After the Rain | 雨あがる

13 04 2015



Winner of the Japanese Academy Award, After the Rain is a 1999 film based on the last script by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, filmed and produced after the director’s passing while the film was still in preproduction.

The entire action takes place during the Samurai era, in the countryside when a group of people gets stranded in an inn during a heavy rain. Roads are washed off, travel becomes off-limits and so the world slows down while the unwilling participants get to pass the time together in a small and now crowded space at this outpost of civilization. Nothing is the word.

But things do happen.

The protagonist gets to grow over the sequel of unexpected events, the supporting characters get to create a meaningful canvas at the backdrop of which the entire plot gets to come to its resolution. And the audience gets to watch the ever unique exploration of human nature, Akira Kurosawa’s signature in cinematography.

There’s something intangible about the director’s spirit being so carefully preserved throughout the entire film. Each scene as if breathes Kurosawa, his vision being laid out in front of millions of human eyes who get to witness the  magic one more time. Kurosawa always aims at the unseen, the ephemeral, that ultimate fabric that connects humanity – in a variety of very telling situations in which actions speak louder than words.

After the Rain does not contain too many dialogues – but it does however contain many scenes where words become  obsolete. Through showing – not telling – the storyteller’s original idea comes to life when entrusted with the masters of Japanese cinema. And in that, Kurosawa’s ideal lives on.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2015. All rights reserved.


BACKSTAGE with Bethany Orr

1 08 2014

Today on CSReview, Camilla Stein is talking to actress and film director Bethany Orr about her new film campaign  ICELAND OR BUST .


CS: Welcome to CSReview, Bethany. What is it about Iceland that inspired your decision to film a heavily psychological drama there?

bethany_orrBethany Orr: Psychosexual drama, is what we’re calling it, just because people want to call it something. Agorable has been termed a suicide comedy. That’s not a thing either. Genre is a mental construct created in an attempt to identify potential consumers. People want to know what they’re in for. Personally I don’t have a whole lot of use for it. As Gertrude Stein said, “There is a great deal of nonsense talked about the subject of anything.” So you know, I’m very aware that this film won’t be for everybody, but it deals with experiences most of us can relate to. Particularly, the consequences surrounding human loss.

I find the Icelandic landscape incredibly honest – very sad, very beautiful, and surreal. It’s devastating. This is very important to the externalization of what’s going on in these characters.

CS: After seeing your Agorable and with your background in psychology I am not surprised to see you working on exposing another rather complicated element of human condition. So, why grief?

Bethany Orr: Grief is the greatest adventure there is. There’s a complete loss of control that happens when a person is in mourning. You enter this kind of fugue state where everything is more real than it’s ever been, and none of it is important at all. And it seems to have you in its clutches until it doesn’t anymore, or until you learn how to function and move forward with it living inside you. I don’t know that we ever really move on from profound losses like these.

So much to me is compelling about this. But what I’m most interested in exploring is the intimate relationship between loss and freedom. A person is truly free when they’ve lost everything, or that one person who’s been most important to their daily reality, or identity… whether they know it or not when that happens they’ve entered a space of infinite possibility. I see it as primordial, really. The source of all creation. Emptiness.

I’m speaking very sweepingly here, but a great deal of the imagery in this film has to do with these things. How grief is tied to relief, and the guilt associated with that.


CS: I can’t help but feel that this is going to be a very surgical production, very edge cutting. Are you nervous? Are you setting the bar too high?

Bethany Orr: Ha! No. The idea for this film came to me during the time I spent with Werner Herzog in 2012. When you hear him talk about Fitzcarraldo… no bar is too high. At the end of his Rogue Film School he handed me a credential, this certificate like I had passed or something. I decided right then that I wouldn’t frame it or post it in any way until after the Iceland movie wrapped, once that piece of paper is stained with the production’s blood, sweat and tears. So I folded it up and put it in my pocket, and there it stays. The only kind of credentials I have use for are experiences and creations. My time with Herzog means nothing unless I put it into practice. I have an obligation to this story, to back it with everything I’ve got, and we will see what happens.

CS: I understand you’re creating a controversial – what you call ‘borderline disturbing’ – imagery in this film. How do you justify the means? Where do you draw the line between conventionalism and absurdism?

