Filmmaking and Writing and Learning
On Monday I was fortunate to have lunch with filmmaker Tamara Rosenberg, who was in town for the Asian University for Women (AUW) event from last week. Tamara is a freelance producer whose best-known work is the film she presented at the event, “Time for School” which follows the lives of seven children across the globe and their educational lives. The film crew meets with each child every three years and shows their progress. The last episode of the film is scheduled to be in 2015 when the children will theoretically be graduating from school, but also to coincide with the United Nations mandate that states that every child across the globe should be receiving a free basic education by 2015. The film is wonderful; somehow she has managed to make it poignant yet uplifting. I came away from watching it with great sadness for the state of education globally, but somehow with great hope for the future. I’m looking forward to the next installment in 2012.
Tamara was scheduled to fly out of Tokyo on Monday night, so our meeting and lunch really was her last jaunt in the city. I took her to my very favorite sushi restaurant, Fukuzushi. We ate one lunch set: cooked tuna appetizer, chowamushi (egg custard) and decided on anagyoju (cooked eel and egg over rice) for our main course. We ate the rice flour balls in bean paste for dessert.
The interesting thing though, was that we were able to compare our work. Tamara feels grateful as a filmmaker to be able to make films about anything and everything. She noted that when she toured the sumo stables (that’s what they call the sumo training grounds) she saw it through the lens of her camera. She had a thousand questions she wanted to ask, such as: what do you eat? You’re young; do you go to school? How many hours do you train? Where do you sleep? She said that she could see where she would do a close-up shot and where she would pan back for a wider view. Tamara said that she doesn’t see everything like that; like when she was in Kyoto and touring temples as a tourist, she just let the scenes and ideas wash over her like any other tourist. But if she sees a story in something, that’s when it penetrates.
It’s the same thing for writing. Last year I wrote a long piece on soba noodles for a magazine called Food and Beverage Underground. I did a ton of research about the history and traditions of eating soba in Japan, as well as on the nutrition and serving styles. Am I food expert? Am I a nutritionist? No, of course not. But I’m a writer. The beauty of being a writer is the ability to discover subjects and topics and write about them – research is crucial. But beyond that, I’m free to move on to the next topic when that article is done if that’s what I choose to do. After that piece on soba, I wrote a nice piece on anti-aging food and restaurants that are cropping up all over Tokyo for Kaleidoscope magazine. It was related, but not the same.
Writers and filmmakers and other creative sorts have the gift of being able to take a topic and use it to serve a purpose – inform, entertain, anything. I get to learn something every time I write. And then the next time I write I get to learn something else that’s new for me.
Tamara and I stayed at Fukuzushi for at least two hours – until they were closing for the break between lunch and dinner. We talked about topics that ran the gamut of city living, Japanese culture, creativity and a million other things. I feel very lucky to have had that special time with her. And I’m hoping that she gets back to Tokyo to visit in the not-too-distant future.