Tuesday, October 31, 2006

scandinavian premier for "the ballad"

In addition to our North American premier next month at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM), our film, the ballad of vicki and jake, will also have its Scandinavian premier at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival in Denmark.

The festival in Copenhagen runs from November 10-19, while the RIDM runs from November 9-19. I had been planning to go to Denmark for the first half of the festival and then travel to Montreal for the second half of that festival; so that I would be able to accomplish this, I requested screening preferences to both festivals. Unfortunately, the Copenhagen schedule wasn't announced until last week, and it is no longer possible for me or anyone from our team to attend either of the screenings in Denmark. I am disappointed I won't be there to accompany our baby to Scandinavia (a place I would love to visit as well), but we are very greatful and honoured to have the opportunity to be shown there.

We will be in competition in the New Vision category. Dates and times below:


11.11. 19:00

14.11. 20:00

Drop me a line if you or anyone you know are living in Copenhagen and are planning to attend the festival. I would love to hear first-hand how our film is received!

Monday, October 30, 2006

I spy something in me eye

When I spent a few days in the mountains last week, it seems that I brought home more than just some waffles. I woke up last Thursday with a pain in my left eye. The lower eyelid was swollen- so much so that somehow it had caused a wrinkle to appear(!). The wrinkle was almost cause for more concern than whatever was behind this pain.

I have been unable to wear contacts since, and because of work and the weekend have been unable to go to the doctor. Now that the worst seems to be over, I finally have a chance to go to the eye hospital today to find out what is going on.

My guess? It is something to do with the hotspring at our inn. I bet somebody didn't wash every nook and cranny before getting into the public bath. The baths are just the right temperature to turn those healing waters into a bacterial soup that takes down dozens of elderly each year. Gee, when you look at it like that the onsens don't seem so inviting.


Just back from the eye hospital and it was most probably from the hotsprings. I'm all set now and even the wrinkle seems to be on its way out. Good riddance!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

my new my suits, update

My suit just arrived from Hong Kong- yes, at 9 on a Sunday morning (thanks, Japan Post!).

A lot of the clients of my friend's tailer are older men, so I really stressed that I wanted a young-looking modern cut. The tailer said that recently the trousers are being worn lower. But he also said that with my "kick boxing legs" that he should put a couple of darts in. Wearing the trousers low may look good with slim-cut trousers, but combined with the dart...

I don't look like I'm wearing a trendy tailer-made suit from Hong Kong. I look like I'm wearing a hand-me-down from a retired kickboxer from the Mainland. Dammit.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

what they're saying about us

The website for the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal is up and running. Complete with links to our film, the ballad of vicki and jake, to this blog and to my vlog, the site also carries a synopsis for our film.

Festivals always ask for a synopsis when a film is programmed, and the readers of a catalogue could easily assume that whatever is printed has been written by the producer of the given film. However, more often than not the blurb included in the festival catalogue has been adapted, edited or completely created by the festival itself.

No matter how much I agree or disagree with it, I really enjoy finding out how a festival is describing and promoting us by reading what they have written themselves. For example, when we were in competition in the Visions du Reel, the catalogue description of our film included the following:

...it isn't only the social tragedy of the drugs and poverty that emerges... but also what we suspect is a romantic relationship (between Vicki and Ian), spoilt by clumsiness and a lack of understanding.

OK, not exactly how I would have described it, but I see their point. And what is RIDM saying about us?

Some will find The Ballad of Vicki and Jake poignant, and others, simply repulsive.… In this pointed investigation of the nature of documentary itself, The Ballad of Vicki and Jake is both troubling and troubled. How far can a filmmaker go? The answer is left up to the viewer.

"Simply repulsive"? I love it.

For the full synopsis, please visit the RIDM website, click on the list of films, then on "the ballad of vicki and jake".


Thanks to Claire at the RIDM, I have updated all the links to the RIDM on this blog and on my vlog to lead straight to our listing on the festival site.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

what's in a name?

Thanks to Matt for the following activity that will add a few fleeting seconds of fun to your day at work. Just click on the following icon and it will take you to a website where you can see how many people in the US have the same name as you.

There are 8 guys named Ian Ash. Good thing I have that whole Thomas thing working for me.

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I forgot to pack the maple syrup

I am back from the moutain convent where the nuns have a waffle factory. The waffles are really good, they just don't serve them with maple syrup. Or warm.

There more like little waffle-taste, waffle-looking cookies.

