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Producer Christian Storms: ‘The currency of my life is experiences, not money’

by

Special To The Japan Times

Name: Christian Storms
Age: 47
Nationality: American
Occupation: Actor, dialogue coach, translator, director, producer


1. Your IMDB profile describes you as an “actor, dialogue coach, translator, director, producer.” What do you tell people at parties? The currency of my life is experiences, not money. I’m pretty sure my dad thinks I work for the CIA.

2. You also run a production company, Local 81. What pays the salaries? I’m a sucker for documentaries. In the final product, audiences only get to see 10 percent of what I have heard.

3. Local 81 has worked with some big names in the TV business, including “Top Gear” and “America’s Next Top Model.” Do you find them or do they find you? They hunt me down. It’s great to be needed and in demand. Most of the work is by word of mouth, which is great because you really know what you are getting into.

4. Any anecdotes about “clients from hell”? We were waiting with three camera crews outside Narita once for a full day of filming with a group of models. The models were stopped by customs but couldn’t say why they were visiting because of nondisclosure agreements they had signed. They were crying their eyes out and we couldn’t shoot any of it. They held the girls overnight and deported them in the morning.

5. Who are the folks you’d genuinely like to work with again? People with more experience that I can learn from, people who “get” Japan or at least want to understand, and people who let me do my job and don’t try to micromanage.

6. In Japanese show biz, the hours are long, the demands insane and the job security shaky. Surely you must be an advanced case of burn out? The variety keeps me from burning out.

7. You’ve worked with both Japanese and Hollywood productions. What are the biggest differences between the two? When you make a Japanese movie, you feel like everyone is contributing. On a Hollywood set, you feel like you are collecting parts and option upon option for editing.

8. You’re a white guy from Evansville, Indiana. How did this whole Japan thing start? I took judo as a kid and Japanese was one of my majors in college. As all my friends moved to big cities such as Indy and Chicago, I wanted to reinvent myself and break away.

9. How did you get into the acting business? I had directed actors for games, dubbed commercials and “South Park,” and wanted to learn more about acting. I studied acting 18 hours a week for a year at UPS in Tokyo. Overall, acting has made me a better director and dialogue coach.

10. What’s the most challenging role you’ve ever had? Playing a bad guy with lines in Japanese and having a love scene with Asami Mizukawa in “Nagurimono.”

11. You’ve often worked with Takashi Miike, the bad boy of the Japanese film industry. What’s he like on the set? Working with Miike makes me want to give my best and gives me the courage, freedom and environment to give my “worst” as well. By the worst, I mean in the sense of what I might hide from others.

12. What are the biggest delusions foreign productions have about Japan? The biggest delusion is that they think everything works like it does in their country.

13. You’ve also worked as a dialogue coach for Japanese actors in English-speaking roles. Have any surprised you with their fluency? The majority of Japanese actors have very little English fluency. Language is not the barrier, it’s their acting ability.

14. When people call you an “insider” in the Japanese entertainment business, do you consider it a compliment or a misnomer — or both? I don’t place a lot of value in my passport. Most foreigners are day players on a film as actors or whatever. As a production staffer, I’m there every day for the entire production.

15. You climb mountains and rock faces for fun. Any parallels with your day job? Lately, I’m actually spending more time guiding (www.japan-climbing-guide.com). Guiding compliments my producing quiver of world-class communication skills, risk management skills as well as logistics and problem solving.

16. Any hair-raising experiences? What can go wrong in film production scares me more than any mountain peak.

17. Where does the energy come from? Were you hyper as a kid? I do sleep you know — and do a few things on a volunteer basis. I have also started painting as well.

18. Japanese TV shows and films often don’t travel well abroad. As someone who has seen the sausage being made, can you tell us why? I wish Japanese TV and movies were better but they simply aren’t. I’d like to blame manga and the fact that no one has enough free time to go to the movies or watch their favorite TV show.

19. You’re 25 again and someone gives you two plane tickets — one to Los Angeles and one to Tokyo. Which one do you use? Twenty-five back in the day or 25 now? I think I’d be here either way.

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Practice random chaos. Strike out in all directions.