by Gregory Schaefer
I cut a path of destruction across the great divide. It wasn’t intentional, bad things just started to happen when I packed up the U-HAUL and began the drive from Miami to Los Angeles. I had no angels guarding me though. No sir. The whole damn way I was chased by the Devil. He drives an El Camino.
I got off to a slow start with flat tires in Mississippi, a bridge collapsing in Oklahoma and the inevitable food poisoning from Denny’s. The friends I visited along the way were laid-off from work the day I arrived. And then there were brush fires, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis…not even the Texas-shaped pool at the Big Texan Steak Ranch was enough to scare me from my path to Hollywood! “East is evil, West is good,” I told myself and pushed the compass.
The devil was fierce on my tail. I figured he’d turn around at the California border but he stuck with me all the way to LA. I kept waiting for IT to happen– the horrible catastrophic disaster that would sweep me under, but it never came. Instead, Satan calmly pulled up to my Silverlake flat, wrote down my address and winked at me before peeling out. He knows where I live. Bad things keep happening.
LA vs. Japan
Moving to LA has been about twenty times tougher than moving to Japan. Part of that is simply because I had no job lined up in LA, or friends, but it also has to do with sheer luck, or the Devil. I find it hard to believe, but it’s a tougher life in Los Angeles than in Japan.
That’s cool. I’m learning. I didn’t expect it to be easy…I figured it’d be an experience and a great place to learn my craft. It’s all that! Though it’s tempting to eke out a living as a crack ho or just get some lame office job, I’m fighting on. I’ve got sharper survival skills, industry savvy, and all around I’m a much better filmmaker.
But still, it’s rough going in LA. I guess moving anywhere new and unknown presents a year of difficulties. You just gotta grit your teeth and get through it. My whole first year in Japan was pretty grim after the initial neon glow wore off. The same goes for year one of College. And that’s where it really all began.
I majored in Telecommunications Production, figuring that video and TV was the most intriguing of all the media studies. My school’s program was less than inspiring and after graduation I vowed to NEVER work in Production.
Enter Japan. That first year was so shitty, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Officially I was an “English Teacher,” but this proved to be a crappy job. It afforded a good lifestyle and lots of vacation time, but professionally I did NOT want to be a babysitter. I was thirsty to find a passion–my niche. When my good friend Dan propositioned me with a film project, I jumped at the chance.
japanned, pre production
Tokyo, July 26. I remember the date precisely because it marked my one-year anniversary as a Japanese resident. Tokyo was not my scene. I’d been backpacking through the city for a couple days, sleeping in bars, showering at McDonalds and stinking of the radiating urban heat.
Dan was visiting Tokyo for work and we met up at a dumpy cafe in Shibuya where I ordered “RAYMEN,” an ice cold bowl of ramen noodles. I was slurping away when he asked the question, “So, my friend Colin and I have written a script for a short film and we were wondering if you’d act in it?” Act? Hell yeah, I’m a goddamned show-off…but I wanted a piece of the REEL action too.
“You should let me help produce this sucker,” I offered.
And thus it began. The next thing I knew, the MELLOW MONKEY PRODUCTION COMPANY was born, our cash was pooled and we formed a plan of action. Pre production had begun.
Looking at this first [half] year in LA I laugh at the devil and the way he keeps teasing me. It’s tough. It’s frustrating. It will take a while before things start to go my way, before I can bust my foot through the doors of the industry and really kick some celluloid ass. But that’s fine because I AM HERE and I AM DOING IT!
Japan was easy. It only took one bizarre year of exploration before I delved into that cold bowl of noodles and realized why I was there– to create, to tell stories, to film. My passion steamed and the film boiled into production. The madness followed…
I’d been japanned.