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One Big Hapa Family

The One Big Hapa Family Production Blog will be a diary about the pre-production, production, and post-production of my upcoming documentary. This film will focus on multiracial identity and interracial marriage within the Japanese Canadian community in Canada.

Yup…I’m still alive

So I think it’s only been about 3 months since my last post…or is it 4 months? Anyways, a lot has happened since then. Here’s the update on One Big Hapa Family…

I finally started editing the footage I shot in the summer and early fall. I bought an new 8 core MacPro - a super editing beast! In total, I shot over 25 interviews, many of which were couples. I also traveled to New Denver to visit the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre and spoke at the 20 Anniversary or the Japanese Canadian Redress conferences in Vancouver and Kamloops. Although, since I started editing, I’ve stepped back a bit to wait for a nice uninterrupted period where I can focus on nothing but the film. The problem I’ve been having is that I’ve been hitting the festival circuit with Yellow Sticky Notes. After a win for Best Animation at the Calgary Int. Film Fest, I also attended screenings in Vancouver and Hawaii. I’ll actually be in Whistler this weekend for the Whistler Film Festival.

I have also completed proposals for two new documentaries, both of which I will be pitching to broadcasters as part of the industry series in Whistler this week. One is entitled Barstar and the other is Tour de Dandong. I’ll describe more about the projects in future posts, but getting the proposals together has also taken much of my time and energy over the last few weeks.

Back to One Big Hapa Family…After I get back on Dec. 15th from the Anchorage Int. Film Festival where I am conducting an animation workshop, it’s back to editing. I have planned a month and a half where I am locking myself in my editing suite and not shaving - Getting up only to eat and go to the bathroom. I may take an occasional shower…maybe…no promises. I am setting a deadline to complete a rough cut by February 1st. As well, I will have planned out the animation sequences I need to have done. I was lucky to have met many Emily Carr University animation graduates when I was at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival a couple weeks back. They seemed keen to help work on the animation. I may actually contract them to create the entire sequences…giving them stylistic creative freedom in the animation production.

Hopefully from this point on, I’ll be a bit more frequent with the posts…maybe…no promises!

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Back on track…kinda

Well after a strange and busy summer I’m finally getting back to conducting interviews for One Big Hapa Family. It’s funny how summer can really get in the way of making a documentary. So many small distractions that can really make one loose focus. Especially with updating a blog!

Part of the huge distractions besides attending weddings (I’m right at that age where everyone is getting married) has been the success of my film Yellow Sticky Notes. Yellow Sticky Notes was licensed by YouTube and in a little less than three weeks there was over 700,000 views. So needless to say, I have been bombarded with requests to do music videos, ridiculous amounts of fan mail, and over 400 friend request from complete strangers on Facebook. It’s been good exposure but almost prompted me to run out and hire an assistant to handle the copious amount of emails I was receiving. As well, YSN has been accepted into 10 film festivals this fall. Some of which include the Hawaii International, Calgary Int., Vancouver Int., Atlantic Int., Singapore Animation Nation, Taiwan Golden Horse Film Fest. and Whistler Film Festivals. So promoting myself and attending some of these festivals will truly be a distraction from making One Big Hapa Family.

So this week, I’ve devoted myself to doing nothing but running interviews. So far I’ve lined up 10 interviews with aunts and uncles, some specialists, my parents and even some cousins. We’ll be shooting from Friday, Aug. 22nd straight to Tuesday the 25th. After that I’ve got a few more interviews lined up the next week and I’ll be in Vancouver the first weekend in Sept. interviewing my family out there. All just in time before the start of the National Redress Anniversary Celebrations that are happening mid September in which I will be leading some lectures and workshops in Kamloops and Vancouver. So, busy is an understatement right now. Oh ya…did I mention I also had two weddings to attend on August 30th…one in Kelowna and one in Vancouver…I could really use that personal assistant right about now!

Go to to order DVD’s of my animations Yellow Sticky Notes and “What Are You Anyways?”

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Uncle Cyril and Auntie Emy…


Even though I interviewed my Uncle Cyril and Auntie Emy on June 24th, their interview still plays through my head. My uncle Cyril is from Trinidad and Tobago and came to Canada just before 1970. He married my Auntie Emy in 1971. From their recollection, they were the first interracial marriage in Kelowna (or even the entire Okanagan) where a black man married a Japanese woman. Even now, I don’t actually think that has happened again since then in Kelowna. From the recollection of their marriage day all they could remember is the huge crowd of onlookers and passer byers who stopped to witness this historic event as they left the church in downtown Kelowna. My Uncle Cyril mentioned how complete strangers just stopped and stared at them as they left the church. Years later he actually met a woman who was a teacher in the Kelowna who admitted to being one of the stunned onlookers in that crowd. Considering the Anti-miscegenation laws, also known as miscegenation laws, were finally abolished in the US in 1967, interracial marriage was still a bit progressive back then. The Anti-miscegenation laws were laws that banned interracial marriage and sometimes interracial sex between whites and members of other races in the US.

