Publishing a Book for Tohoku
(submitted by Isabella Yamamoto to meet the requirements of Advanced Personal Accomplishment)

The idea came about, just after the earthquake. I had been watching TV and had seen video footage of elderly women and men living in shelters because they had lost there home in the disaster. I felt terrible because they were at a point in their life where they didn’t have much left. So I thought, if they could do something positive like help rebuild their community, it would improve their outlook and make them feel like they were needed.

But the reality was, I couldn’t just go up there and start rebuilding things. So I started thinking of ideas that  could involve them selling something they made. I thought about things that they all had in common. And it hit me, they all new Japanese food really well. Here I came up with the idea of a cook book, which would contain their personal recipes. I would be able to go up to Tohoku to a shelter and collect recipes from them to then, publish into a book.

It was a good idea but a very complicated one to pursue. I had to go about getting permission from school, then contacting the city office for support and so on. But luckily, a CEO of an NGO called ‘5 Planets’  found out about the project and was willing to help me get the contacts so I could collect recipes.

5 Planets offered to take me up to Ofunato city which was a small community that had been  destroyed in the earthquake. I would be able to interview victims and collect the material I needed.

Many of the people there had fled from the Tsunami and had lost everything. They had all lost someone, a friend, a family member and some were very traumatized by their experiences. In spite of the catastrophes they had suffered, they all welcomed our team. They went out of their way to be kind to us. They were very social as well. I was really surprised at how positive the community attitude was. People had strong attitudes and were busy putting their lives in order.

The shelter we stayed at housed victims but many of them were mentally disabled so they could not cook for them selfs. However, the old peoples home had a recipe book, which they used to cook food for them. I told them about my idea, and they were really enthusiastic about it. They each selected their favorite recipes and gave them to me for the book. There were too many for the book, so I would have to chose which ones were the best to include.

I had time to walk around the city and see some of the devastation for myself. The place was in very bad shape, whole neighborhoods gone, and work was going on to clean it all up. These use to be proper neighborhoods, like the ones we live in. I couldn’t understand how a stable area could be turned to a disaster zone with in the space of minuets.

Most of the people there were upbeat and helpful. The cook from the shelter took me to the towns local street market.  It wasn’t really a place for visitors but they wanted to show us how they were getting back on their feet.  There weren’t proper shops  and some didn’t really have tables to put their goods on, they just had boxes, a lot of it was improvised. Here I was able to investigate the local agriculture and food traditions, that I would be able to include in the book. Most of the goods on sale were food, that they’d grown themselves or that they’d made. They didn’t have a great deal but they were very eager to share, they had me taste foods they’d made and watched my reactions. They gave me a lot of food to take home as presents.

When I got back to Yokohama, I had a big stack of very traditional Japanese recipes. I felt lost. I had no idea where to start. So I began categorizing them into meat dishes, fish, vegetable etc. I had to translate them into clear English which was one of the most challenging tasks I have ever taken on. The whole process took me about a month and a half. After the translation, I selected the best 20. I sent them to the CEO, who has now sent them to the publisher in Canada for final editing.

I wanted to do something for the people who had given me so much for the book. I thought that if I could host a “cooking event” for people, mostly women, in YIS and our community to participate in, we could record it and send it back. On the trip I had gone on, there was a documentary producer who had been following the project. He recorded my interviews I had done in Ofunato, along with this cooking event, to play on the billboards in Tokyo, Hongokong and Singapore. I said that I wouldn’t mind, as long as we could use the footage to send back to the shelter.

The cooking event was held on the 23rd of August, and was a success. We had around 20 women volunteer from both in the school community and around the local community. We gave them each a recipe from the book, and they had a week to prepare it. They came to a community kitchen in Honmoku, and made there dish. We then photographed it so we could use those pictures in the book.  Many of them gave interviews and made comments about the food, which I really loved because I thought that it was a nice way to send positive feedback to the Tsunami victims in Ofunato.

