Flowers will bloom.

Takashi's and Midori's final resting place

Takashi’s and Midori’s final resting place – 1st May 1951

63 years ago today, on May 1st 1951, Takashi Nagai – the “Saint of Urakami” passed away.

It was a short but full life. In his 43 years he had managed to fit in a lifetime of accomplishments and created an enduring legacy through his teachings and writings.

The good doctor, although more or less bedridden in his final years, worked tirelessly to make Urakami district (ground zero) a place where “beautiful flowers will bloom”.

He left behind copious essays, memoirs, drawings and calligraphy on various themes including God, war, death, medicine, and orphanhood. These enjoyed a large readership during the American Occupation of Japan (1945–1952) as spiritual chronicles of the atomic bomb experience.

His work towards the spiritual restoration of his country led to him being honoured as a National Hero of Japan, and in 1991, “The Takashi Nagai Peace Award”, was founded to annually promote writings and essays on “love” and “peace” from all over Japan.

As befitting a man born into a Samurai family (Samurai means “to serve”) he has recently been honoured by the Catholic Church with the title “Servant of God”, the first step to sainthood. But to many people in Nagasaki and around the world, Takashi Nagai is already considered a saint.

Walking around Nagasaki today you will still find a living legacy  to the spirit of Dr. Nagai. Surrounding Urakami Cathedral are the cherry trees he planted shortly before his death. They defied science which declared that no life could grow there for 75 years.

Nagasaki is indeed a city that has risen from the ashes. It is a city where the past has left its indelible shadow forever imprinted upon its surface and on the collective consciousness of its inhabitants, but it is also a place that embraces the future, a city that continues to grow and bloom.

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More behind-the-scenes from our last shoot

Cast and crew getting ready to shoot a scene

Cast and crew getting ready to shoot a scene

Before locking ourselves away for a couple of weeks to work on editing footage that now amounts to most of the film, just time to post some more behind-the-scenes photos from last week’s shoot.

It was a great day filming. On the cast front, alongside Leo, Kaya Yuzuki returned to play Matron Hisamatsu, and, as we mentioned in our last blog, we had two new cast members; up and coming actress Charissa Shearer (watch out for her!) and we were honored to have the very talented character actresses Susan Jameson, who has been a regular face in British drama for many years, to play the part of Helen Keller.

On the crew front, South and City College Birmingham students proved to be a great asset on set once again with hair and make-up students Tania Ashworth and Samantha Wilson doing a fantastic job for us!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be preparing for our last day of filming which will take place in September – so watch this space for more info!

Most of the wonderful photos below are courtesy of fellow local film-maker Phil Pugh. Phil is also completing filming on his own feature film, much of which was shot on a custom built set- just down the road from our own!

If, like us, you are a fan of true independent and original films, then you might want to check out Phil’s film here!

Birmingham South and City student Tania Ashworth applying make-up to Leo Ashizawa

South and City college Birmingham student Tania Ashworth applying make-up to Leo Ashizawa (Takashi Nagai)

Birmingham South and City student Sam Wilson working on Charissa's period hair style

Fellow South and City college Birmingham student Sam Wilson working on Charissa’s period hair style

Tania doing the finishing touches to the hair!

Tania doing the finishing touches to the hair!

Producer Nigel Davey shares a joke with Charissa Shearer, Susan Jameson and costume ace Monica Price

Producer Nigel Davey shares a joke with Charissa Shearer, Susan Jameson and costume ace Monica Price

Leo and Charissa relaxing between takes

Leo and Charissa relaxing between takes

Director Ian Higgins discussing a scene with Charissa Shearer

Ian discussing a scene with Charissa and Leo

Veteran actress Susan Jameson gets into character with Charissa Shearer

Susan Jameson gets into character with Charissa Shearer

Susan with Leo, rehearsing the moment Helen Keller meets Dr. Nagai

Susan with Leo, rehearsing the moment Helen Keller meets Dr. Nagai

Charissa and Leo just before a take

Charissa and Leo waiting to film a scene

Monica, Tania and Leo with freshly shaved head!

Monica, Tania and Leo with freshly shaved head!

Producer Nigel Davey with wardrobe ace Monica

Producer Nigel Davey with wardrobe ace Monica

Susan and Charissa about to go for a take

Susan and Charissa about to go for a take

Leo having a spot of make-up retouching!

