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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Presenting the bigger picture…

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These past few months directors Ian and Dominic Higgins have been buried away working on the edit of the film, honing scenes, polishing the visuals and designing the soundscape, but now they have announced they will shortly present the first test screening of a completed edit  (with only directors and producers present) – so stay tuned for more info on this!

In the meantime, it appears our film isn’t the only thing to soon be revealed (albeit at this stage to only select crew).  We came across an interesting and very timely story in the Ashai Shimbun newspaper.

It is common knowledge that Dr. Nagai was a convert to Christianity and that it was his new found faith that he turned to when confronted with the horrors of war. What is not common knowledge though is that Christianity in Japan is a little different to Christianity in the West.

Having been driven underground in the early 17th Century by the Japanese government of that time, these hidden Christians or “Krishitans” as they became known, began to develop their own form of Christianity, incorporating certain aspects of Buddhism and Shinto into their practices.

Now it seems the Vatican is about to start its first extensive study on the Krishitans.

A still from "26 Martyrs" courtesy of Pixel Revolution Films

A still from “26 Martyrs” courtesy of Pixel Revolution Films

Naturally there are some who question as to whether the Krishitans should be considered as Christians.

Annibale Zambarbieri, a professor of religion at the University of Pavia in Italy, has this to say in answer, “I think that we should call them, ‘Old Christians.’ Christianity has often mixed with local cultures. Even Pope Francis said that they are model believers. There is no reason not to regard them as Christians.”

Our experiences with Fr. Paul Glynn and his parishioners in Nara certainly back these words up.

For more on this, here’s a the full article from Ashai Shimbun….

We’ve made the news in Japan!

News of our film has been picked up by the Asahi Shimbun, which is one of the five national newspapers in Japan.

Directors, Ian & Dominic Higgins and Lead actor Leo Ashizawa were interviewed for the article. The English version can be read here.

All That Remains in the  Asahi Shimbun.

All That Remains in the Asahi Shimbun.

An evolving movie…

A- bomb FX sequence

The A-bomb sequence is one that is very much in a constant state of change and development as we seek to do justice to the real event.

Monday will see us filming more scenes, including a newly added scene for part of the ending sequence. This won’t be the first new scene that has been added during our filming process, as for Directors Ian and Dominic Higgins, the process of telling this story has been very much a process of remaining open to new influences and new information, allowing the story in many ways to tell itself.

From the director’s blog:

Of course it all starts with the script, which first goes through several drafts before arriving at a “shooting script”. But despite all these re-writes, for us, the shooting script is more a guide, charting the movie’s various dramatic arcs and character dialogue with ideas for camera angles and sound design for each of the scenes.

More ideas will almost certainly be implemented, when working with the cast, because  directing actors is not just a matter of telling them what we want them to do and say, but rather a collaboration, a meeting of artistic and emotional interpretations.

As directors our most important job is to foster such an environment on set that actors feel the same sense of creative freedom that we grant ourselves when writing a script, storyboarding and editing – creative freedom is essential.

Actors will also, of course, do research as part of the preparation for their roles, which means they could very well come across information we missed during our own research. In fact this has been the case on several occasions during the filming of All That Remains.

On one such occasion a brand new scene was added after actress Kaya Yuzuki told us about an incident involving her character that she read in a book only available in Japanese. The scene is now amongst the most powerful in the entire movie.

A powerful and important scene not included in the original script, brought to our attention by one of our cast.

A powerful and important scene not included in the original script, brought to our attention by one of our cast.

Still more ideas will come when editing the footage together, sometimes these ideas will result in new scenes being written or existing scenes being re-written as we’re filming other scenes.

Other ideas will come when working on the sound design of the movie that may affect the visual edit.

Finally, changes and new ideas may be implemented after the film has played to a “test audience”. It really is an organic living thing that is in a constant state of change and improvement.

Field of a thousand suns

The scene above was going to be originally set on veranda of a house, but the day before we shot the scene, we had the idea of having the characters sit outside in a garden or a park surrounded by sunflowers, so the scene would take on a deeper symbolic significance (we’re very big on symbolism) – it’s the morning that the A-bomb will be dropped and these women are sitting in a “field of a thousand suns” a visual reference to common description of the A-bomb flash being brighter than a thousand suns.

hajime1 hajime2This scene, where Takashi is visited by his younger brother Hajime, was written well into the filming process – one of the benefits of stretching the filming out over a period of months (due to budget) is that we get to edit the footage as we are filming.

This means we get to see if a sequence is working right or if it needs something else, like an extra scene, and because we’re still filming, we get the chance to schedule that extra scene into one of the upcoming shoots.

Takashi contemplates the grand design of the universe. Another scene that was not originally in the shooting script.

