Monthly Archives: May 2013

Sandwiches and cigarettes with Hayao Miyazaki

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post detailing my first few days in Tokyo, with the promise that I’d follow it up with more details at a later point. A promise that I abruptly failed to deliver on. So, now I’ll try to fill in a bit on something cool which happened.

After our first show in the AiiA Theatre, we had a small meet and greet with members of our sponsors and other interested parties. During the night, we were told that our schedule was being suspended on a certain day because we were to be taken to the actual Studio Ghibli for a small tour. Now this, it may not be commonly known, is relatively rare. Rare enough that they have resorted to placing a very obvious piece of paper on the front door which states; ‘Studio Ghibli is a closed studio. We do not offer tours’.197758_10200499802631282_529193703_n

The studio is a collection of buildings in Koganei, Tokyo. It’s a lovely area and pretty perfect for the studio. It’s very green, very peaceful and very pretty. Jeff (who was showing us around and also happens to be the producer of the English dub of the upcoming From Up On Poppy Hill) told us that for some reason the local area was really badly planned, resulting in oddly laid out properties and lots of space in between them, filled with trees and other greenery. It really is the perfect place for the studio and gives the impression that these people are living the ideal ‘artist’ lifestyles.

It might also be interesting to note that Gainax have their studios there too. Unfortunately despite desperately wanting to meet Hiroyuki Yamaga (director of Wings of Honneamise (which I wrote a blog about here) and writer of Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket) I didn’t get the chance to see them.

On the way to the studio we were shown a beautiful building which was designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself and where all the Ghibli employee’s children stay during the day. As soon as they saw us, all the kids began running wild, shouting and jumping around, whilst their poor carer chased them desperately trying to calm them down. Next we walked passed, if I remember correctly, Studio 5, which is where the background art is done. And a few other studio buildings, but for the life of me, I can’t recall what happened where.

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Studio 5

The one place I do remember pretty well, is Miyazaki-san’s private studio. Stopping outside the building, we were shown where Miyazaki’s car was parked and told how he spends his day before being invited inside. After an appropriate period of suspense had played out, the man himself appeared in all his prolific, fantastically bearded glory.

I guess it comes with being one of the most important artists currently working, but when such a man enters the room, the effect is profound. An excited (and almost fearful) hush falls over the room and you can almost hear the collective hearts in the room skip a beat. I must admit, I’m not the sort of person to get star struck and I had to laugh a bit looking around the room at all the faces filled with so much admiration that they’d lost all control. It was a beautiful moment which I’m so glad I could be a part of.

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That is me in the stripy shirt and spotty trousers.

After he kindly signed and personalised pictures for us all, he thanked us for all our work and cracked out some sandwiches. Saying; ‘please smoke if you like – I’m going to’, he sparked up and we all dug in.

And let me tell you, these sandwiches were completely excellent! I took the box mine came in, but I think it got lost in transit. It’s a shame, that was a memory I’d cherish.

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Cast and crew of Princess Mononoke with Miyazaki and Suzuki.

We had a lovely time speaking to various people around the room and basking in the glory of the situation. Our Asitaka (the lead in the show) showed off riding Yakul (his trusty elk, played by another actor) and we all mingled most effectively.

After a wonderful time we were all hustled out and Toshio Suzuki took us into one of the other studios and showed us around a bit. Unfortunately I have to be a bit secretive about anything we may or may not have seen inside the studio, so I’ll stop there.

It was a wonderful, dreamlike time. We were told that we had somehow reminded Miyazaki and Suzuki of their younger selves and we had inspired them, just as they had us. Hearing that from some of our most respected figures was amazing and people cried and I laughed at them and a great time was had by all.

The next evening Suzuki took us all to dinner and I spent the evening talking about Ultraman G with Seiji Okuda, the executive producer of Death Note.

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My autograph. The umbrella was added because the character I play carries one around in both our show and in the film.

This day really made me reflect on the last few years. I’ve done some amazing things in the past year or two, and this was just one of many. I’ve trained under Gennady Bogdanov, heir to the Meyerhold legacy. I’ve made a show with Andrzej and Teresa Welminski, lead actors from Tadeusz Kantor’s Cricot2 company and wonderful artists in their own right. I’ve performed at a whole bunch of international venues including the legendary Moscow Arts Theatre. And now I’ve met Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki.

All these things attribute to a rather bizarre feeling; the feeling that I actually exist. I’m not getting weird here, I’ve not had some grand existential breakthrough, but it is a real feeling. Not that I exist on a molecular level and not even that I’m someone worth knowing about. But, just that I’m managing to exist in this world that I’ve chosen to be a part of. When I decided that I would be an artist, I sort of meant I’d write in my room and perform to my friends and family. But now, I feel like slowly, slowly I’m actually beginning to exist within the art world.

