looking back at hopes & dreams by Sarah Kakusho

“I live to tell stories. I live to tell my story and moreover, I live to tell people’s stories. As an aspiring filmmaker, I strive to seek perspective. As a Japanese American, I strive to seek perspective within myself, through both my Japanese identity and my American identity. Throughout grade school, I was brought up knowing very little about Japan or its language and culture. Looking Japanese, I was also treated differently even though I considered myself American. I found myself stuck in between two cultural identities: one that I was fully immersed in with my life here in America, and the other I could only obtain through watching television shows broadcasted in Japan. However, knowing little Japanese, I felt I was missing an essential part of myself. Being surrounded by many Japanese students at my previous university, I felt this void slowly fill as I learned more about Japan’s culture and even be able to read and write a little. Studying in Buenos Aires for one semester, I realized that being a filmmaker means having a voice, to have perspective and foremost, to have a sense a self. To make people’s stories influential and have an impact on others, one must have a sense of identity to be able to relate and connect to the very heart of the people.

What then, are the stories I want to tell? The stories of Japanese Americans. My motivation for wanting to study Japanese is to be able to connect to people through the medium of film and to contribute to the storytelling of the lives of Japanese Americans today. Of course, in studying Japanese, I would first be able to connect with my family members in Japan on a more philosophical level to learn about the nuances and similarities that make two different cultures different, yet the same. My love for film and my growing love for my Japanese counterpart has become the driving force in my life to contribute to the world’s efforts to connect people through understanding and education. My goal in life is to help create the connections between people through the medium of film. Film is my passion because I can combine all of my hobbies like composing music and writing stories. These two have the ability to transcend verbal language and reach people’s hearts through motion and music. Studying at an institute where it promotes global camaraderie, I hope I’ll be able to connect to Japanese and Japanese‐Americans alike to share our stories.”

— statement of purpose, S. Kakusho
Musings of an Aspiring filmmaker 

The Shape of Life by Sarah Kakusho

Recently, my dreams have given me rides back to my past. Small moments of my childhood highlighted in momentary flashes. This is the inevitability of the past. The unchangeable thing that shapes who we are right here, right now. It will never go away and will always be a part of you. As I started outlining character analyses for Project ON.FA.EL, I found myself staring deeper and deeper into the vacuous white space of Word. How do characters created from scratch have a past? Thinking back to my past musings on Beethoven and Miyazaki, what makes their lives so great to us is the fact that we’ve taken the time to delve into their experiences.

What makes life? As I took the time to really think about my characters, I imagined different scenarios and how these characters would react to them. As one example, if the protagonist were followed by a gang of people, how would she talk to them? How would she act around them? What would be her first move? I slowly began to see that this was a crucial process in storytelling. How a person reacts to a situation can already say a lot about a character and it definitely goes without saying that actions leave impressions.

Watching James Cameron’s making of Avatar, I was inspired by the dedication he and his crew put into creating the Na’vi. A linguist was on the project, just to create the entire language of the Na’vi, even though it was only for a 3-hour long movie. Cameron wanted the audience to believe the Na’vi are real, that Pandora is real, and one way to accomplish that was establishing everything from scratch.

While I may not be creating an entire race of people from nothing, I am still creating people from fiction, and fiction from imagination. How do I shape these characters’ lives without letting them fall trapped in a cliche. How do I make these people interesting and engaging when I myself lack this personally (lol). How do I make them human enough for us to believe, but extraordinary to inspire?

Since starting this project, I found myself knowing less and less about filmmaking. My mind is still filled with many worries and my confidence level wavers many times throughout the late hours I’m working on this. But, the show must go on. Through this process, the struggles of creating something, it’s becoming more eye-opening as I continue reflecting upon what needs to be done to let this project soar.

頑張ります。

“If you wait until the right time to have a child you’ll die childless, and I think film making is very much the same thing. You just have to take the plunge and just start shooting something even if it’s bad.” —James Cameron

As I continue to prepare, Japan-bound... by Sarah Kakusho

Project ON-FA-EL is probably, by far, the most challenging and biggest filming endeavor I’ve started and taken up. Why I decided to make it more challenging by doing this all in Japan is beyond me, but this coming year… adventure awaits!

And as I prepare for my studies in Japan, I came across this. A little aside on how the Japanese film industry works.