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Yes, racism still exists…

I thought long and hard about commenting on the recent hate crimes to hit Kelowna. I’m sure if you’ve been watching the news, you’ve noticed these images. In one way, I don’t want to give whoever did this any further platform than the Saturday morning of last weekend when this happened, but at the same time I think it needs to be shown that there’s still a small pocket of ignorant people out there. This photo was taken by my friend Marc Arellano. He happened to be out on Saturday morning when he noticed the vandalism to the Okanagan Jewish Community Centre. Even though the photo I have posted is extremely disrespectful and disgusting, it pales in comparison to some of the other extremely harsh slogans spray painted on the other walls. The other slogan tags are sickening and out of respect I have decided to only post this one photo - and even then, I don’t feel right even posting this photo.

I live only blocks from the Jewish Community Centre and when I walked over in the afternoon to see this for myself, all the vandalism had been painted over. I talked to Marc today and he mentioned that it wasn’t even people who use the Okanagan Jewish Community Centre. Supposedly, it was a good Samaritan who took it upon themselves to paint over the hate that morning before any other people were subjected to the outlandish visual attack.

The reason I am making One Big Hapa Family is to enlighten, educate, and inform people that racism has no place in Canada. To create awareness that we need to learn from the mistakes that were made in the past in Canada. Especially with the Indian residential schools, the Chinese Head Tax, the Japanese Canadian Internment, just to name a few. Unfortunately, racism still exists. Marc sent me an email the other day that definitely opened my eyes to even the smallest forms of racism that are still present in society.

He wrote:
“I was speaking to the Mayor two days ago about this issue of racism in the valley and she commented how surprised she was that our community
still has issues with Jamaican exchange students and migrant workers from the Caribbean and Central America. She commented that she has
received letters denouncing the acceptance of “foreigners” in our city.”

Strange…very strange…

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Uncle Suey!

After my grandpa, I decided it was best to interview my Uncle Suey Koga. He’s my grandma’s brother. Uncle Suey is 86 but remarkably remembers every single event in his life back to when he was five years old. On top of that, he’s a talker. He loves to tell stories and can recite events and experiences down to the most precise detail. Needless to say, five minutes into his interview, I started to get goose bumps. These were the stories and opinions I’ve been waiting for. I reformatted all my quesiHe remembered stories from his elementary school days…days when his name changed from Suemori to Suey because his grade 2 teacher couldn’t pronounce his Japanese name. He’s gone with Suey ever since.

I also learned that the last name Koga can be traced back to a ninja clan in Japan. So, I guess that’s why I have such amazing badminton skills. Anyways, aside from amusing stories about our family past, I also learned about some pretty heavy facts about the Okanagan Japanese Canadians during WWII. Even though they weren’t interned, there were still many restrictions placed on them too during the war. Such as they couldn’t buy land, vote, own guns or short wave radios. They couldn’t travel further than Kamloops (200kms) from their homes in Kelowna without a permit. Along with that the government made them shut down their Japanese language schools after the war, thus, forcing assimilation on them against their will. No wonder, everyone past the Nisei (2nd) generation married other ethnicities. I look forward on Tuesday when I interview my Aunty Emy and Uncle Cyril who is a black man. My Aunty Emy (Uncle Suey’s sister) was the first person of their generation to marry interracially. I’ll keep you posted on how the interview goes on Tuesday.

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Yesterday’s shoot was definitely a steep learning experience. Jason my cameraman/dop/sound guy and I showed up at my Grandpa Chiba’s house at around 9:15am only to discover that my grandpa wasn’t home. I had told him we were coming up for the day to shoot the interview with him but I guess he misunderstood and though we were just coming up in the afternoon. Thus, he had booked a dentist and doctors appointment that morning. I was worried that since he had seen the dentist that morning, he wouldn’t be able to talk…considering at age 91, he’s already a bit hard to understand. Luckily he showed up around 11:20am and we were able to get started on the shoot.

