An electronic pothole along the Internet highway where filmmaker, writer, journalist, photographer, musician, unpublished poet, coffee drinker and ex-New Yorker / Tokyo based Norman England writes whatever the hell he feels like writing. You have been warned.
Sorry to start off with the weather, but, damn, it's hot out!
So when did summer start exactly? I hadn't even noticed. It's like, one day I'm hanging up my winter coat and the next I'm sponging sweat from my brow. The kicker is, summer doesn't really take hold in Japan until the cicada begin their horrid, scratchy cackle. We're still weeks away from that.
Things have been moving along since my last entry. For starters, I've had several articles published, in-print and on-line. Two were in the last issue of Fangoria (#295). One was (finally) my DEATH KAPPA set visit. The other was a look at Nikkatsu Studio's new Sushi Typhoon label and Yoshinori Chiba, the producer who started it. I'd say the article is more about Chiba than it is Sushi Typhoon, as the label is a manifestation of his filmmaking philosophies.
What I mean is, I suppose I could have done a piece focusing on the growing catalogue of Sushi Typhoon pieces – giving plot synopsis, cast / crew lists, and gushing over how there have never been films like this in the history of cinema - but I felt Chiba's story had more human interest in it and, thus, was the one more worth telling. Besides, Chiba's a good guy. He laughs at my jokes. People who laugh at my jokes are OK by me.
I'm also happy to report that the movie HELLDRIVER has finally been officially announced. Another in the Sushi Typhoon line, this one is a zombie epic directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura (director of TOKYO GORE POLICE and co-director on VAMPIRE GIRL VS. VAMPIRE GIRL). I did a piece on HELLDRIVER for the Fangoria website. Well, two pieces technically, but the second was only a collection of set photos I took.
I spent several days on the set of HELLDRIVER. It was the kind of fun I've come to expect when on a Nishimura set. However, there were times when it rivaled the toughest set experiences I've ever had. Let me tell you, if anyone makes claims that making film is lots of fun, they either don't know what they are talking about or they have been to a set and done nothing but sit on the sidelines. It's some of the hardest work known to man. Especially when the budgets are what they are in Japan.
I went the first day of shooting, traveling in a location bus all the way down to Choshi in Chiba. While the area there is picturesque with lots of quaint wood and porcelain roofed homes this being a Nishimura film meant that if there was a dung infested hole to be found, find it we would. And find it we did!
Sure enough, my jaw dropped to the floor of the minibus when we pulled into a stinky looking, dilapidated factory that I was told was now an illegal dump yard. It was f*king gross. There were huge cubes of compressed garbage wrapped in black plastic all about the place. Many were splitting at the edges. And the inside of the place was just so much rusted machinery.
Still, it was a great day and filled with the insanity and blood letting that only Nishimura can conjure up. Hell, I even got to do an acting part with some dialogue that I think came out pretty good.
But the really tough days were over by Mt Fuji. Two days cursed by a torrential downpour. Imagine being up in the woods, around you are 30 people made up as zombies, as many crew, and it's pelting rain like small rocks with no shelter to be had anywhere. If that's not enough the ground had turned to mud, like something out of an army movie, and the lightening equipment was just standing in the mud. If one of those things were to fall over, I wondered how many, if not all of us, would have died. To make matters worse, I had been told shooting would start at 11am. It started at 7pm. I had been up since 4am. Standing there, my sneakers wet like two soak sponges, I'm ready to collapse, and looking at my watch I see it's still only 1:40am. Shooting wasn't going to end until 6am.
But that night was pretty amazing. Lots of blood and guts. I got tons of great photos. And it ended weirder than I could have imagined. Back at the ryokan (Japanese inn) I had to get into the shower with all the male zombie extras. Me, naked, with 15 Japanese men in zombie makeup. I slept like a rock for the entire four hours they allowed us to sleep. The next day too was a load of fun. A cameo by a famous director I've known for years. Also, Cay Izumi was doing some pole dancing, which they shot against "Good Times Bad Times" by Led Zeppelin. And, man, if that didn't rock!
My last day on the set was a lot of fun too and I got in my actor interviews and tied up all the little odds and ends I need to get for my articles before the set vanishes forever. More great photos too! I love taking set photos!
In sad news, voice actor / director Peter Fernandez passed away this month. I met Peter at a fan event in LA back in 1999. But, it turned out that this wasn't the first time we'd met. I, and several other writers, wrote a little tribute to Peter for the website Sci-Fi Japan:
On an unfortunate similar note, Reiko Inoue, the wife of Godzilla art director Yasuyuki Inoue, passed away a few days ago. I'm very sad to hear this. Just the day before I was told she was expected to live a few more weeks and I was planning to pay her a visit. When I was filming my documentary, Bringing Godzilla Down to Size, Reiko really took care of all of us klutzy men. She always had big smiles and gave off nothing but warmth and affection. Like her husband, Reiko was an accomplished artist and I enjoyed her sculptures scattered about their home in Ebina. Reiko will be missed. I’m planning to attend the funeral this weekend.