Bethany Orr: There’s no borderline about it. Point blank, I’m a lover of the disturbed. I think disturbance is absolutely necessary, especially in cinema. Without it we can’t be moved. So there’s zero justification, it’s just what I’m drawn to.

And life – life is completely absurd. There’s nothing I could do in this film that would make it weirder than it already is. But I’ll probably try.

CS:  Are we going to see paranormal elements in this film?

Bethany Orr: Like, ghosts, goblins, alla that? Not in that sense, no. One of the characters has an extra ability, he moonlights as a psychic phone sex operator (a very good one). But that has less to do with the supernatural than it has to do with being close to the edge. Of death. Living in that fugue state we talked about.

CS: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Bethany Orr: Translating. Extricating this story from my bones out onto paper, then attempting to communicate that with interested parties. [laughs] So thank you, you’re doing me a favor here.

CS: I have to ask this. Now that you’ve successfully explored directing and acting, which is dearer to you? How do you negotiate the divide between these two professions?

Bethany Orr: You know I can’t answer that! Truthfully, I’m lucky in that acting and directing are complementary sports. Performing is my first love and always will be, and I will continue to explore directing as long as I’m able. Directing feeds a different side of me. It’s a different responsibility and requires a massive amount of energy. I’ve been successful so far being both a performer in and director of my own projects, but Iceland is on another scale. Which is why I’m so excited to have Patrick [Kennelly] on board as a shepherd for this story. Being under his direction on Excess Flesh was the most extraordinary experience I’ve ever had as a performer and I’m eager to top it. We’ve talked about it quite a bit and will continue to explore what that means as far as roles are concerned on this movie. Neither of us has attempted any kind of co-directing relationship before, and I don’t know at this point what that would look like. But I’m very open to the idea of giving some of the reins over to him on this if that’s what’s best for the project.

CS: Thank you for stepping by, Bethany, it’s always a wonderful experience talking to you about the art of filmmaking. We’d love to hear how your new adventure in Iceland turns out. Go break a leg!

IMG_1420 (2)

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2014. All rights reserved. Images courtesy Bethany Orr.

BACKSTAGE with Kenneth Kemp

14 09 2013

Today on CSReview, Hollywood actor and director Kenneth Kemp is sharing a behind-the-scenes story of an exciting upcoming TV series Attaché.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Kenneth. Let’s start with a quick look at your career in entertainment. What achievements are you most proud of?

KEMPKenneth Kemp: I ran Kenneth Kemp Productions for over 20 years, worked with numerous Fortune 500 clients, and produced over 100 projects. I won two Best Director Cindy Awards (Cinema In Industry). I was a producer at the Olympics Games in Salt Lake City and Greece. But the thing that I’m most excited about is this International TV series, Attaché.

CS: Attaché is your first network series – how does it feel embarking on a new adventure in a new, and a very different and serious role?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, I thrive on it.  Creating and writing a series is certainly serious work, as you put it, but serious fun bringing it to fruition. Attaché is an international crime drama about a branch of law enforcement that’s never been seen on television,  and I’m thrilled that we’ll be featuring cultures, countries, and actors from around the globe.

CS: I am curious, what’s the story behind Attaché? How did the idea come about?

Kenneth Kemp: I was working the Olympics when I first encountered a Legal Attaché. I had no idea the FBI maintained a presence in foreign countries. My curiosity got the better of me and the more I dug, the more I thought, “This is a great premise for a television series”.

Astonishingly, Legal Attachés have limited authority, no jurisdiction, usually aren’t allowed to carry a gun, yet their job is to solve or prevent crimes against Americans abroad. Having no jurisdiction, they must work with a local law enforcement liaison, who’s in charge of the case. Despite these impediments, they still manage to save Americans every day.

For the series I raised the stakes even further.  A typical Legal Attaché stays in a specific country for about three years and develops these liaison relationships to help investigations run smoothly. In Attaché, our protagonist John Roemer is a specialist, sent to a different country in each episode. Beyond cultural differences he must work with someone he’s never met before and lead from the back seat. To make matters worse, limited resources seem to doom his missions to failure.

At home things aren’t any easier. Roemer is unwilling to move on from his estranged wife and he’s challenging custody of their son, who means everything to him.


