DJ Kiyoshi as the good guy

I looked through the window. Through some holes in the clouds I saw a vast area of green land and water lying 8000 meters below us. I was having some expectations, but felt rather relaxed, happy that I had left my home for something different than banging my head on the table to come up with some idea to write a script, or working as a translator with my head fuming. I had left a snow covered Germany to head towards the country of green Ireland.

Just a month ago, I saw on mandy.com an ad for a short Samurai movie. A Samurai movie again. I was involved in one last year... Again? Should I do it?

I was planning to go for a filming in the middle east last year until someone said "Are you suicidal or what?" and I decided not to go. I had a fairly big role - albeit an industrial film - and I really did not know how to fill the hole that was left in my plan. My empty soul, devoid of an interesting project. Just about came Nippon Connection, a Japanese film festival in Frankfurt, I took my digital camera and started to shoot my first short film, using the environment of the film festival. I learned something: If there is no interesting projects out there, just grab your own camera.

Now, should I invest lots of time for a short film, even flying out to Dublin at my own expense? Mark, the director, had not finished his script when I talked to him early December and he was planning to shoot the film in January. Wow. Only one month left and no script. I was skeptical to say the least. Shooting a Samurai movie required big preparation, especially when someone wanted to shoot it in Dublin, Ireland. I sent him a demo tape, but adding I am not that much interested and gave him contact numbers of actors who participated in the previous Samurai movie shot in Bournemouth UK.

Time passed. The first week of January passed and Mark was still looking for an actor. Only then did he send me the script, cause he had forgotten about it. I really liked the script and in addition, he was going to shoot it in black and white using 16mm. 16mm is always good. I decided to participate. Mark also told me his cameraman shot the "Medallion" with Jackie Chan. Cool. A pro on a short film. But hell, how did he get that guy?

I bought my flight ticket on the internet. I confirmed the shooting days. One hour later Mark called me, and told me he needed an actor, cause one actor jumped out of the project, just ten days prior to the shoot. I don't know any Japanese actors. I thought and Kiyoshi just popped up into my mind. A DJ with the right face. I just met him once at a friend's place. I called my friend, asked for Kiyoshi's number and phoned him up: He wants to participate. Well, actually, he was one of those who always could manage time, or just had plenty of it. The problem: He had no acting experience, but he had the right look.

One week before the shoot. Mark called me, again. The leading actress jumped ship. No actress any more and we were shooting the following week. I looked up for the phone number of Masayo, lead actress of Lotus Flower. We couldn't reach her. I translated the script into Japanese and sent it out to all the actors.

Masayo called and told us that she can participate. Big relief.

I met with Kiyoshi to go through the script. The good guy doesn't show much emotion, so the role suits him. I am doing the evil guy, again, with two sided faces. I am less on screen than the good guy, but the role was impossible to play for an absolute first timer like him.

Kiyoshi and I flew out to Dublin. Kiyoshi was concerned in what kind of place we will stay. "I hope it is not some kind of a garage or a warehouse..." Mark's Dad picked us up from the airport. Masayo arrived the day before from London, Mark was also there. They drove us southwards and we end up living in a house with Mark's friends. We went shopping and bought food for the next days and started rehearsing in the kitchen.

Masyo and Mark rehearsing

Every shooting day is a disaster.

I don't know who coined that phrase, but in filming -generally-, there is always something that goes wrong and the guy who coined that phrase knew the film biz. In this case, troubles started already before the shoot with all the actors jumping ship. Anyway, it's either the weather, some props falling apart, some actor who has a headache, a shooting location that can't be used... but every time, miraculously the film ends up in the can after those shooting days.

The first day. Chris, a sound guy from Cork, picked us up in his car driving us south. Shooting in a pagoda of a Japanese Garden at Kildare. I liked my role. It was this vicious character, trying to betray everyone. The hidden sides of his character were the ones that I liked playing. Matt, the cameraman, was a professional and after the lights had been set, everything looked real and cool. We were shooting in black and white and no one really could tell that I was wearing a black Karate outfit rather than a real Kimono and a Hakama, a cross between a skirt and a pant. Masayo wore real Kimono and looked good on the Monitor that Mark checked. It was cold, but we were all concentrating on the shoot. The rain wasn't to bad and we could escape into the garden house, just around the corner. John, the little boy, was amazing. He did not cry nor complained, except for running around a lot and it was sometimes difficult to pin him down to a certain place, where we wanted to film.