The process has been a challenging yet very humbling and fulfilling experience. The   book is set to be published with in the next few weeks, and will be sold on Amazon, and will be promoted in various newspapers, TV shows etc. Reflecting on the experience I feel like I developed new skills, particularly my ability to take initiative and lead projects and events. I also feel like I was able to consider issues of global importance. The Tsunami was one of the worlds largest natural disasters, and I was able to appreciate the value of aid that targets a persons skill. I also feel that I showed a sustained commitment. The project has taken over a year, and required me to spend my entire summer translating and working, which I did.

I am very excited for the publishing of the book, and hope that I am able to give back to Japan, and the people of Ofunato, through my project.


Every time workers found a possession they would place it outside of the collapsed building so that it can be recollected by the Tsunami victims.
 
 

½ Marathon
(submitted by Virginia Russolo to meet the requirements of Advanced Personal Accomplishment)

My Advanced Personal Accomplishment this year was running half a marathon. I have been running since 8th grade, the year I trained, helped by my dad, to run Nike’s Human Race (31.08.08), 10 km in length. For that race I trained alone during the summer, running almost everyday and succeeded staying under the hour with the final result of 53 minutes. Since then I never committed to running a race so I thought that after 4 years I could push myself further and aim at a 21 km race. When I first trained for the 10 km, I noticed how much it benefitted me apart form loving the sport. What challenged me the most was training my brain to run for an hour. Therefore, with practice and patience I not only pushed my physical boundaries but my mental ones as well. This helped a lot in the academic environment as I was able to concentrate for longer periods of time and more often.

From July 10th until October 19th I successfully trained in Italy and Japan with my shoe pod and GPS. I almost followed my running schedule ‘to perfection’. Every run was documented by the use of a GPS wristband that recorded my path, calories burned, pace, time and distance covered. I created a blog online called ‘V Road Runner’ where I posted all of my runs, tips, running schedules, type of shoes I would wear and extra natural supplements I took for my joints.

Link to Website: http://vroadrunner.wordpress.com/

I increased my body’s efficiency overall, my muscles grew and I increased my strength. I also noticed how much more positive and energetic I became and how this prepared me physically and mentally for the start of school. The most challenging aspect of the activity for me was learning to compromise. I was very determined to get to run every run according the schedule but I had to learn to but my body’s needs before my determination. I struggled with this also in 2010 when I hurt my knee due to too much running. I overused my knees and had to do six months of physiotherapy. Since then I’ve been trying to listen more carefully to my body and the people around me. This is why when I spent four days visiting Rome, where I would walk from morning till late at night, I didn’t go running. Another example is the heat. I always ran around 7.30-8 pm but some days I had to go at other times because otherwise it wouldn’t have fit my schedule and I would suffer from the heat and be forced to rest the day after. To help my body sustain the rhythm I anticipated possible reactions. Whenever I had to run in the morning I drank vitamin and protein supplies (as I couldn’t eat breakfast) and I bought natural herbal pills to take every morning to take care of my joints (primarily ankles and knees). Now I feel more confident with this skill and I feel I increased my mental and physical endurance, perseverance and tolerance. Skills that will definitely help me in this last school year.

If I were to repeat this activity I would do it during the fall or in spring because the summer heat became an issue. Next time I would like to push myself even further, maybe go a little bit faster. I could explore the effect of sleeping on my performance and go into more details on different stretching techniques.
 
 

Heart of Diploma (A Student Filmmaker’s Apocalypse)
(submitted by Jun Sekiya to meet the requirements of Advanced Personal Accomplishment)

THE MOVIE:
 

The Y.I.S. high school filmmaking club, known as Filmeisters began last year not sure of what it could do, and because of this, we had the audacity to think we could make an epic movie with zombies and guns and big questions and the meaning of life and death. I am  talking about  the prodigious undertaking that we dared to endeavour on, the one that took up the great bulk of my contribution to the Filmeisters catalogue, although several other projects were going on simultaneously as we developed this project.  It was the epitome of undertaking a new challenge. I am talking about the longest short movie probably ever made by YIS students, ‘Diploma’.