CS: Sounds like an awesome plot. What’s the hardest thing you had to do so far on the project? What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on this project?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve worked diligently over the past two years to develop my relationship with the FBI. I wanted to make sure the series was couched in reality – even though I take creative liberties to make it more dramatic. The great thing that’s come out of this relationship is that the Bureau is excited about the series and has agreed to open their Legat (Legal Attaché) files to us to mine for future episodes.  That’s something networks want to see.  Not only are our episodes based on real cases; there’s virtually an endless pool of stories.

The funniest things were some of the stories I heard while interviewing current and former Legats. I can’t tell you the stories now, but you can be sure they’ll be featured in the series.

CS: Now I am intrigued! Let’s talk about the money. Isn’t producing an international series expensive?

Kenneth Kemp: It depends on how much we actually shoot in the foreign country.  Covert Affairs, (USA Network) for example, take their lead talent to several countries over a few weeks, with a skeleton crew, and shoot the recognizable exteriors they need from several scripts in order to mitigate costs. Everything else is shot on a sound stage or in local locations that double for foreign ones.

CS: Oh, Covert Affairs has been really awesome, very dynamic and real. Do you plan on having FBI consultants on the set to ensure authenticity?

Kenneth Kemp: The Bureau’s been on board with this project since the beginning. The Public Affairs office is used to working with Hollywood. They’ve been a tremendous help to me as a writer, ensuring my pilot script’s realism permeates descriptions, scenarios and even dialogue. Once we’re in production, we will want a consultant on set, however that will be a retired agent who’s no longer working for the FBI.

CS: That makes sense. Now, since this is international, what countries are involved in the story?

Kenneth Kemp: We start off in Greece. I have the rest of season one outlined and we’re already in talks with film commissions from countries around the globe that are not only excited about the series, they’ve expressed interest in possible joint ventures. You’ll have to watch and find out where Roemer goes next.

CS: Looks like you got it all covered. What’s next for Attaché?

Kenneth Kemp:  We’re attaching above-the-line talent, aligning with producing partners, and meeting with networks.

CS: On that note let me wish you to break a leg doing the leg work for this incredible upcoming series, and we here certainly will welcome news of Attaché‘s release. Thanks for being on CSReview, Kenneth.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.