Yume wo Ou Kimi v3 by Sarah Kakusho

Yume wo Ou Kimi (piano-leadguitar-bass-elecbeat-drums-fill uncompressed)

Pt. 3 of i dunno how many.  I’m starting to write the lyrics for this once I finalize the melody.  This is the only thing that’s been ringing in my mind the past couple of days.  I wake up to it, shower to it, jam to it, break with it, drive to it, sleep to it.  Hope it’ll turn out as well as it plays in my head.  So far so good I guess.  This is a rough instrumental cut without the rhythm guitar and equalizing of all of the instruments (as you could probably tell, the bass is a little to overpowering).  Enjoy.

Words Spoken and Unspoken by Sarah Kakusho

We’re too reliant on words. So many words carelessly slip through people’s lips as they waste away breaths of air on vague thoughts and boorish complaints. Do people really think about the words that are coming out of their mouths? America is all too loud, filled with people too low context to try to understand a person beyond verbal communication.

i’m a victim of a society that requires straightforward explanations for everything.

Words unspoken sometimes have the greater impact when we try to convey something far deeper than what can be expressed in words. It’s one way to directly tell someone your intentions, but it’s another way to show them, make them think. Stuck in between one low context culture and one high context culture, I seek middle ground. Who exactly am I trying to reach out to?

Be that these thoughts are my own, I’m certain somewhere, someone in the world shares the same thoughts as I do. There are some things that just cannot be conveyed verbally. Of course, because we try to create tangibility with the intangible. Thoughts, feelings, memories. But are these enough to transcend language barriers?

“I would never make a picture especially for foreign audiences. If a work can’t have meaning to Japanese audiences, I as a Japanese artist am simply not interested. How can a man make a film for another culture without a keen feeling for the people, their likes and dislikes and the way they think and act? If a director could live in a country for perhaps two or three years, could learn the language and customs, then he might be able to make some kind of film.” – Akira Kurosawa

Looking back at this quote while going through old notes from Capstone, I felt my candle of learning being rekindled in such a way that school has never done before. With 30-some days left in the States, I’ve been preparing for my studies in Japan in ways beyond language. While my primary focus is to study Japanese, my other purpose is to become part of the culture, to understand Japan. As I shift and focus my concentration in the film industry to Japanese and Japanese-American film, I’ve realized my understanding of Japan is still far too little to even reach the hearts of the Japanese.

My current project, Project ON.FA.EL, will include three short films on music, life, family and friendship focusing on Japanese and Japanese-Americans. Two of the three films happen to be set in Japan. Be it ethnocentric or not, for now I only want to concentrate on what I know best, or at least what I think I know, and will learn in this next year abroad. My goal for this project is to explore how are cultural upbringings shape our identity as a person. With or without words, I hope Project ON.FA.EL will transcend Japanese and American borders despite differences and that both will find some meaning in what I hope to convey.

Yume wo Ou Kimi v2 by Sarah Kakusho

Yume wo Ou Kimi (piano-bass-drums uncompressed)

Pt. 2 of I dunno how many.  It took me a really long time to get into the mindset of a drummer.  It just goes to show every person in a band has her way of contributing to the music.  It’s getting harder and harder to complete this, but it will be done.  This is exactly what I needed to get away from all that is home and work.  Tomorrow will be better.  Happy February.

Yume wo Ou Kimi v1 by Sarah Kakusho

Yume wo Ou Kimi (piano and bass)

A piece of my first song of 2011, and also the first one I’m writing with lyrics since 2007.  Yume wo Ou Kimi (夢を追う君) can roughly translate to ”The You who’s Chasing Your Dreams”.  Inspired by those around me who are working vigorously toward the people they want to become in the future.

"You must have a firm foundation." by Sarah Kakusho

One of the producers at work asked me a very significant question: are you working on any of your own projects right now? While this may seem like an easy “yes,” I was somehow overwhelmed by this question. I would like to think I’m working on my projects, but it’s definitely easier to say that I haven’t been working on them as much as I’d like to. I spent the rest of the day reflecting on my experiences these past seven months working at this company. It’s definitely evolved from simply game-testing in QA to creating videos for marketing. As I thought about these things, I questioned my being at Crave Games and its significance. And as I read Hayao Miyazaki’s book, it’s as if an answer came straightaway.

