a second short in development now tentatively titled Kaiho Silver. If I can cast it and shoot it the way it plays in my mind, it should be a strong piece with a healthy festival life. Like Yukuharu it aims to convey emotional drama through a cinematic style. More surreal this time out. Following that all my energy will be put into a feature -- an international co-production. It's a fusion of crime and family drama that will bring together many things I've ruminated on over the years.

    I still report for Screen International and will be helping with programming again at the New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts in 2013, which I'm pleased about. I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting but that feels about right for six months...

Sunday, 26 June 2022