There are two truths to any film shoot – no matter how small. The first is that the more hats one wears, the less time one sits. I was on my feet for five full hours to shoot two segments that will be under five minutes in length. The other truth is that filmmaking prohibits going to the bathroom. I wasn't sure if this truth would hold up on such a small shoot. After all, I had no Assistant Directors, P.A.s or caterers around to stop me from reaching the restroom with dozens of questions. There were no questions to answer, but there were dozens of things to do at any given moment. Thus, I could no longer blame not being allowed in the bathroom on a pervasive conspiracy amongst my crew. The third truth is not a part of the filmmaking process but my own issue -- I would pay for all those physical shenanigans. I spent Friday curled up on one end of sofa in a state that I hadn't seen in over a year. No worries. I was almost back to what I consider normal by Saturday. On a side note, Robert Rodriguez may enjoy being a one man crew, but I believe that if you can pay for a full crew, get the danged crew!
Why did I go through this hair-brained scheme and endure such physical stress? There are a number of reasons that don't sound too crazy. The primary reason is that I'm learning to shoot films on my own, so that I don't have to depend on hiring anyone other that production assistants to help me shoot The Secret Cancer. I realized that if I had a cinematographer shoot footage in Los Angeles, I'd have to have the same person travel with me wherever I went. Otherwise, the footage wouldn't have the same look from city to city. I was also getting hung up on even getting started waiting for crew to be available on a consistent basis. Jon was certain that I could easily pick up what I needed to learn. All I would need to do is practice. He suggested I shoot simple things that I could control easily and that I could shoot fairly often.
At that point, I was looking for a clever way to promote my yaoi titles that didn't involve paying for ads. I was also interested in doing video responses to recipes by my favorite Youtube chefs. I could shoot cooking videos easily. I've been doing those since the fall of last year. It's been neat to have a video dialogue with some talented chefs that I admire. I've also found an innovative way of promoting some of my titles. The foods that appear in manga and anime are real Japanese dishes. Cooking and eating are often central to character relationships. Everyone who has read my work knows that food plays a big part of character interaction. It was a natural to have a food based video promotion. The first videos for Cook Like a Uke (oo-kay) featured my hands and a voice over announcer. And they aren't doing badly as far as number of views goes. I've even made some book sales from what is a very modest effort is a thrill. But yaoi readers like pretty men. There were calls for actual ukes cooking food.
I'm a filmmaker in Los Angeles which is not lacking in pretty men looking to act. I realized I could move my film school training to the next level with actors in front of the camera to light and frame properly. I could not only promote my own titles, but I could also promote manga I edited for the Digital Manga Guild. It happens that a meal cooked in gratitude moved the main relationship in the book toward romance.
As I said a blog or two ago, I did a casting breakdown and signed a four actor pool. I knew that I could probably only handle shooting one or two segments at a clip. I'm hoping to do a few shoots and get as many segments in the can that I can before I'm forced to move on to the upcoming projects. I also expect these very talented young men to move onto bigger things fairly quickly. I must make hay while the sun shines. For the first shoot, I picked a beef curry dish to promote the manga, Again Tomorrow*. The actor I chose to play Yuusei (upper left), the handsome leading man with amnesia was Donal Thoms-Cappello (below right) who is great looking and resembled the manga character. The other was the next dish I'd been planning to film anyway, Tonjiru or Pork Miso soup. The actor playing Misaki who made the dish for a tutor that would later become his lover in Junjour Romantica was Ryohie Watanabe. This actor is actually Japanese and has more than a passing familiarity making that dish. A third actor, Kevin Chambers (He's left in the apron being geeky. He's also about to eat that whole bowl of stew.), agreed to come by for a photo shoot. While here, he read the lines from the voice over announcer who is the antagonist in the videos. That was helpful for the guys on camera, and really kind to me. And I was most lucky to have make-up maven, Cat Elrod, in the house. Aside from being highly skilled at her job, she is always a delight to have on set. She even helped me do the dishes!
All in all, things went rather well. Jon did what set decorating there was before he went to work. I had weeks to clean and organize the apartment. Incidentally, this shoot finally pushed me to change the apartment from being a place where a sick person was recovering back to an apartment. I find I really like not being surrounded by pill bottles. But I digress. There was food prep for each dish, photographing ingredients and the actors, running the sound and shooting the video and selecting wardrobe. The whole five hours went by in a blur. I hope I seemed competent during the whole ordeal. I did manage to get everything on my shot lists. The sound for each segment was recorded properly. It's not all done perfectly. There will be challenges in post, but they are minor enough that I'm certain I can make the required adjustments on my own. The performances were very good. I think the yaoi readers will get what they were hoping for. The Yuusei character was flirty and really funny. The Misaki character was shy and sweet. Above all, the food was really good. Each dish was consumed immediately after I took the last shot of it plated up. What was really wonderful to hear for this amateur chef was that, for Ryohei, the food turned out like real Japanese cooking he would get at home. In this case, I had the sense to listen to him when he adjusted the recipes I was using while cooking on camera. A great chef knows when to get out of the way! I admit that I'm really jazzed that this went off well.
That said, this shoot also drove home that I can't handle running all over a really big sound stage or location for days on end during a feature. I'm going to have to be rigid about what I will be doing on these projects. But I am pleased to know that I will be able to have some role. That wasn't really clear until this past Friday. Yeah, I'm jazzed.
Now, it's back to juggling the scripts and manga and video editing and cooking. A lot of wonderful things are on the horizon.
*Again Tomorrow - Ashita Kara Mouichido © Nabako Kamo. All rights reserved. Original Japanese edition published in 2010 by Taiyoh Tosho Publishing Co., Ltd.