They're nuns. Cut 'em some slack.

Monday, October 23, 2006

the sounds of music

I'll be away until Thursday visiting a Catholic convent in the mountains of Japan where the Sisters make and sell waffles.


The next post will be when I get back. Have a good week!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

throwing money away

Throwing something away in Japan can be quite a task. It isn't that Japan isn't a wasteful country; Japan, the home of the individually wrapped sweets in a paper wrapped box which is gift wrapped, put in a decorative paper bag and then placed in a plastic bag to protect the... you get the point.

When I lived in the countryside for three years there was more space and therefore more of the separating was left up to people to do curbside. In Tokyo, the streets often aren't wide enough to accommodate separate bins for each of the categories of garbage, so we're allowed to mix some types of rubbish which will be separated out at a processing facility.

"How many categories of garbage can there possible be?", you wonder. Well, where I used to live there were sixteen. Yup. Sixteen. 16. Let's see if I can name them.

1. Raw. (kitchen waste)
2. Aluminum. (soda cans, canned goods)
3. Steel. (some foods/ drinks are packed in steel)
4. PET. (plastic drink bottles)
5. Cardboard. (boxes)
6. Paper. (newspaper)
7. Dangerous. (batteries, light bulbs)
8. Clear glass. (drink bottles, etc)
9. Brown glass. (beer bottles, etc)
10. Other colored glass. (green bottles, etc.)
11. White Styrofoam. (food trays)
12. Other non-burnable. (misc. plastic, metal)
13. Over-sized. (appliances, furniture)

I can’t remember the rest right now (it was a lot to keep track of then as well). The pick up days of the different categories varied- some once or twice a week, some once a month and some only a couple of times per year. It seemed like I was always preparing some type of garbage for disposal and running it to the collection site. Yeah, each of these categories even has a certain way the items have to be cleaned and bundled.

The real kick in the face has to do with the timing of the disposal. One has to bring the items separated and prepared appropriately to the collection site (usually one or two per neighbourhood) by 8:00 in the morning on the day of the collection. “Oh, I’ll just drop it off on my evening walk so I don’t have to bother with it in the morning” , you suggest. Don’t even think about it. It must be dropped off on the morning of collection and by 8:00. In addition to appearing to want to make the process of taking out the trash as inconvenient as possible, the powers that be also have fears of animals getting into the rubbish during the night. (When was the last time a crow had a go at a washed and regulation twine bound white Styrofoam food tray?)

Night before garbage drop offs are a declaration of war.

People in this peaceful country have been KILLED by neighbours in disputes over garbage. I guess tentions run high when keeping track of the garbage is such a pain and then some ne'r-do-well comes along flaunting his rebellion by casually tossing his unbound, unwashed and unregulation cut milk cartons before the appointed time when you are some housewife who is going bald due to the stress of keeping in line with all of the trash rules.

Why am I going on about garbage anyway? Right. When I moved into my new place here in Tokyo in June, I had to buy a couple of essentials- refriderator, washer... what wasn't essential was the cutest three-bin stacked garbage can that cost $240 that I saw in a department store. Needless to say, I did without. Since I moved in I have had two garbage bags sitting in a cardboard box next to my fridge serving as a trash can. Classy.

Garbage disposal is much easier in Toyko. All you have to remember is three days (burnable, non-burnable and recyclable) and separate the trash accordingly. To help me with these three catagories was a lovely garbage can in a department store. But, alas, I have had to give up my dream of a life together with that lovely, sleek, designer receptical. I broke down last week and bought a cheap plastic number who called my name as I walked by in a discount store. I feel like I have cheated on my true love, but alas, she was in a class above me.

And anyway, I was having guests for dinner and the thought of them being welcomed by my cardboard box and trash bag contraption pushed me into action.

Happy tossing. I'm talking about throwing away the trash, Brits.

Friday, October 20, 2006

how NOT to make a documentary, part 3

The last part of this series brings lessons 9 and 10. Click here for part 1 and part 2.

I would like to thank everyone (and expecially Gaelle!) at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal for giving me this assignment. It was really fun, and I have learned alot as well.

We are really looking forward to the RIDM where our fim the ballad of vicki and jake will have it's North American premier.

From now on you will be able to find my video blog entries on my new vlog. I'll post alerts here on my blog when I add a new video. Thanks for watching!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

my new my suits

Since I will be attending the RIDM film festival next month, my friend decided to buy me a present I could wear to the reception.