BACKSTAGE with Jade Valour

23 06 2013

IMG_5849Today on CSReview, is Jade Valour, a native New Yorker, a professional actor and classically trained singer who has worked in theatre and music for several decades, both on stage and behind the scenes. Jade’s new book Salomé is an exploration of a myth, a religious belief and a cultural fascination with a female character.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Jade! You are a public person, active and very busy. What prompted you to become a writer?
Jade Valour: Strangely, my desire to write developed out of my fascination as a young music student with Richard Strauss’ opera Salome with its exotic music and its evocative text from Oscar Wilde’s drama of the same title. I have always loved mythology, and Salomé captivated me as only a myth can. But the Salomé we know is usually depicted as a femme fatale: wanton, depraved, lusting after a prophet who rejects her and whose head she finally demands on a silver platter. Although I adored both opera and drama, I found these images deeply disturbing – an interpretation of this mythical figure that I felt compelled to rectify. It was then more than thirty years before I could define how I wanted to do this. ‘My/Our’ Salomé was envisioned as a film, and I began writing the screenplay with my co-author Sharlie Pryce in 2001. Two years later, during my first visit to New Zealand, I spoke to a publisher about the screenplay, and he suggested we write the novel. In January 2004 we began to do just that – and now it’s published!
CS: Publishers, they love keeping their authors occupied. So, in all this, how would you describe your journey so far?
Jade Valour: It’s been an amazing adventure. Sharlie and I have had some fantastic and even hilarious times, just in the actual writing of Salomé. We’ve been to the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Berlin Film Festival together. As a result of the film festival, I ended up going down to Cologne (Germany) for the premiere of the film Klimt, where I actually met its totally charming star, John Malkovich, and gave him our script (we originally pictured him as our villain)! Salomé took me to Wellington, New Zealand in 2003 for the world premiere of The Return of the King, a journey on which I not only met Elijah Wood, the young actor who inspired our male protagonist, but also two people from the production who have been incredibly kind and supportive of the project over the past nine years – Sir Richard Taylor, director of Weta Workshop and producer Barrie M. Osborne (The Lord of the Rings, The Great Gatsby). Their encouragement has often kept us going through hard times.
I was privileged to be in contact with Prof. Helmut Ziegert, professor of archaeology at the University of Hamburg whose excavations of the palace of the Queen of Sheba in Aksum-Dungur in 2008, to my astonishment and delight, mirrored an important ‘historical’ element of our story. It was incredible hearing about the excavations – literally like talking to Indiana Jones!
I’ve been living in Wellington for five years now and I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to meet people in the film industry, to hone my skills in screenwriting workshops with a Hollywood script consultant. The Emerging Artists Trust here has provided me with a wonderful mentor: a producer who has been advising me with regard to putting the project together. I’ve directed two film shoots for a promo-film we’ll be putting together to pitch the screenplay version of Salomé (something I never anticipated doing!) and worked with a very talented artist, Matt Donnici, who did the beautiful illustrations for the novel cover and promo-film.
Now the novel is available to the general public – a milestone in an ongoing and inspiring journey.
Salome - Novel cover e-book
CS: Fascinating. Hard work pays off, and I bet you’re feeling very proud of yourself. Do you have a special message to your readers?
Jade Valour: If I have a message for my readers, it is connected to what set me to writing in the first place: to be able to give young people different role models. Salomé and Elijah are not your conventional protagonists. Particularly Salomé, whose name means ‘the Peaceable One’ (from the Hebrew and Arabic root of ‘Shalom’ and ‘Salaam’). She is not your typical heroine. She never uses her power to destroy only to defend and protect. That she must watch as the consequences of some of her well-intended actions result in death – this is part of the tragic element of her character. Without having to be an aggressor, Salomé is still incredibly proactive, driving the action of the story all the way. And although she comes from the upper castes, she has a deep-seated and all-encompassing social conscience – she cares. She is willing to risk everything for what she believes in. Angelina Jolie speaking at the recent G-8 on behalf of women in war zones comes to mind. These are the kind of women our society needs.
CS: I can see where you’re coming from with this. Indeed, positive role models are much needed at all times. We’re all connected, we breathe the same air, walk the same earth. Where do you see yourself in the cosmic mosaic? Do you know your purpose?
Jade Valour: I prefer to see this simply as where my passions have taken me. Perhaps the following story will answer this in part: in 1977-78, when I was singing at a theater in Germany, two things crossed my path that were to have a major influence on my life and interconnect years later in an unexpected way: 1) I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and, 2) a new recording of the opera Salome was released. I was immediately swept away by both and they have remained my great loves – literary and operatic – over the past several decades. The recording drove/inspired me to want to write Salomé in the first place. In 2001, when we began to write the screenplay, the first of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, The Fellowship of the Ring, came into the cinemas. My love for these films would eventually take me to New Zealand in 2003 with an early draft of our screenplay – a journey that was to change my life and influence the development of Salomé profoundly. Thus, two events that happened in 1978 formed a single thread that brought me to New Zealand – where our Salomé was completed some 35 years later.
Joseph Campbell – who is certainly one of my own heroes – called it ‘following your bliss”. I believe this is no seldom occurrence. It is, in the end, our passions that guide our lives, transform them and make us grow.
CS: 35 years… Very impressive. Now to geography – New Zealand vs New York… That’s quite a change of setting. What is special about New Zealand? Do you miss New York? Do you have a favorite place on the planet that you’d love to be in the most?
Jade Valour: It’s actually New York > Germany > New Zealand. Germany, mainly Hamburg, was a huge chunk of my life. I went to Germany to be an opera singer and came to New Zealand 35 years later because I wanted to be involved in the film industry. Easier said than done. I don’t miss New York, but it does feel like ‘home base’ when I visit. Germany was cultural bliss and most of my close friends are there. New Zealand is my love of nature – mainly the proximity to the ocean. A favorite place? As long as it has empty beaches to take long walks and decent weather to take them in, I’m in heaven!
CS: Jade, this was a lovely walk on the beach, quite refreshing and what a wonderful, deep story that you’ve shared. I wish you and Salomé the sucess that you two deserve. Thank you for being on CSReview tonight.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

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12 02 2013

Andrei Tarkovsky: The Collector of Dreams

by Layla Alexander-Garrett

A brisk legend of the film industry, Andrei Tarkovsky is also a rather secretive and in some ways understudied figure in the history of cinematography. His life story is filled with obstacles and strange encounters, runs away from one thing – towards another, and never ceasing, dashing creativity of Tarkovsky the director, amidst which Tarkovsky the person was yet to be seen.