Luckily, going to the dentist didn’t affect his speech and we were able to proceed with the interviews. The first thing we did was set up a two shot of my Grandpa and I sitting at a table in his carport/garage. We went through an old book of photos he had and he described who was in the pictures and where they were taken. Most of the photos were from 1937 to 1940 so it was interesting to see that he still remembered a lot of what was going on in the photos. After about 50 minutes of that, we did some B-roll of him in his garden and did a short walk along interview. We took lunch and dumped the HD footage off the P2 Card and onto my laptop.

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It’s been a bit time since my last post. I spent the last week attending the National Independent Media Arts Festival and Conference which was held here in Kelowna, BC. I actually met Rob Maguire who unknown to me, edits my posts on this blog. What’s up Rob! Anyways the conference was called On Common Ground and focused on celebrating Indigenous culture in Canada. It was a refreshing conference and I met some great people involved in media, video, and film arts from across Canada.

Now that the conference is over, my DOP/cameraman/sound guy, Jason Woodford and I are finally going to start production on One Big Hapa Family by interviewing my Grandpa Chiba. He’s the first one I want to interview because in order to learn about how things got to they way they are now, I need to figure out when it first started. I also spent the last week digitizing the reunion footage and researching Japanese Canadians in BC. I found out my Grandpa Chiba’s father came to Canada in 1902 and other amazing facts like how my great grandfather was fired from an orchard for shooting three bears back in 1923 and returned to Japan for a brief period. Anyways, here’s tomorrows production schedule. We decided to shoot in HD. It’s going to be a busy day:

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Moving ahead…

I received a call last Thursday from the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund letting me know that I had been awarded a grant to produce One Big Hapa Family. This grant now helps to make sure we have the sufficient funds to complete this film and Moving Images Distribution has themselves a new film. To qualify for the grant, we needed to have the support of a non-profit Canadian distributor, and since I’ve worked with Moving Images in the past, Sylvia was happy to support my project. We’re still waiting to hear from the Canada Council, and we may still approach other educational broadcasters for a second window broadcast license, but we have enough of the budget in place to start production. So that’s great news.

Although, we’ll still need a more funding to be able to complete post work on the film, but as it stands, we’re in good shape for now. Last weekend I also accomplished getting about 25% of the release forms signed. I was able to attend a family BBQ on my mother’s Japanese Canadian side of the family. Everyone who was there was also at the family reunion where I had the first inspiration to create this documentary two years ago. I can’t believe One Big Hapa Family has been two years in development. It boggles my mind. Although, that’s how long it took me to secure funding for the film. I’m lucky that we have a such a great support system in place in Canada but just like getting an operation in this country, it takes time…a lot of time. We’ll at least it’s the summer and at the BBQ I had a chance to let people know about my intentions to interview them and explain a bit about what this film is all about. I’ve decided to do most of my filming outside. Nicer lighting and more colour! Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about things and will start shooting interviews in a week or two. Game on!

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From Yorkton to the Leo’s…


I just got back in yesterday from the 61st Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival where my film Yellow Sticky Notes was up for Best Animation and I was up for Best Director Fiction. It is the longest running festival of its kind in North America and is like no other film festival I’ve ever been to. Yorkton is about a 2 hour drive from Regina. The city boasts a modest population of 15,000 residents but the city itself really embraces this yearly festival. After getting back from Tribeca in New York and Pangea Day in LA, Yorkton was a nice and strange change of pace. Great small town hospitality and warmth greeted all the visiting filmmakers and delegates. The Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival is best known for its prestigious Golden Sheaf Awards.

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To HD or not to HD…

I met with Jason Woodford from Crosswood Productions the other day. Jason is going to help me shoot the interviews for One Big Hapa Family. He’s got a Panasonic HVX200 with a 32 GB P2 card that can handle about an hour of 720p HD recording at 29.97 fps. The problem is, once the card is full, it takes 45 minutes to dump the card on to the computer before you can shoot again. Sure we could buy another card for $1500 and have another hour of HD recording time, but I guess the question is…is it really necessary to shoot in HD?

I think it really boils down to whether or not the broadcasters that we are selling to can broadcast in HD. If Channel M gives us a license fee and agrees to broadcast OBHF, they don’t broadcast in HD. Also, we’re also not really at the point in technology where we can author and burn HD/Blueray DVD’s anyways. Plus, dealing with HD footage creates larger file sizes and complications in post. Considering I shot the reunion footage already at standard 16×9 definition, that footage would have to be blown up, which would mean loss of quality in the picture. So the only real reason to shoot HD is for the quality of the picture. It would have to be down resolutioned to standard anyways for output. All this geeky tech stuff give me a headache. I’m used to making animated movies with my hand and a pencil. Camera tech jargon is way too much for me!

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