My friend's tailor from Hong Kong was going to be in town on business. If we went to his hotel, he could measure me, make the suit when he got home and then ship it to me in time for my trip. How would I like a new suits?

Lesson #1. In Japanese, every single word that doesn't end in the consonant "n", ends in a vowel. Every other word in the entire language ends in a vowel. This may clear up something you've wondered about for a long time... how come when the Japanese speak English they pronounce words like:

KATO= cat
DOGU= dog
KA= car
and the above example:
SUTSU= suits

This is all fine and not a problem once you get used to it. The problem comes when you start bringing the japanified words back into English without realizing it. "I bought a new suits". My brother-in-law thinks I sound like a non-native English speaker in my e-mails from time to time. He so funny.

Back to my new suits. We went to said hotel to get measured for my first my suits.

Lesson #2. The Japanese import tonnes of English words into their language. This should make speaking Japanese easy, right? No such luck. Before they put the words to use, they change the meaning so completely you can hardly recognize what the word was to begin with. Take the English word "my", as in the above example, my suits. "My" doesn't mean "my own" in Japanese. It means "one's own". It may sound subtle, but take a look at these examples:

Will you take my car? means: Will you take your own car? (ie, or will you take the company car?)

Do you have my room? means: Do you have your own room? (ie, or do you share a room with your sibling?)

Hey! That's not my drink! means: That's not just for you! (ie, it's for everyone to share.)

This then gives the grammatically-challenged my suits a meaning equivalent to the English phrase "order-made suit". When you've lived here long enough, it all starts to make sense and even begins to seem so much more simple and economical when speaking.

We're in the hotel room, and I am being measured for my first my suits by a lovely bloke from Hong Kong. He measures my neck, waist, chest and so on. Those who know me know that while I am fairly tall, I have a fairly small build and don't weigh all that much. According to the American height/ weight ratio I am underweight. Yet compared to the average Japanese guy, I have slight love handles and a way bigger butt and legs.

I bring this up because a lot of the trousers in Japan are "stove pipe" cut, which is quite fashionable if you have chopsticks for legs. I would have to buy XL just so my legs could fit into the most fashionably cut trousers, but then two of me could fit into the waist.

The tailor has finished taking my measurements. He's measured just about everything on my body, except one important part. No, not that. He hasn't measured the circumference of my legs. I know he has been lulled into a false sense of security by my small waist and the deceptively well-cut trousers I am wearing. I suggest he measure my legs, but he insists there is no need. I insist that, in fact, there is. He sighs and begins the big measure.

"Oh! You are kick boxer?!"

But no, sorry, I am not a kick boxer, and that is not muscle, but what amounts to fat.

"I put dart in pants or your leg no fit!"

Lesson #3. Beware of having your thighs measured by a Chinese guy in a Tokyo hotel room. It could very well ruin your day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

my new vlog

I have decided to create a new blog to hold the videos I am making. Don't worry, I'll post the final segment, part 3 of the how NOT to make a documentary series here on my blog to join part 1 and part 2. After that, I will be posting videos directly to my new video blog (vlog), documenting ian, vlog. From today, this blog will be called, documenting ian, blog.

how NOT to make a documentary, part 2

Part 1 contained the first five lessons, and now Part 2 brings the next three, lessons 6-8. For more information on our film, the ballad of vicki and jake, please visit our website and RIDM, the festival hosting our North American premier.

triple time, part three

Comment on the following sentence (350 words max.)
“vicki and jake is a 101 how NOT to make a documentary. Ian and Ken threw themselves into this with the enthusiasm of people who had never made a feature documentary before. It shouldn’t have worked. Except it has.”

I feel like I am back in school! I guess Matt Crowder, who wrote a criticism of our film which you can find on our website and from which this quote is from, was commenting on how the way we were filming should have made the film fail but didn’t. I really don’t know that much about film theory or technique, so even while it may look like I am a “rule-breaker”, I was just doing whatever felt natural at the time. I actually wouldn’t recommend making a film this way to anybody. We “borrowed” equipment that wasn’t ours because we didn’t have any money to rent it; I got really personally involved with our subjects which prevented me from being an “impartial observer”; we screwed up loads and then left those bits in on purpose. I can’t believe that we survived without anybody getting killed, hurt, robbed or arrested as a result of what we were doing. And we have a film to show for it! Does the film work? I certainly hope so, but I think the audience has to decide this. The version that we are showing has been cut-down and will be the first time that a big audience will see it. I am really looking forward to hearing what the RIDM audience has to say in Montreal which is also our North American premier.