Obviously it doesn’t actually make a difference to my art no matter who I might have shared sandwiches with. But it does encourage me that I’m on the right track, that I really do exist in the same world as these great things and people, and that I might actually consider myself a real artist sometime soon…As opposed to a pretend one, that it.

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Acceptance of my Liebster Award

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liebster-award“Ever heard of the Liebster Award Jack? If not, you’re about to because I just nominated you for one.”

What a very exciting comment for somebody to leave on one’s blog! This is what I woke up to this morning, and in my bleary eyed, half asleep state I felt incredibly humbled without even knowing what a Liebster Award was. I’m the sort of man who gets extremely over excited if anybody so much as hits the ‘like’ button on my blog. If a post gets more than one like, I am overcome with pride, and if anybody follows me I’m as giddy as a child on Christmas. So, to realise that somebody likes my blog enough to give me an award is absolutely grand. Although, I must admit it did make me feel slightly guilty about my lack of activity recently!

I have the lovely Linda Torlakson over at Thoughts and fears about dying (and living!) to thank for my Liebster so, thank you Linda!

I first came across Linda during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where she provided much support and encouragement. Her blog is a lovely collection of posts and articles on writing and blogging, occasionally delving into questions of human nature and psychology. It’s a really nice, heartfelt blog which I highly recommend.

Now that I have been nominated for a Liebster Award, it’s probably a good idea to work out what that is, right?

Liebster is a German word meaning ‘dearest’ or ‘cherished’. Linda says that it has nothing to do with how many readers or likes you have, but simply shows that somebody out there is reading and enjoying your work.

The idea is that someone nominates a certain number of people for an award, and then each of them nominate their own people and so on and so forth. It’s been compared to those chain mails we’re all far too familiar with, but the difference is; Liebster Awards are nice, not annoying.

The person nominating you will ask 5 questions and then, you’ll ask your people 5 questions also.

So, here are my questions from Linda and my answers:

1. Why did you initially launch your blog?

I initially launched it as a way to research for my children’s novel Sketch. Each post was related to something I was writing about and gave me the opportunity to learn about it through writing about it. It was also a way for me to practice writing in general and to sneakily promote my acting work.
2. Is that still its primary purpose or has it evolved into something else?

Yes, and yes… That is still the primary purpose however Sketch has been on the back burner recently. The blog became more a place for me to speak my mind and ponder over subjects I found generally interesting. That was never my intention but I’m glad it has become this.
3. How does your blog reflect who you are (or who you wish you were)?

I think it shows off a less scruffy version of myself. A place where I can actually sort through my thoughts and think about what I’m saying, rather than just rambling as I do in person.
4. What do you hope to offer readers through your blog?

I just hope people find some sort of interest through it.
5. What are your five favorite blogs to read and why? (I’m giving you a head start on the nomination process should you decide to accept)

Well, I feel like this question is cheating! So I’m going to list my 5 nominations underneath:

1. Unbound Boxes Limping Gods – From writer Cheryl Moore this blog is a collection of shorts based on characters from her story Unbound Boxes Limping Gods. Cheryl describes her writing as ‘experimental feminist fiction and poetry’. This is deep, involving stuff illustrated by the author. I highly recommend it to any writers, or those who enjoy stories.

2. Brains are cool – This blog belongs to my friends boyfriend Barney Low. It’s a collection of  ‘ruminations about consciousness’ which although complex have been made accessible and easy to read by Barney.

3. HarsH ReaLiTy – From Opinionated Man. A blog about the harshness of reality (obviously) with scatterings of his own writing and poetry.

4. Otherwhere – News and film reviews from around the world, specifically looking at Japanese and Korean cinema.

5. Alastair Savage – Another writer blogging about his thoughts on poetry, fiction and pretty much everything else. Also placed throughout are extracts from his own fiction. Alastair has some very cool and interesting views on the world. Well worth checking out.

And now my questions to thou humble few:

1. Are you happy?

2. Does your blog help you fulfill your creative needs?

3. Do you write for you readers or for yourself?

4. What is your favourite city in the world?

5. Do you think that internet distribution of art (blogging, myspace, etc) and the fact that it is easier than ever for people to get their work seen by others, could eventually do away with the idea of commercial success for the arts (that’s nothing to do with artistic or creative success, just numbers on an atm)? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

Once again. Thanks very much Linda!leibster