This is the image that students of Film would have of the great director.

In her memoir Andrei Tarkovsky: The Collector of Dreams author Layla Alexander-Garrett brings out a very different, fresh and stunning image of Tarkovsky and how he went about his work.

What reads as a mixture of intimate memories from the past and academic extrapolations of how to make a movie, is actually a recollection of how each scene from the set of The Sacrifice was made, with author’s own notes and comments with the inclusion of rare facts to the history of the film.

While working with Andrei Tarkovsky as an on-set interpretor, Layla Alexander-Garrett kept a diary which became the foundation for the memoir. An interesting fact – the book was predicted by Tarkovsky not long before his tragic passing.

And so in this volume the infamous Tarkovsky appears not as an icon, not as the creator of Solaris, not as a persecuted unfortunte public figure. Here, he is a soul, a living person, very much human, very much real, tangible and ever charming. Here he tells jokes and shouts at his crew, apologizes and shouts again; here he is a creative spirit, unstoppable, daring and wanting more from life, not just for himself.

Five stars and a must-have in the library of every filmmaker. Contains unique photographs and testimonies.

Available in the English language from Glagoslav Publications.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Larry Laverty

29 10 2012

Today on CSReview Hollywood actor Larry Laverty is talking about a new horror film production he just finished working on – The Control Group, directed by Peter Hurd.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Larry! Nice seeing you again. What can you tell us about your recent film project?

Larry Laverty: I’ve been in a few movies now, over one hundred at last count, but hadn’t experienced anything quite like my adventure on director Peter Hurd’s first feature film The Control Group. I’d been talking with my good friend David Fine, also an actor, about this movie he was going to be taking part in back in Minnesota.

CS: And so you were immediately hooked?

Larry Laverty: Well, he’s mentioned it off and on over a period of a couple of months and then one day he told me he had a conflict with another project he was prepping for at the same time. He asked me if I’d be interested in talking with the director about taking over the role. So I did, I was hired, and I hurriedly prepared my role and travelled to Minnesota three weeks later. I spent a month on location in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, working from the very first day of the shoot to the very last day.

CS: What can you tell me about the set?

Larry Laverty: We were going to shoot almost exclusively in an abandoned asylum built in 1895 that is scheduled for demolition after we leave. When we first arrived the place was populated by hundreds of bats. Some parts of the facility look as if the staff just walked away from their jobs yesterday while others are crumbling.

CS: So, why was Fergus Falls picked for the project?

Larry Laverty: Fergus Falls was chosen as the location for the film because of the access the production company had to the now abandoned, 120-year old mental hospital there. It’s a  humongous facility, built in 1890, with all the trappings of the mental hospital of your dreams. To top it off, much of it is in wicked disrepair and now home to hundreds of bats. You could never build a set for a movie of this scale or style. We shot in the tunnels beneath the structure, in the hallways, and in countless rooms. and every day and every inch of the way, you couldn’t work without being reminded of what went on here over the years. The history of how our society has dealt with the mentally ill took place in living color here over the years.

CS: What kind of history? Any living memories?

Larry Laverty: Good and bad. Many records of the goings on have been destroyed,  rooms permanently sealed shut or demolished, and many lives were lived with no record of their existence. Over 3,000 souls died while committed here and are buried in a remote cemetery, out of view from the public, about a half mile from the main building on grounds surrounded by farmland once used to feed the patients and workers. To see this graveyard only accentuates the pathetic history of the institution. Of all the graves there, markers sit atop only a couple of dozen, in random, improbable fashion. All the other graves can only be detected by the shallow impressions left by the years of settling earth that have gone on. It’s all very sobering. So in this setting, we made our movie, a drama that turns into a thriller, that turns into a horror, with elements of the super natural sprinkled on top.

CS: This is very humbling, Larry, as well as terrifying. Who is your character in the film?

Larry Laverty: I play a government agent, of the special ops type, tasked with monitoring the operations of a secret government experiment on mind control. The experiments are done on college students who have been abducted and seems to be going well until something goes terribly wrong and the patients along with the staff and myself are forced into a run for our survival. The story has everything, in terms of plot and in terms of visuals.