Leo having a spot of make-up retouching!

Our two assistant camera  men, Josh and Dan step in front of the camera to act as body doubles for us!

Our two assistant camera men, Josh and Dan step in front of the camera to act as body doubles for us!

Director Dominic Higgins setting up his camera while Josh sets up another angle

Dominic setting up his camera while Josh sets up for another angle. Photo credit: Chris Willmore

Kaya Yuzuki and Leo about to film a scene

Kaya Yuzuki and Leo about to film a scene. Photo credit: Dan Woodward

Leo with Steve Green on clapper duties

Leo with Stephen Green on clapper duties. Photo credit: Dan Woodward

9th August

Short clip set on the morning of the day the bomb was dropped (Clip is pre-sound mixed).

68 years ago today at precisely 11.02 am, the 2nd Atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan, detonated over the Urakami district of Nagasaki.  Six days later the war finally came to an end and the American occupation began.

Nagasaki is often referred to as the “Forgotten A-Bomb city”, but one man helped to generate worldwide interest in the event. That man was Dr. Takashi Nagai- mainly confined to a bed, living with his two children in a small hut near ground zero, he wrote extensively about the disaster and the need for world peace.

What Makes Dr. Nagai’s work so unique and extraordinary is that his words are never bitter or angry. His books are deeply spiritual and make for profound reading. This is why when they were published they made such an impact on a war ravished and demoralized country.

He was visited by the Emperor himself  who gave an impassionate speech to the people of Nagasaki during his visit. Western celebrities also made the pilgrimage to see the ‘Holy Man of Nyokodo”.

The Emperor visits Takashi in Nyokodo.

The Emperor (Gakuji Nomoto) visits Takashi (Leo Ashizawa) in Nyokodo.

Emperor speech

The Emperor speaks to the people of Nagasaki. A dignified and stirring performance from Japanese actor Gakuji Nomoto

It is also one year ago today that we shot our first scenes with cast and crew. Yesterday marked the penultimate day of the shoot, and the day was partly dedicated to re-creating the visit of American icon, Helen Keller to Takashi’s hut.

Helen Keller, the first goodwill ambassador from America visits Takashi

Helen Keller, the first goodwill ambassador from America visits Takashi

Helen Keller was a remarkable woman, who overcame blindness and deafness to become a prominent and renowned writer and social activist.  Helen was a much loved and respected figure in Japan and her visit to Japan after the war, was the first official visit from a US goodwill ambassador and very much a state affair

Playing the part of Helen is British actress Susan Jameson. Susan played the part with such grace and eloquence and together with Leo Ashizawa, who is of course playing Takashi; they crafted a truly beautiful and heartfelt scene.

Susan Jameson and Charissa Shearer as Helen Keller and Judith Tyler

Susan Jameson and Charissa Shearer as Helen Keller and Judith Tyler

Yesterday we also worked with upcoming actress, Charissa Shearer. Charissa plays a fictitious character called Judith Tyler, an Australian working for the Allied powers in Japan.

Again, Charissa turned up on set, looking every inch the part; she was great to work with and gave a wonderful, sensitive performance. We see a great future for Charissa as an actress and wish her all the best!

Some behind the scenes shots from our most recent shoots!

Leo Ashizawa as Takashi Nagai. Here Takashi struggles to come to terms with the emotional damage of war.

Leo Ashizawa as Takashi Nagai. Here Takashi struggles to come to terms with the emotional damage of war.  Photo credit: Josh Pitt

Actress Kaya Yuzuki as Matron Hisamatsu

Actress Kaya Yuzuki as Matron Hisamatsu

Ian and Leo go through a scene.

Ian and Leo go through a scene.  Photo credit: Chris Willmore

Dominic shows Anna (Kayano) how to operator a camera!

Dominic shows Anna (Kayano) how to operate a camera!  Photo credit: Chris Willmore

Luke, Ian, Dan, Dominic and Josh shooting a scene on one of our outdoor locations.

From left to right; Luke, Ian, Dan, Dominic and Josh shooting a scene on one of our outdoor locations.  Photo credit: Chris Willmore

Interview with Fr. Paul Glynn author of “A Song For Nagasaki”

Fr. Paul Glynn

Fr. Paul Glynn is the author of “A Song For Nagasaki”, which is one of the books that inspired our movie. In this interview filmed during our research trip to Japan, he explains what the story of Takashi Nagai can teach us today.