“Go to college and, while enjoying four years of student life, study art if you really want to. I give young people this advice because jumping into the industry four years early isn’t going to help them become full animators any faster. Once you’re in the industry, you will be overwhelmed with work and you won’t have any time to study or learn for yourself” (p23).

Crave Games is an extension of my learning process. I’ve been able to relearn what leadership is while at the same time learning to be self-sufficient. It’s helped me interact and deal with different types of people while still maintaining a healthy, professional relationship with my co-workers. And it’s taken my OCD administrative paperwork dealings to a whole new level. As I thought about this, working here is no different than me being the felt-outta-place student at SUA. It’s crucial training ground for the future.

Today, I felt the film rolls in my head turn again and the images I imagined of the current projects I’m working left me breathless. One shot after another, I couldn’t help but feel this urgency to put it down on paper. And it was at this moment while I was at work I realized, this would not be possible if I were working at a production studio, where I would have to focus my entire being into someone else’s creative endeavor. Not saying, I don’t want to. Just saying it would be unfair to both me and the studio, if I couldn’t put my 1000% focus into either project. Yes, I’m focused at Crave, too… even got offered a promotion which I had to turn down. But because the gaming industry and the film industry differ in process, I’ve been able to manage to work full-time for both Crave and KshKnxnStudio.

The following are my projects for this year. The list will get longer. Guaranteed. But I’m determined to finish filming for one of them by the end of the year.

音楽をなめんじゃねーよ // Finding Azusa // Extraordinary Life
Ritornello
The Memories I Sleep to
That Which Unmasks Our Imperfections

While at times I may feel like Bekka is steering me away from film, I’m taking this as an opportunity to build upon myself and to continue creating, writing, filming, composing. To create the structure of what needs to be done, so that when I’m ready it will be done. This year will be a long and hardy road, but I can only push forward as I continue building myself, my foundation.

Mental motivation and advancement,
-Musings of an Aspiring Filmmaker

“If you plan to reflect what you really want to do in your own work, you must have a firm foundation. My foundation is this: I want to send a message of cheer to all those wandering aimlessly through life.” —Hayao Miyazaki

"when someday your read these words..." by Sarah Kakusho

It is said that Beethoven’s Eroica was one of the markers of a turning point in his musical career. Described as a majestic, heroic piece, Symphony #3 differed from many other symphonies composed before. Despite this free and pressing-onward feeling that you get when you listen to this piece, Eroica was composed during one of Beethoven’s most difficult times, when he first recognized that he was losing his hearing.

As I fell deeper into my slump today, feeling stuck because of pent-up frustration, anger and stress, I found myself listening to this Beethoven piece. Listening to this piece in its entirety, I feel I have felt a life’s worth of emotions in nearly an hour’s worth of time. Beethoven is surely a curious a man, one who is revered for the centuries for his accomplishments, and I wondered how a man like him dealt with the daily struggles that I feel day to day. Seeking to connect to his life for even a brief moment, I searched and found Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter written to his brothers about the despair over his illness:

“But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to despair; a little more of that and I would have ended my life — it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me. So I endured this wretched existence — truly wretched for so susceptible a body, which can be thrown by a sudden change from the best condition to the very worst. Patience, they say, is what I must now choose for my guide, and I have done so — I hope my determination will remain firm to endure until it pleases the inexorable Parcae to break the thread. Perhaps I shall get better, perhaps not; I am ready.”

Everything starts with a single resolve to do something. Perhaps to be prepared for what’s to come, perhaps to have patience, perhaps to be optimistic. Taking the first step with purpose. Yes, that’s what I need to do. While it’s becoming ever harder to work on my projects after work (and sometimes overtime), it’s a step I need to take.

I sometimes wondered whether Beethoven ever thought of composing music as running away from the things around him, just as I do when I’m working on a composition, writing a script or editing footage. But then I thought, perhaps Beethoven’s way of confronting these obstacles was through his music, to overcome them by doing what needed to be done. Likewise, I need music in my life to de-stress and help lift the stress that arises from work and home.

I need faith, practice, study. And, just solitude. Quietude. Maybe that’s something that’ll have to wait till I’m on my own.