CS: Sounds like something right up your alley, Larry. Who are you playing opposite of?

Larry Laverty: The lead scientist played by Brad Dourif who’s in the middle of a fantastic acting career that got its momentum from his incredible role in the highly acclaimed film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Since the film happens to be one of my all-time favorites and I’ve watched it countless times. Everywhere we went during off hours, someone would come up to us, having recognized Brad and starts a wonderful conversation. Likewise everywhere we go, somebody mentions that their mother or their sister or somebody they know used to work at the asylum and the stories keep growing.

CS: What was the most memorable during production?

Larry Laverty: I still haven’t gotten over the fact that I was working with Brad Dourif who I’ve always respected. Now a month since I left Minnesota following completion of the shoot, I still have vivid images of the creepy asylum there in Fergus Falls and the bats that lined the hallway ceilings when we first arrived. It was a twist of history that while our production was in town, the city fathers were embroiled in a fight to determine when the building, save for the administration portion, would be raised to the ground and erased from sight.

CS: Incredible. What is to happen to the building?

Larry Laverty: The Minnesota state legislature has already set aside the funding to demolish the place, so I consider myself grateful for the opportunity to have toured the structure and to have made a movie there. Life went on in Fergus Falls once the facility, at one time the largest employer in town, closed its doors. And once the building is demolished, life will go on then too. But I for one, got a glimpse  into a world that remains out of sight to our society, the world of the mentally ill and how we as a community deal with them.

CS: What are you taking with you from this project?

Larry Laverty:  I, for better or for worse, have been aware of the less fortunate all my life as my elementary school was situated right next door to a school for ‘retarded’ folks. From the very first day, we were instructed to never look through the cyclone fence that separated our two playgrounds, never attempt any contact with those individuals on the other side of the fence. And so it’s been through human history. I’m grateful to the makers of this movie, not only for the fun and adventure I had in the making of the movie, but for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in this community of Fergus Falls who took such great interest in what we were doing in this facility that has loomed over a community for so many years.

CS: Great to be talking to you, Larry. Thanks for stepping by, and break a leg on your next film set!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

View the Official Trailer of The Control Group

BACKSTAGE with Joe Kawasaki

14 09 2012

Today’s guest on CSReview is an internationally acclaimed film producer and director Joe Kawasaki, talking about one of his recent works – a science fiction cyberpunk short film REBOOT.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Joe! You’ve recently worked on a science fiction production Reboot. In your Kickstarter fundraising video for the project, you mentioned that in today’s world there’s very little of what can be called science fiction and most of what we have now is science fact. How is this channeled into Reboot?

Joe Kawasaki: Hello, and thanks for having me!

It wasn’t that the idea (that we’re no longer living in a world where the science fiction genre has transformed into science fact) was channeled directly into Reboot so much as it was meant to shape expectations of what a cyberpunk science fiction film may be construed as by our Kickstarter backers. I didn’t ever want to imply that this was going to be an attempt at creating an entire “future” world like Blade Runner. I thought it was important to emphasize that with everything advancing the way it is today, you needn’t be in a space opera or some fashionable dystopic future – that future is already happening today.

CS: Being a science fiction fan, do you look up to classic science fiction writers, filmmakers? Who is your favorite, the one you can relate to the most?

Joe Kawasaki: William Gibson has definitely shaped my mind, from film school onward. It’s amazing how much of a pulse his writing has with our contemporary times, and he has a wonderful voice, a truly gifted writer. I grew up on the classics: Herbert’s Dune series, Tolkien’s LOTR (though that’s fantasy), and David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series, which I think is brilliant as well, and definitely shaped what I gravitate toward in terms of genres and stories.

Filmmakers. Too many to name. Truffaut, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Wenders, Cassavetes, Redford, Spielberg, Scorsese, Lynch, both Coppola’s, Zemeckis, Ridley Scott, Tarantino, Fincher, Spike Jonze, Guiseppe Capotondi’s The Double Hour, the list can go on forever. They’ve all influenced me or moved me in some way through different periods of my life.

CS: Reboot is entertaining, but also deep, built on symbols and signs. What did you have to do as the film’s producer to ensure Reboot’s message got across?