With more filming about to commence next week, we’re busy preparing for the work ahead. Stay tuned for more behind the scenes info, photos and production stills soon!

Show your support for “All That Remains” on Indiegogo! (Click the link below).

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Fat Man is conceived – video clip

Below is the scene where Prof. Peierls writes up the memorandum which lays out the details necessary to construct a super bomb. This information would lead to the building of Fat Man, the atom bomb which destroyed Nagasaki.

The clip is pre-sound mixed

Our Indiegogo campaign is going great, thanks to everyone who has so generously contributed! Check it out by clicking the link below!

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The halfway point! Almost…

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We’ve been very busy since our last blog….

With more filming set to take place this Friday (the 14th December), we’ve also had two other big filming days since the previous update.

The first was a location shoot that took place in St. Augustine’s Church in Birmingham (UK) a stunning church that made a perfect set-piece for the interior of Urakami Cathedral – the cathedral that was destroyed in the bombing, and whose spire was used to guide the B29 that dropped the bomb on that fateful day.

Once again, the supporting cast were incredibly patient and a joy to work with.

The second shoot was studio based and started with filming the infamous night that Professor Rudolf Peierls turned the theory of an atom bomb into a reality. To play the part of Peierls, British actor Roger Harding underwent a complete physical transformation thanks to the stunning work of our very talented make-up artist Vera Fenlon and her assistant Stephanie Bentham.

“Roger was such a great sport,” says director Ian Higgins, “we asked him if he’d be OK wearing contacts and he told us he’d never worn them before but was completely open to whatever we had in mind – which was a big relief as it was a pretty big make-up job that we had in mind!”

“The make-up looks amazing and Roger literally transformed into Rudolf Peierls before our eyes”, adds director Dominic Higgins.

The remaining first half of the day focused on scenes with the occupying American forces in the aftermath of the bombing, working with American actor Sid Phoenix and British actor Richard Grayson. “Both these guys were very strong actors and great fun to work with, but it was very much a case of knowing the moment we first saw them that they would be right for the roles we had in mind”, explains Ian.

“We first saw Sid in a short film and we knew he was the right actor to play the part of a character we had written – a young American officer who witnesses the devastation of the bombing and later argues to have Dr. Nagai’s seminal book, The Bells of Nagasaki published”, says Dominic.

These scenes also included a short scene with Kayano Nagai, Takashi’s daughter. “We’ve found the perfect little girl to play Kayano in 4 year old Anna Kimura,” points out Ian.

“We were a little apprehensive as it was her first scene and she’s had no previous experience in front of cameras, but Anna was such so relaxed in front of the camera, we got some great shots very easily,” says Dominic.

The entire second half of the day was given over to getting more shots for the bombing scene itself – with supporting cast members undergoing intensive make-up by Vera and Stephanie.

“Vera and Stephanie really helped bring the horror of that day to life again”, says Dominic.

We were joined on both shoots by, hair/make-up and film technician students from Birmingham and South College (UK). As always, the new crew were thrown straight into the deep end from day one – with the hair students getting to grips with period hairstyles for 30 extras.

“The students proved to be a credit to the college and we certainly look forward to welcoming more students to the upcoming shoots ahead”, says Ian.

We were also privileged to have Sir Doug Ellis OBE visit the set, he chatted to both students and production crew and shared some fascinating personal stories of his own experiences in the pacific during WW2. He also offered to make an incredibly generous donation towards the film!  A huge thank you to Sir Doug!

The local press were also there, you can read all about it here.

Also once again, we’d like to say thank you to all who have been so generous during the course of this production, with our most recent crowd funding campaign those who donated have contributed to over half of the money we need. We couldn’t mention the crowd funding campaign without mentioning our great friend and honouree producer Frank Weathers for his very considerable part in helping us achieve the success we have. Thanks Frank!

After Friday’s shoot, we’ll have filmed almost all of the first half of the script which deals with the life of Dr. Nagai before the atomic bombing. Although much of the bombing sequence has now also been filmed, most of the drama scenes that take place during and after the bombing  have not.