With the same spirit as Beethoven, I’m ready.
- Musings of an Aspiring Filmmaker

“The true artist has no pride; unhappily he realizes that art has no limitations, he feels darkly how far he is from the goal, and while, perhaps he is admired by others, he grieves that he has not yet reached the point where the better genius shall shine before him like a distant sun.” — Ludwig van Beethoven

(Source: all-about-beethoven.com)

by Sarah Kakusho

“La PAZ no es la ausencia de problemas, sino la capacidad para enfrentarlos”
“PEACE is not the absence of problems, but rather the ability to confront them.” 

“El AMOR es la ausencia total de miedo”
“LOVE is the complete absence of fear.” 

“La FELICIDAD consiste en permitir que todo acontezca”
“HAPPINESS is to allow everything to happen.”

“La FE es ser conscientes, no creyentes”
 ”FAITH is to be aware, not believers.”

by Sarah Kakusho

Careless and inflammatory rhetoric can be so dangerous as to cause less intelligent, disturbed people to act on inspirations from impulsive and unthinking people.
— a passerby commenting on an article.

by Sarah Kakusho

[T]he most important thing is to first become an indispensable person wherever you are. Instead of moaning over the fact that a job is different from what you’d like to be doing, become a first-class individual at that job. This will open the path leading to the next phase in your life, during which you should also continue doing your best. Such continuous efforts will absolutely land you a job that you like, supports your life, and allows you to also contribute to society. And then, when you look back later, you will be able to see all of your past efforts have become precious assets in your ideal field. You will realize that none of your efforts and hardships have been wasted.
— Josei Toda, excerpt from Discussions on Youth, vol. 1, Daisaku Ikeda

2010: Once Upon a Times and Happily Ever Afters by Sarah Kakusho

2010 for me began as a “Once upon a time, there was senior at SUA…” but the story was far from ending like a storybook.  2010 was far from going the way I had outlined and it came with results far from what I had expected.  But it was the closest I had ever been to the dreams I chased.  With the year ending in mere minutes to midnight, I spend my last night in 2010 lying in bed with Kuma as my company and thoroughly reflecting on my year as I listen to much beloved K-ON!! music.

From my endless struggle to complete grad school applications and then being declined four times from those three schools — to holding elections as SSU Attorney General and protecting the future of SSU — to finishing Capstone — to struggling to find a job, an apartment and a car and all being obtained the week of graduation — to graduating with my classmates from SUA as part of the class of 2010 — to supporting Rock the Era with my life with thousands of people as I struggled to keep up at work — to many film projects — to two film screenings at two film festivals — to performing again in the now Ikeda Youth Ensemble — to editing videos for work — to getting accepted into the Bekka program at SUJ… This was my hard-earned year. 2010.

This year my life was filled with many laughs and tears, hellos and goodbyes, and struggles and victories.  

I also re-immersed myself in anime, something I felt I would grow out of over time.  But, I feel now, I have a sense of appreciation and understanding of the working behind the creation of each show.  So many people are brought together to realize one series, and their creation brings many more people together to enjoy.  While it may be through fanaticism, these works move the people.  Hard work and care move the people.

While we’re in a society so driven by money and consumerism, and while a money value has been put on hard work, dedication and care, the true value comes from the amount people who appreciate the work you’ve created for them.  Being immersed in K-ON and other shows have shown me this.  In my opinion, some of the best animes aired in 2010.  It was definitely an adventure that helped me take a break from all that was happening in my life.  Thank you to the creators, production staff, cast, and broadcasters.

And much appreciation to everyone that’s in my life. 2010 wouldn’t have been as crazy and joyous if all of you weren’t part of it.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. While there are many more things I want to express to show my appreciation to my family, friends and colleagues, words simply cannot express them.  But, I hope that one day, I’ll be able to express them through the actions I take right now.  With a year closer towards my goal, I’ll continue running towards my dreams.  Let’s keep ROCKING THE ERA with the beginning of a new decade.  

May 2011 (amidst all of the other stuff) bring more joy and laughter!

Thanks for an amazing 2010! 
Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! 明けましておめでとうやで!
- Musings of an Aspiring Filmmaker 

[slump day #3] excerpt from Promise to Repeat, "I Love You" -- a fanfic piece by Sarah Kakusho

Rika and Kari’s complexions grew red and their sight slowly gave way.  Their legs dangled over the city as the enemy held them over the buildings edge.  Where they were, they did not know.  Who they were with, slipped their minds.  Where they were going, they did not want to know.

“Pick one, Ryo.”