Joe Kawasaki: As it’s writer, I was just trying to get this down in less than 40 minutes, and the irony is that the deeper I got in, the more I wanted to say, the more I wanted to cover. So much of what is happening around us back then, and now, was feeding the story, and so every day there was something that would ignite some idea or thought. There was a real fear of misrepresenting the hacker sub-culture, as well as a fear of creating something vapid. It really just chipped the block.

As its director, I wanted to shoot the writer sometimes, but in the end it was a great experience. We really had a blast with the little nods and homages we stuck within the frames and scenes. You know, at the core of the story is this fun little jibe about a woman who wakes up with a smart phone glued to her hand, and so I didn’t want to lose sight of that and make this into something that was a soap box for whatever. I think the balancing act for me was to keep it entertaining, but to walk that line without shirking whatever it did have to say. What did we do to ensure this? We worked our asses off. Really. No one on this project had it easy or didn’t work their ass off. I may have missed some things, but it certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort.

I really have Sidney (our producer) to thank for making it happen; as well as our backers, friends, and family who supported it, continue to support it; and to the amazing group of talented artisans I’m so lucky to know and work with.

CS: Just from the trailer alone I get an impression that the team of Reboot worked really hard to put the film together. What were the absolute highlights of production, what didn’t go too well? Did the team have to improvise, do something unplanned, unforeseen?

Joe Kawasaki: Things were planned out fairly well going in, but you always have something happen during production. It’s a given really. I wake up on any shoot day, hopefully rested, with my game-plan in place and all worked out, and that allows me to not freak out when something goes wrong – and something always goes wrong. I couldn’t name a filmmaker out there who hasn’t faced a moment where things are literally teetering on an edge and you’re just pushing for what you want, despite all. I think half of directing is really just keeping a ship afloat and moving in the right direction while its sails are on fire. I grew up with some very passionate filmmakers throughout my career, and you just get used to the idea that the days should be hard, they should be pushing something. I get worried when a day goes too easily. So yes, we had our challenges, but they’re really not anything outside of the norm. We had long days. We shot principal in five, and had to come back for two more days for inserts, and some pick-ups on a green-screen stage (because the original location was no longer available to us). That was a challenge, and certainly a lot of kudos goes to our post ninja team: Adel Gandomikal and Aleem Parkar, for making that work seamlessly.

In thinking back, not a lot of improvisation. I don’t think our schedule allowed for any. I normally do like to work with scenes once we get the base down, but this one pretty much had to go by the clock.

Highlights? Too many to name really. Walking on and seeing Shannon Kennedy and her team shaping up Jesse’s room the way we discussed was a real thrill. Watching all the actors click in and be there for the film, as well as bring their own ideas to the table.

The post production process, though extremely arduous and long, was also magical. Working with all these people who I’ve had the pleasure of working with for so many years, was a real treat. Everyone put in 100%.

What didn’t go too well? We laugh about it now, but we had location issues. I mean, we literally didn’t lock the main Stat/Jesse location until probably three days before shooting was to begin. Even landing that great conference room location was quite an interesting journey.

Once we got rolling, all during the shoot there were sound conflicts on the main location. On one day, we had Batman shooting down the street with pyrotechnics and helicopters, a porno shooting above us (booming music), and the City coming in to do tests on the fire sprinkler systems in the building. Sidney must have popped a vein or two during that day.

CS: Joe, you spent a lot of time in the Arabian part of our world where you produces amazing commercials and shorts. What was the highlight of your work there? What of the experience did you take with you when you left?

Joe Kawasaki: Wow, you did your homework. I spent about 13 years living in the Arabian Gulf (with a three-year break back in LA in between), and it was a great experience for me. It opens your perspectives, and I had met so many gracious and hard-working folks that I can definitely see as life-long friends. Adel, our post super; Aleem, our VFX Lead (who is Indian), and Raid Qabundi, our composer; and Umair Aijaz, our code consultant, are all people I had met and had the great fortune of working with while out there; and I will continue to work with them as long as I can.

Culturally, it was surprisingly not that different than my own Japanese background in terms of basic etiquette and social norms. The Arab people can be extremely gracious hosts, and I was treated very well. And we did a lot out there. We were shooting on 35mm for many projects, posting in Italy, India, Dubai, Egypt, London, Lebanon. It was a terrific experience.