Takashi contemplates the grand design of the universe. Another scene that was not originally in the shooting script.

What originally started out as a docu-drama has now, through this process of change and evolution, become a full on feature length drama. It is a project that has continually expanded in both scope and vision and will continue to do so, until the very moment the final touches have been added and the release date has been set!

Nagasaki No Kane – A song for Nagasaki and a thank you.

As a thank you to all those who have been so generous in their donations to the production costs of All That Remains so far, we’d thought we’d share this very special memory from our trip to Japan with you.

When visiting Fr. Paul Glynn, author of “A Song For Nagasaki” in Nara, to interview him for our movie, we did not expect to get such a fantastic welcome, a welcome which included a wonderful meal (washed down with sake) and the above performance by Opera singer Yumiko Okada of the song “Nagasaki No Kane” (The Bells of Nagasaki) which was the theme song for the 1949 movie on Dr. Nagai. We think you’ll agree, it’s a very beautiful and powerful song and a stunning performance by Mrs Okada.

Remember every penny really does go a long way to helping us reach the finishing post! If you have a few dollars to spare and fancy being a part of this amazing project click the link below!

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War – up close and personal

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As we prepare for our next shoot in Mid-March, the scenes we shot in early February are taking shape in our edit suite. The main focus of the February shoot was Takashi Nagai’s personal experiences of war during his service in the second Sino-Japanese War.

Takashi Nagai was called for military service in February 1933. Japan and China had been unofficially at war since 1931. Takashi was sent to China as a medical officer in the 11th Hiroshima Infantry Regiment. He would actually serve two tours of duty in China, the second being in 1937 when the unofficial war finally became official.

Takashi’s personal experiences of the horrors and brutality of war had a profound effect on him and influenced him greatly, so for directors Ian & Dominic Higgins it was important to portray at least some of his experiences in China.

“There’s no doubt that Takashi returned from his first tour of duty traumatised but also far more spiritual”, says Dominic.

“Up until his time in China, he was still the scientist exploring the possibility of life after death and religion through the clinical microscope of science, war changed that”, adds Ian.

The war scenes required the usual attention to detail and planning the directors insist on before cameras roll, which meant storyboarding, pre-visual art and shot lists…

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During the filming of the war scenes, the directors have kept their cameras focused on the human cost of war and our make-up artists Stephanie Bentham and Jenny Gillings, aided by Birmingham’s South and City college students Donna Woodman and Dolly Karoni, did a fantastic job helping us to bring a sense of reality to the scenes.

Below are some stills from the China war sequences…

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We’ll be posting an exclusive preview of a very special scene on the Production Hub page soon!

The filming gets back underway….

This Monday and Tuesday we’re shooting more scenes and that means we’ve been hard at work these last few days with plenty of planning and preparation. Before any shoot, we design the scenes. We do this by using storyboards and shot lists.

 
When it comes to the storyboarding we opt for 3D software as opposed to the traditional hand drawn ones, as the software we use allows us to work with “virtual” cameras and lights, meaning we get to test out different ideas with camera angles and lighting set-ups well in advance of the filming dates.

3D pre-viz

3D pre-viz

Using 3D software that utilizes virtual cameras, lights and actors (even if they sometimes resemble mannequins) really helps bring a scene to life.

For those of you who have access to the “Production Hub” we’ve uploaded the storyboards for the up-coming shoots.

Coming soon… a special extended preview.

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Wasting no time at all, directors Ian and Dominic Higgins have been busy at work in the editing room since the New Year began, cutting a “special extended preview” of All That Remains.

“We’re very excited with how this film is shaping up and we really wanted to let everyone who has supported us and everyone who has contributed to the making of this film up until now, see for themselves, the results of all the hard work so far”, says Dominic.

“Although we have a lot of work ahead and plenty more scenes to shoot, the trailer will give a really good impression of the scale of this project and the vision behind the scale,” adds Ian.

The trailer will premiere in 9 days’ time on our official Facebook page, but if you have access to our Production Hub, you can watch it right now!

More auditions and more greenscreen…

Last Monday was a busy day – what with holding auditions for the role of Kayano (Dr. Nagai’s daughter and the young Takashi) and the filming of key scenes from the opening sequences!

It was a great day though, well worth every minute and we’ll be announcing our casting decisions very soon. In the meantime, a big thank you to all the parents who brought their children to the auditions.

Also another thank you to our wonderful costume assistant/adviser Kikuko Wall whose help was invaluable, and to Bill Evans, who went the extra mile for us, quite literally!

Actress Theresa Nguyen and hair stylist Jenny Gillings

Actress Theresa Nguyen and hair stylist Jenny Gillings

Japanese actress Kyoko Morita plays Tsune Nagai.

