Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sticky Summer Stuff

Godzilla fending off copyright offenders. 
 Two months since the last entry... Where to start? The obvious, I suppose: It's summer in Japan. Hot, sticky, sweaty, cicada chirping summer. I hate it. Ironically, I was the original tanned, always-in-the-sun boy, playing baseball with friends, hiking in the woods, expanding my mind with space exploration games, or hanging out at lakes and beaches. These days, considering my ghost-like, sun starved complexion, I could perfectly fit in as a Moonbase Alpha cast member if someone were ever to remake SPACE 1999.

Picking up from my last entry, I put in another film appearance, this time in a low-budget production directed by Takashi Hirose, a youngish director I met through Ayano, the star of my newest film. I was more than happy to cameo in his film, titled MORATORIUM, especially since it meant being in a scene with Asami, one of Japan's primo cult actresses. Coincidently, the makeup woman on MORATORIUM, Risa Hirakawa, put in a few days on my first film, THE iDOL. I was very happy to work with Risa once again.

Studio 1 first day of GMK shooting.
Another fun gig I did during this time was voice work for PLATINUM DATA, an upcoming Toho film. I got a call from a woman I used to work with during my Godzilla years at Toho Studios explaining their production's need for a couple of "native English speakers". I brought a friend, Lora Colose, along to handle the female parts while I provided the security checkpoint dialogue. You know, "authorization granted" type of lines. I don't know why, but I kept imagining Leonard Nimoy's voice work in the Sega arcade game Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (1983). The entire session was way fun. I was able to write all the dialogue for the scenes we were involved and had a good time kidding around with director Keishi Ohtomo.

Returning to Toho was a blast. It's been almost two years since I was last there. Each corner of the studio holds some kind of special memory for me despite the fact that it's been under reconstruction for the past several years, which is kind of saddening actually. Sure, change is inevitable and there is no reason to expect Toho to maintain decaying sound stages. In fact, the studio we worked in for PLATINUM DATA was in a new building outfitted with all the latest sound doodads. It was a comfortable and exciting place in which to get creative. Still, it was shocking to see that Studios 1 and 2 have been torn down with new stages nearing completion in their place. These were two of Japan's oldest, having been built in the 1930s. The film history within them was enormous. 

Studio 2, smoke filled, kaiju battle filled.
While I've seen a lot of shooting inside in both S1 and S2, my strongest memories are from the Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack production. The first day of shooting was held in S1 for the scene when Yukijiro Hotaru fell into the King Ghidorah cavern. My memories of S2 are mostly from the underwater battle between Godzilla and King Ghidorah. For a week the stage was kept filled with smoke to simulate the murky look of being underwater. The very last time I stood inside S2 was during the shooting of Hideo Nakata's KAIDAN in 2006. That reminds me. I should probably watch that film.

My subtitling work continues unabated. First off, DEAD SUSHI had its premiere at Montreal's Fantasia film fest in July. It seems by all on-line accounts that it went over super well. Director Iguchi and star Rina Takeda were on hand for the sold-out show. The night prior was the Fantasia screening of ZOMBIE ASS, which readers of my blog know I also subbed.

Here's your one-stop-shopping link to the DEAD SUSHI website, where all your DEAD SUSHI needs can be fed:

I just put the finishing touches on the subs for AKAI KISETSU (English title: A Road Stained Crimson), a new yakuza film from Nikkatsu. It was an interesting job as it was the first time I could write honest-to-god, foulmouthed dialogue. Also noteworthy was the challenge of subtitling a film with very few lines of dialogue.

FYI: What a movie should look like.
On average, films have about 1,300 lines of dialogue. This film has around 400. While this makes the workload lighter, it also means that the opportunity to convey the story is considerably lessened. The film stars Hirofumi Arai and Jun Murakami. Also in it is Shigeru Izumiya, who I had chance to share a beer with back in the late '80s in a New York City, Lower East Side bar. Who would have guessed then that twenty-plus years later I'd be subbing his lines into English.

Unfortunately for the film, I was forbidden from translating the songs appearing in the movie. I suppose the director and band think I'm some dweeb translator, or something, incapable of understanding rock and roll. Now, what is there is, to put it nicely, mediocre crap. Loaded with inappropriate phrasal verbs, the lyrics are clunky and their (limited) meaning difficult to comprehend. But what do I know? I played in bands in New york City for over a decade, have written a ton of songs and poetry, have written hundreds of magazine articles, and have subtitled a dozen feature films and countless short films. Etc etc etc. Well, every gig has its share of irksome lameness. With this job done, I'm working on a much bigger film for an A-list director. More on this in a future entry.

My awesome friend Ayano.
My writing work at Eiga Hiho continues. The last two columns (the latest issue seen here with my friend Ayano) were a kind of two-parter detailing the opening night of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD on Times Square back in '86. My tale revolves around the long gone video arcade "Fascination" and a gun shooting that went on while I was closing in on my high score on Ms Pacman. I don't know what it says about me, but while everyone in the arcade was flat on the floor avoiding bullets, I stood my ground, finished the game, and got my high score.

My piece in the upcoming issue, on sale in less than two weeks, deals with the Tobe Hooper film INVADERS FROM MARS. This, too, is another favorite from the era. Even though I'm a huge fan of the 1953 William Cameron Menzies directed original, the 80s version in no way challenges my feelings for the Menzies' masterpiece (unlike the way the so-called DAWN OF THE DEAD remake does). In fact, I love the remake as much as I do the original. I might add that I have no trouble with many of the remakes done in the '80s. THE THING, THE BLOB and IFM...all were great in my book. However, this might be because remakes then were not the modus operandi that they are today. Also in the upcoming issue of Eiga Hiho is my first movie review for the magazine. It's on the recently released PROMETHEUS, a film I liked quite a bit.

Ayano creeping about in her PJs.
In personal news, I'm thrilled to report that I recently finished principle photography on my new film NEW NEIGHBOR. It was a tough day to make happen, as almost all of my actors and crew members have been busy with other films. On this last and final day of shooting I needed everyone to be on hand. It was an all or nothing kind of day. Somehow the planets aligned and, on August 2nd, we all met in a studio in Northern Tokyo to capture the film's various "hallway" scenes.

Shooting was a lot of fun and wasn't half as complicated as the previous days of production. It also wasn't one of those 24-hour plus shoots, which can really test a person's fortitude. We started at 9:30am and, as I had planned, were done at 5pm. Things moved briskly yet there was also enough time to fully workout the various beats within each shot. Not too slow, not too rushed. Just the tempo I like when shooting.

Aya, some guy in a 25 year old tee, Asami.
The film is now in the editing stage and I'm VERY happy with the scenes I've gotten from the editor. I think it's my best work to date. After I get the film edited into a full rough cut and an idea of when it will screen I'll update here (or somewhere) all the various info so vital to a film's promotion...

Well, not even the half of it, but that's enough for this update.

Until whenever...

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