“It’s very exciting though to have almost reached the half way milestone!” Exclaims Dominic.

“The second half of the script is the really tough part, with so much of it dealing with the aftermath of the bombing and it’s devastation, so it’ll be nice to have a few days off over Christmas first.” says Ian.

Now it’s back to storyboards, shot lists and organizing, as we prepare to get more scenes in the bag this Friday!

Below are some stills from the last two days of shooting. All behind the scenes photos are courtesy of Phil Pugh.

St. Augustine's church

St. Augustine’s church made a great set piece

Filming at St. Augustine's church

Filming at St. Augustine’s church – Ian and Dominic explain what they’re looking for, while Joel gets the camera set up.

St. Augustine's church

The impressive interior of St. Augustine’s church caught the eye of directors Ian & Dominic Higgins as an ideal location to film the Urakami Cathedral scenes.

Producer Joel Fletcher with crew member Dan Woodward

Producer Joel Fletcher with crew member Dan Woodward

The supporting cast getting ready for a take

The supporting cast getting ready for a take

Ian getting his angle

Ian setting up for a shot.

Producer Nigel Davey making sure everyone is happy.

Producer Nigel Davey making sure everyone is happy.

Ian & Dominic at work

Dominic gets the angle while Ian checks the lighting is just right.

Wardrobe dept.

Monica, by now an expert in fastening a Japanese Obi.

 South and City Birmingham college.

We were joined on both shoots by members of South and City Birmingham college.

Hair dept.

Hair department, courtesy of South and City Birmingham college!

Chris getting to grips with one of our cameras.

South and City Birmingham student Chris getting to grips with one of our cameras.

Make-up artist Stephanie Bentham

Make-up artist Stephanie Bentham making sure American actor Sid Phoenix is “camera ready”.

British Actor Richard Grayson

British Actor Richard Grayson on his way to the greenscreen studio.

Actor Roger Harding

British Actor Roger Harding just about to undergo his make-up transformation.

Make-up Artist Vera at work.

Make Up artist Vera at work.

Roger Harding

Roger has one eye on the part – Roger with his first contact lens fitted.

Filming

Ian and Dominic getting the shot framed.

Ian and Roger enjoy a chat and a coffee

Ian and Roger enjoy a chat and a coffee.

Dominic setting up a shot.

Dominic setting up a shot.

Anna Kimura plays Takashi Nagai's daughter

Anna Kimura plays Takashi Nagai’s daughter. But first, she needed a change of hairstyle…

Anna getting her wig fitted.

Anna getting her wig fitted.

Anna's new hair.

Anna’s new hairstyle!

Ian checks Anna

Ian checks Anna before her first scene.

Anna with actor Sid Phoenix on set

Anna with actor Sid Phoenix on set .

Greenscreen set

Anna and Sid about to film a short scene.

Vera at work

Vera prepares Japanese actress Miwa Saeki.

Make-up team

Students from South and City Birmingham help our make-up artists. Singer/actor Charlie Green also joins the line up as we get ready to shoot more scenes from the day of the bombing.

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Vera's make-up work.

Vera’s make-up work really brought the horrors of that day back to life.

One of the supporting cast in make-up

One of the supporting cast in make-up.

Sir Doug Ellis on set

Sir Doug Ellis OBE on set, with South and City college principle  Mike Hopkins.

 

The Birmingham connection

The Frisch-Peierls Memorandum

Memorandum on the properties of a radioactive “super-bomb”

While researching the screenplay for All That Remains, director’s Ian and Dominic Higgins discovered a strange connection with their home city of Birmingham in the UK, and the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

In 1937, German born professor Rudolf Peierls took up a position as Head of Applied Mathematics at Birmingham University.  Two years later he was joined by Otto Robert Frisch, and the two of them began work on atomic research.

In early 1940, while taking a walk through the blacked out city streets, the pair realised how the theoretical possibility of an atomic bomb could be a practical reality.

In March, they typed up the Frisch-Peierls Memorandum in the Nuffield building of the university. The three page report was the first to set out how one could construct an atomic bomb or, as they called it, “a super bomb”, from a small amount of fissionable uranium-235 and calculated that it would be enough to create a temperature equivalent to that of the interior of the sun.