CS: Arabic cinematography has a long history and tradition. What in your opinion makes Arabic cinema stand out – and what connects it with film traditions worldwide?

Joe Kawasaki: Arabic cinema dates back to the golden age of Hollywood, and when you see the films from Egypt of that period, you’ll be amazed. Very slick, very much a Hollywood standard, just in a different language and cultural setting. Somewhere along the line, with all the wars and disruption in that area, I think something was lost. But you can see a genuine need and push toward revitalizing that aspect of their arts back into the forefront. I was very pleased to see the new generations being so actively engaged, there are quite a few wonderful works that come out of Lebanon, Jordan, Dubai; and you can only hope it will continue to grow and nurture beyond all the other stuff going on there.

Ironically, all that makes for a powerful perspective that can be translated to great stories and messages – the fact that so many of them have literally been in the middle of some kind of war or oppression. FIlm can help ignite the silent majority into action, even if it must gain momentum from the rest of the world. But you need that. They need that. In that, film connects us all. It is a global cultural movement, and in this age of YouTube, there is nothing that is quite as provocative (once you cut through the reams of banality) as some moment captured or some designed element that literally came from the backyard of a village in the middle of nowhere and is then published to the world. Film and media in general has always, for better or worse, been a lens that shapes the way we perceive and behave socially and politically. There is an immense responsibility there that can go beyond simply entertaining if you choose to go there.

CS: Losing Leelo, an experimental project, appeared very promising, at least in my view, and I would love to see it on screen. Do you have regrets the project never came to fruition? If the project is resumed, would you be re-called to work on it, and would you want to?

Joe Kawasaki: Thanks for taking the time to watch it!

Losing Leelo was something fashioned from the kernel of something else I’ve been developing on and off for over ten years. It was a reaction against the kind of stuff that people were saying I needed to do for audiences there, and to simply try something that interested me and what seemed to interest a good chunk of the younger generation, as well as with my contemporaries there. I think it was pretty cool, and could have done something; it could have flown pretty high I think. There are a lot of exciting ideas attached to that project.

The company I was running at the time, Integra Films, was behind it all the way. We spent a good two or three months working on that and the presentation to get it funded. But alas, cyberpunk and the whole sci-fi aspect of it didn’t fly too well there. You find a lot of people who are interested in that genre in the region; but generally, I guess they really don’t (like it); and it was an expensive idea. So it never got made.

It was frustrating at the time, but in hindsight I think it was just the wrong project for the wrong region, at the wrong time. Would I be interested in resuming it? Hell yes. It was a lot of fun crafting the ideas, to shoot and construct the trailer for it, and we had a good platform to start, but there it stands.

CS: Speaking of Reboot, how would you evaluate your work, is there anything you think you could have done differently with this film – or not? And ultimately – who will be interested in watching Reboot?

Joe Kawasaki: Oh God, where do I start? There’s quite a bit I would work on further, or change… probably too much to speak of here on your blog, and just not very interesting to read. Sidney had asked me where this film was in terms of my personal expectations, and I had replied with 60%. I think it’s enough to say I can watch it without feeling like I want to throw up.

Someone once said that a film is never really finished. You just stop working on it. I mean, I could still be tweaking it today, nine months after we screened at Raleigh. So somewhere in late January of this year we all looked at each other, and decided it was done. And you move on. You get on to the next one.

Who will be interested? Hopefully anyone who can find relevance within its construct. I think there is a lot in there to chew on for a short. Ultimately, we’ve been getting a great response from the infosec/hacker community, and that has been very gratifying and pleasing to see.

CS: Looking forward into the future, where is Joe Kawasaki five years from now? Ten?

Joe Kawasaki: I have a hard time knowing what I’ll be doing six months from now, let alone that long. Hopefully continuing to be in the amazing position to actually make a living doing what I love, and to be making stuff that interests me, gets me excited. I mean, life is hard enough as it is… it may as well be something that gets you going every day. I could see myself doing a lot of things in the future, most of it quite interesting and pleasurable, but very little of it would be something that wasn’t about making images and telling stories.

CS: That would be awesome, Joe. I wish you good luck with everything you decide to do, and thank you very much for being on CSReview today.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

REBOOT Official Trailer on Youtube

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