Biola students producing Japanese film [Pt 2]

A team of Biola students reflect on their unprecedented film shoot in Japan for their movie “Persimmon.”

Abbey Bennett, Writer

“Persimmon,” a film made by Biola film students in Tokyo over Interterm, was shot almost completely without their shoes on.

“When you go into the house, you take your shoes off,” said junior Rachel Van Der Merwe, one of the producers of the film. “So, we shot the film in socks.”

Film team experiences cultural differences

One of the greatest differences when comparing American culture with Japanese is the level and amount of respect.

“Japanese culture is so much more respectful,” Van Der Merwe said. “We were worried we would be offensive.”

The team quickly found that the overall attitude in Japanese culture is much more laid back compared to what is familiar to the team in Los Angeles. However, this did not stop them from staying meticulous in all they did.

Team avoids typical stress of filmmaking

Cinema and media arts professor Dean Yamada led the team of 13 Biolans.

“This is my third project in Tokyo, so I knew what to expect,” Yamada said. “The students, however, had no idea what was in store for them, but they handled everything with such professionalism and grace.”

There is a stigma that comes with film making that says stress is inevitable. But, between the respectful actions and the laid back attitudes, the team felt very much at peace while working on the film.

“There wasn’t even any yelling on set,” Van Der Merwe said.

Japanese connections

Sophomore film major Steven Lee, calls Tokyo home. He and his family have lived there as missionaries since 2004. He was not an official member of the “Persimmon” team, but was accepted to work with the team as a volunteer while they were in Tokyo.

“I didn’t feel experienced enough to apply,” Lee said. “But, I emailed professor Yamada and he gave me a spot on the crew.”

Lee had a strong connection with those who worked on the film on the Japanese side.

“One of the writers [from] Japan took over my youth group when I was a freshman,” Lee said. “We also graduated from the same high school.”

For Lee, his past, present and future were seen clearly in this project. Having lived in Tokyo for the past six years, he knows the city and the people well. Now, he is a student at Biola, studying so that in the future he can make films.

“Personally, my motivation is learning to make films and seeing the marriage of what I’m studying and my roots,” Lee said.

Keeping the vision foremost

Each member has a specific motivation for making films, and had a specific reason for wanting to work on “Persimmon.” Yamada summarizes the goal of the team by showing that they knew their audience and had a vision which they worked towards. “Our vision for ‘Persimmon’ was to create a culturally specific film that takes elements of classic Japanese cinema and integrates them with our own unique filmmaking style,” Yamada said.

“We wanted to make a film that would resonate emotionally with audiences … a process of designing the shots, controlling the color palette, understanding the rhythms of the story and creating a space for the actors to do their best work.”

God shows up even in the details

The team determined that the film colors would be teal and orange. Junior Nick Chavez, production designer, brought the vision of the two colors to the team. Once they arrived in Tokyo, they were amazed. “Everything was teal and orange!” Chavez said. Excitedly, Chavez explained that this was just another reminder that God was in control of even the small details.

This team has worked hard and will continue to until the day the film is released.

“We’re hoping the trailer and the website will be released by next Thursday, March 24th,” said Yamada. “We’re tentatively planning the premiere for May 13th.”

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