The memorandum opens with:

Strictly Confidential

Memorandum on the properties of a radioactive “super-bomb”

The attached detailed report concerns the possibility of constructing a “super-bomb” which utilizes the energy stored in atomic nuclei as a source of energy. The energy liberated in the explosion of such a super-bomb is about the same as that produced by the explosion of 1000 tons of dynamite. This energy is liberated in a small volume, in which it will, for an instant, produce a temperature comparable to that in the interior of the sun. The blast from such an explosion would destroy life in a wide area. The size of this area is difficult to estimate, but it will probably cover the centre of a big city.

In addition, some part of the energy set free by the bomb goes to produce radioactive substances, and these will emit very powerful and dangerous radiations. The effect of these radiations is greatest immediately after the explosion, but it decays only gradually and even for days after the explosion any person entering the affected area will be killed.

Some of this radioactivity will be carried along with the wind and will spread the contamination; several miles downwind this may kill people.

The findings presented in the paper, became an important trigger in the establishment of the Manhattan Project in the United States, and the subsequent development of the atomic bombs dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“When working on a project, we always look for any connections we may have with the story, as it helps make it feel more personal”, said Dominic.

“This one was a real surprise though,” adds Ian. “To think, in a way, the story of the atomic bombing really began in Birmingham”.

The directors have decided the film will now contain a short scene depicting this connection.

Peierls at work

Peierls at work

The Seamless Art

The painterly look of All That Remains.

As All That Remains will contain lots of archive material spanning from Pre-World War Two Japan to Post atomic bombing of Nagasaki, a lot of effort is going in to cleaning up and restoring these archive shots, and this work has had an impact on the intended visual style of the movie.
Directors Ian and Dominic Higgins are keen to explore ways of seamlessly blending the archive material that we have with any dramatic reconstruction scenes. Ian Explains, “this way, when we cut to the archive shots, during the dramatic reconstructions, the audience isn’t taken out of the drama, and consequently that vital emotional connection isn’t broken”.

“We have lots of amazing archive footage and we want to use as much as possible, but we like the idea that you can’t always tell what is real footage and what are shots that we’ve re-created on computers,” adds Dominic. “Of course, there will still be times when it’s obviously archive material as some of the footage is so badly damaged, but that’s OK, as it’s also part documentary there will still be moments taken from a retrospective point of view anyway– we just don’t want the drama sequences to be punctuated with the sense of distance from an event, that you get when watching old footage.”

“We always like to push the boat out both visually and from a story telling point of view and  I don’t think there’s been a film shot quite like this before, with different elements  blended together and given this pseudo painterly look – the idea of mixing in real people from the time and real recordings of actual events with the reconstructed sequences using actors and CGI this way feels more natural and the scenes will have much more potency,” concludes Ian.

Below are some more stills showcasing the “painterly look” and how it helps blend the different elements together.

Painterly look

Painterly style

Painterly style

Painterly style

Painterly style

Painterly style

You may have noticed there is another link on the menu called Production Hub, which is password protected, well, you may remember when we were running our Indiegogo fund raising campaigns, certain perks promised privileged “peeks behind the scenes” on some of the sequences in progress and other areas of production development/design – well this is where we’ll be posting them.

In fact, we’ve just uploaded a video sequence testing out the painterly/graphic style discussed in this blog – as it is also part of a key sequence in the movie (the atomic bombing) we’re keen to keep it under wraps at this stage, hence it not being posted in the public section of this blog, but for those who purchased the relevant perks, if you haven’t already, you can see it now!

Those who purchased the relevant perks on our indiegogo campaign should have received their passwords to unlock the page.  If you haven’t, then email us here.

You can also check out the personal blog of Ian and Dominic Higgins for more on the techniques and ideas behind the movie.

The grand design of All That Remains

As we work hard on raising the much needed budget for the drama sequences, there’s an awful lot of other work to be done. The main focus right now is on the script, which is currently being re-worked. As anticipated before our trip to Japan, the interviews and personal experiences we encountered has greatly influenced the drama aspects, but this is just one of many jobs that needs to be done…

The other big job that has to be tackled before we can shoot is the production design and pre-visualisation of certain scenes – that is storyboarding, “pre-visual” artwork and test shots of the special effects. All films require an enormous amount of planning, but a film that deals with epic scenes of war and destruction demands so much more.