Japanese actress Kyoko Morita plays Tsune Nagai, the mother of Takashi.

Actress Kyoko Morita kindly postponed a trip to Japan for a week so she would be available for our shoot. Not only did she look great in the part – she gave a wonderful performance as Tsune Nagai, the mother of Takashi.

Check out Kyoko’s website here.

Actress Ava Lyn Koh with Kyoko Morita preparing for a scene

Actress Ava Lyn Koh with Kyoko Morita preparing for a scene

The next big shoot will be the “Cathedral scene” on 10th November, which will be filmed at a location in Birmingham. “We’ve found the perfect place for the scene,” explains Ian, “a beautiful church that really has the grand look of a cathedral inside and looks simply stunning on camera”. “We just need to fill it out with as many people as we can”, adds Dominic.

So, once again, we’re looking for members of the Japanese community to appear as extras.  All ages are welcome, both male and female. If you’re interested in doing something a little different on Saturday 10th November, why not come along – it’ll be a fun day for sure! For further details please contact Nigel at daveyfilms@aol.com.

Here’s a video showing some before and after shots from the greenscreen scenes we’ve filmed so far.

Below are a few more stills too showing how the footage we’ve shot so far is shaping up…

Still 1

Still 1

Still 2

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Still 3

Still 3

Greenscreen shoot – Week 1

The first phase of the filming is now complete, and many key scenes from the first half of the script are now in the bag.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s a good time to look back and see just how far we’ve come with this project.

It’s been two years of hard, hard slog- research, research and more research, endless script rewrites, an outpour of storyboards and production artwork, countless hours spent fund raising…   Long days and sleepless nights, but we’ve been driven by a passion to make this happen.

Script

Most of the filming is now taking place in a location in Birmingham. We were lucky to find a perfect location for our shoot. Everything we need is literally on one site, studio space for our greensceen set-up, catering facilities,  a coffee and tea area for cast and crew to relax and even a hotel to put up the cast members who were sleeping over. And with the beautiful Lickey Hills on our doorstep, what more could we ask for?

For most of the cast this is their first real experience of working with greenscreen, which brings new challenges for them and an exciting vibe to the set.

Greenscreen

Getting ready for a take

We’d like to give special thanks here to, Tomasina Scott, Kikuko Wall and Sheila and Bill Evans.

Sheila and Bill have been amazing to us during our shoot, when they haven’t been preparing wonderful food for the cast and crew, they’ve been coming to rescue in the props department!

On the last day of this part of the shoot, our cast and crew had the choice of enjoying authentic Japanese cuisine, courtesy of a local Japanese lady, Tomasina Scott. Interestingly we learnt that Tomasina grew up in Hiroshima and that her mother was there the day the first bomb was dropped. A big thank you to Tomasina for spending the day with us and for preparing all that delicious food!

Once again we have to thank, Kikuko, a very special lady, who came all the way from Telford to bring us a suitcase full of beautiful Kimono’s for us to use on set.

From left to right – Kikuko, Sheila, Yuna, Meg and Tomasina

The second phase of filming, which will concentrate mainly on scenes after the bombing, will take place in late October/early November.

In the meantime though, there’s plenty of work to do with the footage we’ve now got, as most of it has been shot in a greenscreen studio, meaning the sets and locations have to be added, and then there is the “grading” process – the part where we give the film its unique look. We’ve added a few stills of shots we’ve worked on below, to illustrate the work that goes into creating the final images you’ll see on screen.

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Below are some stills from our first week’s shoot, enjoy! All behind the scenes photos by Phil Pugh.

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Nicholas Lu-Fong plays Makoto Nagai

Nicholas gets into the part with a new haircut.

Nicholas gets into the part with a new haircut

Leo (Takashi), Nicholas (Makoto), and Yuna (Midori).

Leo (Takashi), Nicholas (Makoto), and Yuna (Midori)

Wardrobe

Wardrobe department

Actress Yuriri Naka undergoes  a two hour make-up session

Actress Yuriri Naka undergoes a two hour make-up session to play an atom bomb scared victim

Meg and Leo

Actress Meg Kubota and lead actor Leo Ashizawa enjoy a coffee and a chat

Dinner

Dinner, East meets West. A local Japanese lady brought a Japanese banquet to the set. Special thanks also to Sheila and Bill Evans for the splendid food they made for us on the day

Ian and Leo

Ian and Leo discuss Character

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Nicholas is proving to be a natural in front and behind the camera

Painting light

Dominic painting with Light

Cast and crew

Directors Ian & Dominic show cast and crew some of the shots they’ve been working on

Two crew members stand in for our cast as we set up a shot.

Two crew members stand in for our cast as we set up a shot

Cast and crew

Cast and crew