At the time I wrote this, the short film ‘Diploma’ made by the Y.I.S. film club Filmeisters was not yet finished. Not it’s final cut. Maybe the movie’s semi-quasi-final-ish version was on the overloaded 132 GB hard drive that held all the footage and files, but not the done, dusted final version. But I knew with a week to go before the film’s screening and the entire movie’s audio to master, in one week’s time I would look on my desktop, with its 808’s & Heartbreak Kanye West wallpaper, and see the little thumbnail of a .mov file saying “Diploma Final Final Final FOR REAL FINAL Cut”.

They say finishing a movie is supposed to be like childbirth, because you’re filled with a profound sense of happiness as you look upon your birthed creation. Well, if movies are babies, this one was a giant mutant that caused screaming when it crowned, and yeah, I guess there is a sense of drained satisfaction as you look at this small, whining thing that for all its imperfections, is complete.

I distinctly remember Mr.P wisely telling us we might want to re-consider shooting a twenty page screenplay, estimated at about twenty minutes of length on screen.

Six months, and gigabites of footage later, the close to final running time is forty three minutes, so looking back at the terrific dust trail behind us, I see now we bit off almost more than we could chew. Fortunately, I’m good at stuffing my mouth and I eat very, very slow. So, little by little, the boluses of edited footage were swallowed and collected in the stomach, ready to be exported through the duodenum for viewing. Before I take this metaphor too far and put people off their food, I’d like to talk about rabbits.

Rabbits have nothing to do with ‘Diploma’ but I just thought I’d take this in a child-friendly direction to balance things out. Rabbits are fluffy, friendly and full of joy. I guess what a person can take away from that is don’t make super-long short films about death and the meaning of life. Buy a rabbit and play with it. Or eat it, if you want. But make sure to ingest more fatty meat afterwards or else you’ll die from rabbit starvation.

So anyways, the roots of ‘Diploma’. My brothers with cameras, Filmeisters. As I’ve already mentioned, Filmeisters is a new club that started last year, so at one of our first meetings, without anything lined up, we brainstormed about possible projects. I brought the idea of a zombie movie to the table because I knew everybody makes a zombie film sometime in their life, and I knew that I should probably do it early when it’s okay to make bad movies (i.e. when you’re a teenager and everyone expects you to make movies named after bad weather).

The idea was met with much enthusiasm, and we began developing the project. Collaborating with writer and actor YN on the story, I had a shooting screenplay after three months and ten drafts. Then, as the New Year neared, I locked myself into my room during winter break to prepare the list of shots we would need after break was over and we began shooting. I developed the new skills of visualizing the entire movie in my head before we even shot it, to create the shot list, as well as using camera and film terminology to describe shots on the shot list. I had also achieved my goal by this time of functionally being able to operate a DSLR camera as I had done many assignments for my IB Film class using the camera.

Nonetheless, halfway through creating the mammoth shot list for this project, I realized the whole thing was a terrible idea, and it couldn’t work, and we were going to be overwhelmed if we embarked on this odyssey. The one-eyed monster known as IB grinned its monstrous smile, rubbing its hands together as it goaded me to give up. I almost did. But Matthew S. would not let me fall, Matthew who had stood by me on those long hours shooting last year’s giant movie, ‘Clouds’. He said quite simply: “I got your back.”

All right then.

With that I began the process of booking and reserving locations and dates, having my dad help me with a letter to the Korean Consulate to let them know we would be nearby in the auditorium with plastic weapons. Also, on the dates Mr.P could not come, though he made almost all of the shooting dates, I was able to convince several very nice teachers and administrators to supervise our filming. All in all, we had ten full days of shooting to film all the shots for the movie, starting from 8:30 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon or sometimes later. To be truthful, the shooting days were exhausting and were my least favorite part of the process of making the film, and were even more never ending when I fell sick in the final two weeks of shooting and also had an accident during shooting in which I fell and gashed my neck.