Directors Ian and Dominic Higgins always like to envisage a scene before they shoot it and often, at the back of their sets, you’ll find a wall covered in storyboard art.

Storyboards on wall

Storyboards on wall

“Storyboards are vital for working out potential problems before you even pick up a camera”, explains Ian. “But, most importantly, they allow us to convey our vision for a particular scene to all the crew and cast, so everyone knows what to do”.

“The other reason they are so important is they act as check list of shots, when you have to have a certain amount of shots in the bag before the end of day, it’s so easy to miss one or two because things can become a mad blur of activity”, adds Dominic.

Storyboard art

Designing a sequence - A storyboard illustrating the directors vision for a scene

Of course a film such as this is going to require big effect shots, and not just the obvious ones of mass destruction and warfare. “We’re going to recreate a Nagasaki that no longer exists, so there has to be no modern looking buildings in sight”, explains Dominic. “We’re bringing the past back to life so our audience can experience the life of Dr. Nagai and feel that all important connection”.

Nagasaki before the bombing.

Nagasaki before the bombing - FX shot.

Nagasaki after the bombing – FX shot

Nagasaki after the bombing – FX shot.

To create the necessary special effects, “All That Remains” will draw on both cutting edge technology such as computer generated imagery and 3D animation and more old fashioned (and time honoured) techniques such as model miniatures and prosthetic make-up.

Computer generated Urakami Cathedral

Computer generated model of Urakami Cathedral.

Computer generated model of Urakami Cathedral

Another view of the computer generated Urakami Cathedral.

“We’re big fans of mixing mediums, besides it makes it a lot harder to tell how a certain effect was created when you draw on a variety of techniques. Special Effects are the magic tricks of film, if it’s too obvious how an effect is achieved, the illusion is blown and the spell is broken”, enthuses Ian. “The more real the re-constructed sequences feel, the easier an audience will become involved,” points out Dominic.

Pre-visual artwork

Dr. Nagai vs the Fat Man - Pre-visual artwork illustrating a dream scene in "All That Remains".

Amongst the ever expanding pile of production art-work, test FX shots and concept sketches, one thing is clear; we have the makings of a very special and unique tribute to an equally unique and special life of a modern day saint, who endured the unthinkable and left behind a legacy of hope.

Please show your support by heading over to Indiegogo and making a pledge. Every dollar/pound goes a very long way!

Indiegogo link - help make it happen!

Pledge your support today!

Don’t forget, we’re also offering the chance for a few people to own a piece of the movie (and a percentage of any profits the film will make.) Email us here for more info on this special and limited offer.

A message from the heart and the Maria Hibakusha

From day one, we intended this film to be shaped by the people that we would interview, that it would be, as much as possible, Nagasaki itself telling us the story of its heritage and the life story of surely its greatest adopted son. We wanted it to be as personal and real as we could possibly make it.

This is why, the scripting of the drama aspects was kept open for change right up until we returned from Japan and had watched through the hours of interviews that we had captured, and why we’re still in the process of shaping the final draft of the script.

“It’s a fascinating and exciting way to work, “ explained Director Dominic Higgins, “because, even when you’re sitting in the edit room, you don’t quite know where things are going to go.”

“It’s a very organic way of working and the story is telling itself, we’re just fusing the elements together, and then adding modern technology to bring it back to life – and that’s the way it should be for this kind of story”, added Director Ian Higgins.

We were very privileged to have been granted an interview with the Archbishop of Nagasaki, the Most Reverend Joseph Mitsuaki Takami. As the head of the Catholic community in Nagasaki, his voice is crucial to the telling of this story.

 Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami

Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami interviewed for "All That Remains".

The Archbishop also introduced us to the “Maria Hibakusha” – the burned head of a statue of Mary from the Cathedral at Urakami. Hibakusha is a Japanese word that literally translates to “explosion effected person” and its scars eerily mirror those of the human victims with its once piercing blue eyes burned out of their sockets. The statue head was one of the most haunting sites that we saw while filming in Japan.

Maria Hibakusha

"Maria Hibakusha" - a silent witness.

In the exclusive video “extra” below, Archbishop Takami explains what the message of Nagasaki is for the world and talks about the Maria Hibakusha.