Side Story

2018: Looking Back & Forward

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Indievisual’s first full calendar year (it went live in April of 2017 with a Year-in-Review posted 8 months later) set new milestones and solidly built upon the momentum of its launch. The number of interviews published approached a respectable pace of one every two months. Caught My Eye write-ups also saw an increase following the new guiding principle for how they would be written as detailed in this blog entry. And with some good fortune, the number of Side Stories remained unchanged. 2018 was a landmark year for writing articles and interviewing filmmakers.

Or…that is what could have been written. Sadly, the reality is quite different. 2018 was a good year certainly for paid work with many opportunities received from long time collaborators. This was also the first year translation work needed to be juggled with a job in the other realm in which I have a foot still planted. For more on this, please follow this link as I do not wish to dedicate space for it here. Suffice it to say, simultaneously working on this and translation work proved challenging and unfortunately left little time for Indievisual. The end result was only two interviews were published–February’s interview with photographer/director/producer Furuta Wataru, and December’s (nearly at the end of the year!) interview with Asakura Kayoko. A ten month gap between interviews is, to say the least, disappointing. However, given the circumstances, I was pleased for the chance to finally meet Asakura whom I had never met despite having conducted her interview (via email questionnaire) between late 2015 and 2016. Finally connecting with her on a personal level highlighted the importance of getting to know filmmakers face-to-face as a part of building longer lasting relationships with them, just as I had when I first encountered Furuta as a programmer for the San Diego Asian Film Festival. Therefore, with regards to filmmakers I am unable to meet through film festivals or introductions, I am beginning to see the value of first establishing a personal rapport in order to gain a level of trust or at the very least a comfort level with me prior to conducting interviews via email. Though this may seem obvious to some, when you’re not a very good conversationalist you hope properly written communications via faceless mediums will be enough to communicate who you are, but in truth, it is not enough and I will now take this into account in my workflow moving forward.

Caught My Eye

2018 also saw a drastic drop in write-ups for the Caught My Eye section which was updated with only eight titles, down from 15 in 2017. The silver lining to this figure was four of the entries were published under a unified theme–a celebration of International Women’s Day focusing on four young, up-and-coming female directors: Igashi Aya, Fujimura Akio, Yamanaka Yoko, and Kiyohara Yui. The response on the Indievisual Instagram and Facebook page was quite positive and led to views on the Indievisual site therefore I will continue writing specific entries each year to coincide with International Women’s Day. As mentioned in the introduction of this piece, I have decided to change the guiding principle for writing Caught My Eye write-ups which should result in far more updates moving forward. As I write this piece, I have been simultaneously prepping new articles and the change in methodology is already yielding results.

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Clockwise from top-left: Igashi Aya / Fujimura Akiyo / Yamanaka Yoko / Kiyohara Yui

Side Stories

The only Side Story published in 2018 was a somewhat belated overview of the 2018 Osaka Asian Film Festival’s Indie Forum section (I consider year-in-review articles as outside the true intention of the Side Stories sections). I was once again thrilled to attend the event to take in the line-up. More importantly, and conforming with the aforementioned thoughts on building personal connections with filmmakers, I was truly honored to have met Takayama Kohei, Yazaku Hitoshi, Takeuchi Yosuke, Jimbo Yoshimasa, Hirohara Satoru, Isobe Teppei & Yashiki Hiroko, Yuasa Noriko, and Kanai Junichi. I will certainly be writing about their subsequent works and interviewing as many of them as possible in the future.

Press Screenings

Not all the numbers were down in 2018, which marked the most times I have been invited to press screenings; two, up from zero in 2017. I became interested in A Crimson Star when I saw a photograph of director Igashi Aya at Cannes holding a promo sheet for her still unfinished movie together with Barry Jenkins. I kept track of the movie’s development and reached out to Igashi who was kind enough to invite me to a press screening prior to its release on December 1st, 2018. I finally had the pleasure of meeting this young, talented director and look forward to interviewing her one day.
The other screening to which I had the honor of attending was for Ten Years Japan thanks to an industry connection. This was another project the progress of which I had long kept track, therefore being given the opportunity to see the finished product by Freestone Productions was a tremendous experience. The screening was attended by the director of one of the movie’s five chapters, Fujimura Akio, whom I had spotlighted in Caught My Eye as mentioned previously. This was a pleasant and fortuitous surprise though I had been aware she was involved with the project. Again, the opportunity to briefly introduce myself and speak with her will, I hope, lead to future content on Indievisual.

Backstory Discovery

My thoughts on these two movies were published in the Indievisual blog, Backstory–A Crimson Star here, and Ten Years Japan here–in keeping with the fundamental tenet of Indievisual as a publication centered on interviews and features free of reviews. In fact, I have treated the write-ups as reports on the press screening experience rather than merely a “review” of the work. However, placement on Backstory may have or has led to potential discovery problems (more on this in a bit) which in turn raise awareness issues for both the promotion of the movie and Indievisual itself. Consequently, I will be re-evaluating how these press screening articles should be handled or placed on the Indievisual magazine site while remaining faithful to my “no reviews” policy.

Meanwhile, the Indievisual magazine site has seen much more stability in the number of daily visitors–as in, fewer days with zero visits–but Backstory continues to languish with long periods of zero views broken by one, two, maybe four view days despite updating it 21 times in 2018 with various videos, quotes, and posts–some quite lengthy. The original and continuing intention of Backstory is to serve as the home for writings outside of interviews and features focused on Japanese filmmakers and their works. This includes the “process” and “behind-the-scenes” insights into running Indievisual. Apart from announcing new updates on social media, organic views of the posts have been few even though there are menu links and a dedicated excerpts section on Indievisual itself. There are two (actually three) solutions to this.

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First is an adjustment to the design and placement of the blog category listings on Indievisual. In fact, I have been considering a slight redesign now that more content has been published and problems of visual priority are more apparent. Currently, blog excerpts are on a side bar without visuals in an otherwise very visual layout [note: already fixed!] leading to the very high probability they are being overlooked.
Second is the implementation of the newsletter. I have blogged about where progress of the newsletter currently stands. With a platform chosen, making use of this direct communication with subscribers to inform them of updates to the magazine and the blog should help increase views and/or habitual viewing of the blog (even before newsletters are sent).
The third and parenthesized solution is increasing promotion on social media. I had thought Indievisual visitors would also go to the blog as a function of exploring the site–this is my personal information consumption habit–but data suggests visitors to either Indievisual or Backstory do not explore the site beyond the article to which they came to read. Perhaps the contemporary web viewer is bombarded with so many choices these days they have become too fatigued to explore on their own. Therefore, consistently promoting new blog posts on social media with direct links may be the only way people will read the blog and as a result, engage with the site.

2019

Apart from implementing these measures to increase readership both on Indievisual and Backstory, the goal for 2019 is to simply write more. My comic book career will be finished before summer so there will be more time to write. My confidence in interviewing is steadily growing and I look forward to putting in practice improvements in my interviewing style as well as the joy I have been experiencing when photographing filmmaker portraits. Running Indievisual is an incredible joy, somehow becoming more than just a past time but a chance to learn and grow at this stage of my life. I truly appreciate all of you have and continue to follow me on my journey.