Monday, October 16, 2006

triple time, part two

3 things about Ian Thomas Ash for people who don’t know anything about you but by chance are reading this (the RIDM'S) blog.

1. I have never made any money making films; I make them because I love to.
2. I learned more about filmmaking by making the ballad of vicki and jake than I did in my post-graduate film course.
3. I have done several documentary projects, but they are always in a foreign country (UK, Japan). There is something about my “foreignness” that makes it all somehow work.

3 good reasons to make another documentary like this in the future.

1. Our way of filmmaking is pretty close to being as honest as it can be; showing both our subject’s mistakes and ours.
2. By not trying to cover up the way the film was made or make it “professional” and “slick”, we actually learned a lot more about filmmaking because we were open to criticism.
3. This is the only way I know how to make a film.

3 projects you would like to realize soon.

1. I want to do a travel documentary of Japan showing some of the strange and wonderful things about the country that has been my home for five years.
2. A documentary about the strange culture of Japanese singers of chanson, French songs, that are still wildly popular here.
3. A funny documentary about the perceived differences and stereotypes of white men vs. Japanese men.

3 lists you would like to write in your blog soon.

1. Ways to get money to make your doc. I have to check them out to make they work first, though.
2. After I attend the RIDM, a list of the best things about it.
3. A list of my favourite lists.

... and have you ever had the idea of making a film in a list form?

I haven’t actually thought about that before, but that’s a really good idea! Maybe I should begin by making a list about why that’s a good idea…

Saturday, October 14, 2006

triple time, part one

Gaelle at the RIDM has given me another assignment, to write an entry for the festival blog (I will link to it when it is up and running on the 25th of October). After reading my blog she saw that I like to make lists and therefore asked that I answer in list form. She calls it "the ballad of vicki and jake in triple time".

3 other good titles you could have imagined for your film.

1. My editor thinks the film should have been called the ballad of vicki and ian because the film really becomes focused on my relationship with Vicki.
2. When we thought that the film was going to be more focused on Jake’s birthday, the other producer and I talked about turning twelve as a possible title.
3. Along the same lines, had the film been just about Vicki getting the house, we could have called it something like making home.

3 good reasons to come at the RIDM and meet Vicki, Jake and Sid.

People should come to the RIDM for so many reasons!

1. They can see many unique documentaries from all over the world.
2. There will be lots of interesting people in the industry to meet and talk with.
3. And of course we hope that they will meet Vicki, Sid and Jake by watching our film.

3 words to describe your relationship with Vicki.

Intelligent answer:
1. Unpredictable.
2. Indefinable.
3. Evolving.

Real answer:
1. Confusing.
2. Loving.
3. Maddening.

3 risks you have taken during the making of the film/ 3 difficulties that made making this film a “struggle”, a term you used in one of your flyers.

Some of the risks we made were very real and others were more subjective.

1. We were filming with expensive equipment in places that were dangerous and unfamiliar to us.
2. We were inexperienced and that made filming difficult, but that also forms much of the story.
3. The fact that we were dealing with people’s lives and that what we were doing could have a huge impact on them was also something that we struggled with a lot.

3 aims you wanted to reach by making this film.

I think my aims changed a lot during filming.

1. In the beginning I was focused a lot on getting more experience in filmmaking and using that to further my career.
2. I became very much focused on telling Vicki’s story in the midst of filming.
3. By the time we had seen the footage and had begun editing, I really wanted the story of what happened between Vicki and me to be told.

Friday, October 13, 2006

montreal screenings

I have just received the times and cinema locations at the RIDM for our film, the ballad of vicki and jake.

- November 17th (Friday), 17h40, Cinéma ONF
- November 19th (Sunday), 17h30, Cinémathèque québécoise, salle

Have I mentioned that this is our North American premier?!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

video blogging for RIDM

I have been asked by Gaelle from the Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal (RIDM) where our film the ballad of vicki and jake, will have its North American premier, to make a video blog about our film.

It should be easy for a filmmaker, right? Wrong!

Between Quicktime files, video compression and Firefox, I have had an adventure. The technical stuff makes filming look like a cakewalk.

Well, I've done it. I think. The topic for my first couple of posts, as assigned by the RIDM: How NOT to make a documentary. Enjoy!

how NOT to make a documentary, part 1

Watch the Video