Ryo stood petrified, staring in horror.

“Pick one.”

Ryo just looked at the ground and muttered a “Fine.”  The grip around the girls’ necks loosened and the two girls fell.

Ryo launched himself forward, grabbing Kari’s hand and then shouting, “RIKA!” as he and Kari dangled from the edge of building.  The extreme rush of blood to the head knocked Rika unconscious as she plunged down the side of the building.  The enemy disappeared.

Gathering his composure, Ryo pulled Kari up and set her down on the ground.  Kari opened her eyes and gasped for air.  She looked around confused of where she was, but a strong sense of relief rushed over her. 

Ryo rushed to the edge.  ”Rika…”

Feeling the wind picking up, Rika slowly opened her eyes to find herself adrift in the sky.  She was neither hanging nor standing…she was falling.  She hoped that it wouldn’t end this way.  At least you have one person less to worry about.  She neared the ground.  And when she thought it was over, she felt someone catch her.

[slump day #2] musings: then and now. by Sarah Kakusho

When I was little, I loved the Spice Girls, not just for their music, but for the things they accomplished through hard work and sheer luck. More than 10 years later, now, an anime called K-ON! (けいおん!), and its sequel reminded me of the importance of having fun during the hard work of the creative process. When I mention this anime, I not only mean the anime itself, but the creative people and thoughts that went into the creation of the anime. It was only recently that I realized that I wasn’t as interested in enjoying movies, animes and music as much as I was interested in how they were created.

Growing up listening to the Spice Girls, I watched all of their interviews and concerts. Call it an obsession (actually, it really was), but I wanted to understand the people who created such music that brought out so much life in me. How do these people, despite their daily struggles, set aside everything and put on a memorable show. (It’s nearly 3am and though my mind is overflowing with words, I hope they remain coherent enough to vaguely get across my intent…)

To fast-forward to now, K-ON!! has revived this feeling, this urge to chase after your dreams. Wanting to know the creation of the K-ON!! anime, I started listening to the web-radio show that the voice actresses of the 5 main characters did. After the creation of the show, which is about a group of girls who come together to create a band 放課後ティータイム (Houkago Tea Time), the voice actresses themselves took up the challenge to learn these instruments so that they themselves can perform as their characters. The radio show documented these endeavors.

Although these actresses and their managing companies may have the money to hire top-notch teachers and buy high-grade equipment, their hard work and efforts throughout the whole process (learning an instrument, 6 months before the concert) is what really put everything together. It was their passion. At the end of the concert, all of the actresses have said they never imagined that working on this project would lead to such a grandiose live concert.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is both these groups, the Spice Girls and the K-ON!! cast, may not have been diva-quality pros, but what they had were passion and the spirit of hard work. Beyond the public image that’s cast throughout the media (whether they are fabricated or not) are hard-working people who love what they do and share it with people, despite their own problems. And, to me, that’s commendable.

Despite my overwhelming work hours and lack of sleep (even as I’m writing this), I made time to fully enjoy K-ON!! and all it has to offer. While on the exterior the show is about the creating a band and performing, it’s also about the friendships and memories the characters make in the process. The camaraderie that comes from creating something together is more enjoyable entertainment than the violence and hate that’s coming from the entertainment industry these days.

It’s healing. It allows you to forget the bad and reminds you that there is still good in people. In the mornings, when I get in the car, I plug my iPhone into the system and blast K-ON!! music, and that alone makes my day just a little brighter. And as I struggle with my life right now with the diverse types of people around me and still in that transition stage between being a student and being an adult and a student again, that’s what I need most: a break from all of the demands in the world.

Lately I’ve been worrying over my future again as it equally fast approaches, yet slowly slips through my fingers. I’m 23, and what have I accomplished? 2011 is just around the corner, and what have I done? Where am I right now, where am I going, and how am I going to get to where I want to be? These have been my biggest questions, but I’ve only come to realize that only I can answer those, and only through my actions.

My determination is revived again and again, as I remember these two groups and then think, all those successful people have done the same. While my ambitions are big and my chances to fall are greater, I won’t falter no matter how many times I get knocked down. Even as I fall deeper into this slump right now, I know my desire to make my goal within 3,123 days will happen…

…as long as I continue running straight into the darkness with my dream, just a mere twinkle in the distance, to guide me.
- Musings of an Aspiring Filmmaker