However, I persevered and stayed on the job until all the footage was safely inside the hard drive for editing.

Perhaps the hardest, and most challenging day of filming was the day we shot all the zombie scenes in the auditorium. It was a colossal logistical task which we spent two weeks preparing and building up to and recruiting and scheduling people to be zombies. There were make up tests, acquiring props such as flares, shot tests using a bicycle for a follow shot in which I fell off the bike and miraculously saved the camera at the expense of my black and blue sides, and above all, choreographing the action scene. Matthew gratefully procured a megaphone for me and I truly felt like a big production director telling actors and crew to reset and get into positions for a scene heavy in choreography and planned camera movement. It was an astounding collaboration effort, and the actors who played the zombies were fantastically willing to listen to directions, and the crew were almost always spot on, and somehow, we managed to get all of the shots we wanted.

Here I must make a sincere apology to the zombies, as I forced them to run bare feet on gravel for almost an hour in filming the final running montage for YN’s voiceover.

Scheduling and shuffling the dates around was especially difficult as the year drew to a close and more and more members of the crew were unable to make the filming dates. This was a particular challenge in the last week before the deadline to our submission to the Kanto Plains Film Festival, with main actor YN having to miss filming dates to complete internal assessments as well as study for several tests. Though we clashed a bit over some last minute cancellations, Matthew and I were able to re-work the schedule so we finished the film on time. We were able to submit the complete rough cut of the film to the Kanto Plains Film Festival as I cut and mixed the film as we shot. The last week before the deadline was hell week for me, editing the movie on the last three days without hardly any sleep, but we made the deadline.

We went on to win the top prize at the Kanto Plains Film Festival, as well as Best Editing and Best Actress, with nominations in Best Script and Best Actor, and Matthew, ST, and I enjoyed a fine tonkatsu victory meal after.

As we geared up for the second round of editing (which is still going on now), we had to consider the ethical implications of using copyrighted music in our film. The first cut of the film contained three instances of music that was copyrighted, but I loved the songs so much and felt they were so essential to the film that I was willing to disregard the copyright of the songs since without the songs, the movie would just not be complete. I felt justified as I had bought the artists’ albums containing the songs, but after several long discussions with Mr.P, I agreed to look for different music that we had the right to use. Ultimately, with a combination of Creative Commons song suggestions from Mr.P, my own digging around the Internet, and some original scoring by Y.I.S. koto wiz LK, I was able to re-score the entire film with music we had the rights to use without a dip in quality of the film. I still miss hearing the perfect and familiar cues of my favorite songs coming in during a scene, and thinking “wow, this is it”, however, I think that is more to my personal music taste rather than how the movie appears.

I still don’t agree with the copyright laws that prevent people from remixing, sampling or using someone else’s music as part of their own personal creation. That has always been the beauty of hip hop, and I had trouble coming to terms with not making what was in my opinion the best creative decision because it was against the law. However, I realized that even if I didn’t agree with some laws, I had to obey them or and change them before I didn’t have to. And I mean, look at the movie after all that. I still think it looks and sounds great! Because after all, filmmaking is at its heart a collaborative and compromising art form, and I think working on ‘Diploma’ has taught me that greatly.

Through the entire filmmaking process, I have also increased awareness of my strengths and areas for growth, with letting music and scenes go on for too long and breaking the 180 rule being several things I will work on for next year. I also learned that I do not enjoy directing that much, however, I very much enjoy writing and editing, and so perhaps next year I will try and hone the areas I enjoy further, or work on becoming a better director since sometimes I felt overwhelmed and not knowing what to do next (although my trusty shot list saved my life).

Thank you for reading this far, sorry for making it drag on, but I think that after all, for an activity of this magnitude, a reflection of this size was appropriate 😀

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