Aikido, Creative Work, Photography & Documentary.


 The two James's at Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

The two James's at Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

It's a small step in reality, but it feels so, so big. Months of planning and years of dreaming have led to this moment. As the final spell check is being (poorly) ran on these words, I board a plane for Tokyo to begin researching my next film about the art of Aikido.

It's a dream come true. 

Japan has always captured my imagination, and I'm not alone. For some inexplicable reason, a whole generation of westerners grew up with this attachment; apparently, the most extreme cases of this affliction have a name - Weeaboo.

I'm not sure that I would consider myself a Weeaboo... Weeabie?! Documentaries such as Around the World in 80 Days and Wickers World repeats captured my imagination. I grew up watching Kurasowa films and other Nihon media and even fell in love with the Japanese girl in Karate Kid 2 - that is the one no one remembered, where Daniel-San goes to fight in Japan! I'm convinced the land of the rising sun captured my imagination so much because it was so different, so far away, and in those formative years of my youth I wanted to be as far away from reality as possible.

10 minutes until the gate opens, time enough to wolf down a cheap airport pastry I now regret buying and finish this article. I feel a little complacent about travel at the moment, I shouldn't be of course, yet 2017 has been full of airports, train station and all the mechanics of life on the road. The reason for all the jet-setting has been a conscious decision to work remotely, and the privilege of promoting my last documentary film, Last Fisherman.

It's humbling the story of the last fisherman in the Cornish Rame Peninsula has been well received; satisfying too for the apparent reasons every filmmaker shares. I didn't feel that way at the end of post-production; rendering the files out marked a long, tiring and at times frustrating project with many sacrifices made by everyone involved. 

I felt empty, a little lost and depressed. I wanted to distance myself from the project and the screening process. And please don't confuse me for a martyr or struggling artist in search of sympathy. So many more talented creatives suffer for their art and hurt more than I have ever done! Yet, independent filmmaking is rarely smooth sailing, and yes we had a lot of love and heart for our film, but the commitment came with sacrifices. 

Naturally, I convinced myself it would be my last film and that years of writing, shooting and editing wasn’t worth it. On reflection we are all probably are our own worst critics, no?

The pastry is consumed, the gate is opening, bare with me not long to go. So what changed? Well, I was reminded why I wanted to make films in the first place by something so simple as being in an empty cinema. These are magical places, far from the world with the ability transport those willing to pay the admission price to lands and galaxies far, far away.

Just being in that cinema, knowing our work would be projected up on that huge screen made me swell up with emotion. I realised why I started making films; I didn't start making them for me at all.

When I was young art, music, television and of course films saved me, allowing a shy and introverted teenager to grow in confidence by becoming a presenter at his local station, motivated by the idealistic notion of playing music to help others.

As I grew as a filmmaker this idea of 'connecting' and 'helping' resonated even more; if I can only help one person - inspire them, motivate change or just make them forget the world for an hour, then that was my benchmark for a job well done. 

Being alone in the cinema rekindled that raison d'être. And as the screenings rolled on, I'm lucky to have connected with not just one person, but hundreds if not thousands of people the film has touched. Including the locals of Kingsand and Cawsand, its fisherman Malcolm and his Austrian apprentice, my co-producer, Leo Kaserer.

Time adds perspective, bringing with it waves of inspiration that heal old wounds. And so, sat there in the dark of a theatre, waiting for the audience to enter I thought to myself 'maybe I can have just one more adventure, one more film, maybe in Japan'. A place which inspired me so much, and still does to this day.

My bags are checked; James and Hazel, my compatriates on this trip and start to board, the gate is closing and my passport in hand. 

Time to begin again. Just one more adventure - I promise.

KonaJames Stier