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Ogata Takaomi Interview now live.

My interview with director, Ogata Takaomi, titled “Through a Theater Darkly” is now live on the Indievisual Magazine site.

Ogata-san is a filmmaker who intentionally makes movies which are not easy to watch, and therefore not tremendous box-office draws. This makes him by definition an independent director. A filmmaker willing to take those risks in order to make the movies about the topics which he wishes to address and in a manner consistent with a personal philosophy. It is rare to see a director so dedicated to objectivity who isn’t actively making documentaries but narrative fiction instead which first caught my attention. However, when I learned he counts as his influences the Dardenne Brothers and fellow countryman Kore-eda Hirokazu, all of whom began as documentary filmmakers, the “leap of faith” he took when he began seems less reckless and perhaps rather calculated. His latest movie, “The Hungry Lion”, recently world-premiered at the 2017 Tokyo International Film Festival’s Japanese Cinema Splash section. Perhaps, he is on the cusp of breaking out onto the world stage just as those he admires.

Find out more about Ogata Takaomi in my interview which you can find by clicking here.

Owning It

An recent message exchange with a friend went something like this….

Friend: “…and for god sakes put your name on something”
Me: “I’m more public than I’ve ever been….”
Friend: “You deserve to own your content. If Ben Kuchera can do it, you can!
Me: “Oh, you mean like the Byline?”
Friend: “Yea.”
Me: “Thought about it. But when it’s a one man show, it’s weird having literally everything ‘by: Ben Dimagmaliw’.”
Friend: “I hear ya, no harm in a pseudonym for that use either. But just as an observer, seeing only “staff writer” makes it look a little fake. When Kuchera ran that game news site, literally very article was by him, and you know don’t be afraid to own it. In the proud sense, not the ownership sense. You are the extension of your brand after all, or vice versa.”
Me: “I see your point. Will look into an elegant way of doing it.”
Friend: “Hey…I really admire how much you put into it and people should know!”

As I’ve previously stated, I am normally not the most outgoing person in the world. I prefer to be behind the scenes rather in front of the camera. I’d rather let my work speak for itself. But we live in an age when self-promotion is every bit as important and for this reason, I have put myself “out there” more than I have ever before or am personally comfortable. Thus the design of the magazine site acknowledges ownership on the About page, but deliberately favored a “plural” persona in hopes of conveying a more “professional” image. The effect, at least to my friend, was the opposite; generic “editor-in-chief” and “staff writer” bylines worked against credibility. I equated showing who made the site with ownership, but owning it in the sense of being proud of what I have built and the articles I have written is just as vital for Indievisual’s overall presentation.

To be honest, putting my name on everything just seemed weird to me, maybe even a little embarrassing. However, my friend raises a good point: “I am the brand and the brand is me.” That is a fact I can not deny. Indievisual is a labor of love and as I have pointed out occasionally in the past–even in the exchange above–this is a one-man operation and perhaps that, too, needs to be a part of the overall image, not just explained in blog entries like this, but through communicating whose name is on each and every article and, most likely in the near future, photograph. I thought about my friend’s words for a brief period and considered perhaps playful pseudonyms, but in the end, a voice inside me just kept repeating, “Why not? What could be the harm?” Therefore, I have changed the settings on the backend of the site so that my name is displayed on the bylines of articles. In so doing, my intention is to reinforce the human element other one-person magazines, products, apps, etc. have advised to do in their own blogs, pointing to the importance of connecting with one’s audience as a human being which gives them a sense of personal investment in one’s efforts. People are most likely to root for an individual through thick and thin rather than some anonymous group. Given Indievisual’s core principle–to root for independent Japanese filmmakers and bolster their name awareness–my initial attempt at feigning an organizational structure now does seem silly at best, somewhat hypocritical at worst. Thanks to my friend, this has now been remedied.

Dreamhost v. DoJ

Back in August, Indievisual’s web hosting company reported a request they received from the Department of Justice to provide the data of visitors to a political activist site. Dreamhost respectfully declined, but was then met with an order to compel. Ultimately, they went to Superior Court and prevailed. Read the posts from Dreamhost to learn the complete details, but the TL:DR version is this: Dreamhost fought to defend/protect their user’s (and in effect all web users’) data from unreasonable and unjustified requests by the government.
Without taking this blog into the political arena, I wanted to acknowledge and applaud their efforts to keep the internet free of privacy exploitation whether by private, corporate, or political entities. Dreamhost is an independently owned and operated company which allows them to maintain a core set of values and a commitment to customers other companies funded by corporate or venture capital may not. Dreamhost has won an important skirmish in the fight for internet user rights by standing up to the Department of Justice and Indievisual is proud to be hosted with them.

Kitamura Ryuhei Returns

Kitamura Ryuhei, director of the indie zombie-action movie, Versus, is following-up his lukewarmly received live-action adaptation of the Lupin III anime series for Japan with two U.S. productions. First up is Downrange, a riff of the slasher movie which is world premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness section. Described as a return-to-basics, but with a twist (the “slasher” in question is a sniper in this case), the setup plays into Kitamura’s resourceful and austere filmmaking utilized in Versus which garnered him world-wide attention. Kojima Hideo, who saw a preview screening of Downrange lauded it as potentially genre redefining. High praise indeed, but should be taken with a grain of salt as the two have been good friends since they collaborated on CG cut-scenes for Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid game.

Variety also has exclusively broken the story of Kitamura’s next project, Doorman,  which has cast none other than Katie Holmes and Jean Reno in the lead roles. Again, exciting sounding news for this Japanese indie director who has been courted by Hollywood before, but has yet to “break out” in the same fashion as say, Gareth Edwards or Neill Blomkamp. Whether this is a result of incompatibility with the system or a vision which ironically becomes more muddled as the budget increases is unknown. Suffice it to say, Kitamura has the stature to attract producers abroad, but the hit or miss nature of the final products so far is the reason for the “grain of salt” comment previously. We’ll just have to wait and see.