Second day. A different Japanese Garden. It was raining. It was pouring, but we had to do the shoot. That was what I was afraid of in getting involved into this project. Shooting a Samurai movie in winter. In January that is. But the weather was much milder than I had expected it to be. The shoot in Bournemouth UK in March was colder than it was here. One day four seasons. That's a saying by the local people. But the only thing I felt was this wet rain, drowning my costume. Luckily I was not playing the main role. Kiyoshi, the DJ, is soaked wet, shivering out there swinging his sword to perform his fighting scene. One plastic sword breaks, the silver paper from the wooden swords imitating the blade were coming off and they had to shoot the scene again...

Most of the extras were Chinese living in Dublin. We were killing the time talking about the weather and how they ended up being either in Dublin or in this film. The chemical warming pad inside my coat started working and also the newspaper that was tucked underneath my costume, held in position by my Obi, or belt, bound around the waist. Matt, the cameraman, was working hard to make this film work. I was surprised how diligent, patient and devoted he was to this project - an extremely low budget film. Mark wanted to rent a 16 mm Camera and wrote to this guy who offered one on the internet on sale and attached his script. Instead of renting the camera, he said he would shoot it. That was Matt.

So Kiyoshi and I flew in from Frankfurt Germany. Emiliy, the everything girl,she sew four Hakamas, was shooting stills, helping out with the food, flew in from Madrid. Last not least the Daimyo played by Nobi, who flew in from Montreal, Canada. Masayo flew in from London. How we got all together, despite this crazy and last minute project? It must be the character of Mark. His unfailing excitement toward his project and his good nature. His father was a devoted runner. He picked us up from the airport, made us sandwiches and soups, he looked after the little things that had to be done. A former banker, he followed everything with precision, that Mark lacked. The Chinese and Korean extras were in good spirit, even though they were totally soaked too. This was one of the few productions that I encountered with a low number of complaining people.

We finished our second shooting day and it was Friday. Kiyoshi and I went to see Dublin after the shoot. Yes, all the shoots were day shoots, which gave us a little bit of time to go out and have a beer. Chris, the sound guy, and Mark joined us for a pint of Guiness. Back at Mark's friend's place, they drank beer, played poker and hang out. All of them were long time friends of Mark, who participated in a movie that he made 7 years ago. All amateurs, except for one. Anyway, Kiyoshi joined the card playing crowd and did the socializing part, whereas I withdrew after two beers into my room. Kiyoshi devoured 7 cans of beer and then moved on to Whisky, or something like that. He is not a big guy, but just drinks a lot. He says: "Everything I drink, goes out."Well, I could not really sleep, with these guys drinking until 3 in the morning next door, but hell, I was tired and shifted from sleep to dreamy awareness in the never-land.

The very patient kid

Saturday. Another shoot in the rain. Same place as yesterday. People kept on sliding and falling on the wet slippery ground. I had enough scenes to do to keep me occupied. Turning my mind off that wet and cold weather. Matt had three young people working for him and they also hold umbrellas for us, when we were out there just in our costumes. The Saturday was the worst. It was raining all day.

Sunday. Clear sky, but cold. Last shooting day. A fighting scene. I was not involved in, so I watched a video and then went into town, to do a Sake bar scene later that day. Unfortunately, Mark and the crew never showed up. We cut that scene. They wanted to spend more time on the important fighting scene in the cold forest. The remaining staff of two, ended up doing sightseeing of Dublin instead of the cancelled Sake bar shoot. We waited for the crew to come into town for a wrap up party. So, I got to see Dublin after all.

At Zanzibar we drank, danced and Mark was thrown out of it, cause he smoked in the bar. They let him back in though after a while. It was perfect, because that day was also my birthday. We went to a second bar and went home around three. Some people went on drinking only to appear just the next day. Mark, you were a great host, a good director and a fun guy to hang out with. Just for the next time, give it just a bit more time of preparation...though you proved it can be done...

Thank you all.

25th January 2005

Wrap up party!!

It's all done!!

Uh beer, more beer please!

Dublin at night