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Episode 5. Big Sky, Wild Mushrooms (feat. Howie Shia and Anne Koizumi) — pt. 2


Aram and Kelly continue their talk with animator extraordinaire Howie Shia and master puppeteer Anne Koizuimi in an attempt to answer the question: “what is an animation?” This episode includes Anne Koizumi’s live commentary of IN THE SHADOW OF THE PINES ( The first part of the conversation included Howie Shia’s live commentary of MARCO’S ORIENTAL NOODLES ( Both of their works can be found on YouTube and on CBC Gem.

This episode uses the following multimedia samples and sources:

  • SPIRITED AWAY (2001), dir. Hayao Miyazaki
  • IN THE SHADOW OF THE PINES (2020), dir. Anne Koizumi
  • “Say Good night”, Joakim Karud
  • “Jar Hut”, Morusque


Please note below transcription was made using speech recognition software, and as such may contain inaccuracies, misspellings, or errors.

Audio Clip from SPIRITED AWAY 0:08

Aram Collier 0:51
Welcome to Backstory podcast presented by the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. I’m Aram Collier. This is part two of big Sky wild mushrooms, our conversation with animators, Anne Koizumi and Howie Shaw. If you’re starting here, you should go back and listen to Part One just so you don’t get too lost because what you’re about to listen to right off the bat is Anne’s commentary on her work in the shadow of the pine, which if you haven’t watched that already, please pause the episode now, go watch her film, which can be found on YouTube or CBC chat. We’ve linked the work in our show notes so you know where to find. And now if you’re coming back, part two of our conversation with Anne Koizumi and Howie Shia,

Seungwoo Baek 1:36
Good to go?

Anne Koizumi 1:38
I think so. Okay.

Seungwoo Baek 1:40
Let’s go 321

Anne Koizumi 1:45
Okay, so the film begins with me searching for matsutake. Matsutake is also known as pine mushroom. You can find it in the interior of BC, just to give you a bit of context, what’s stuck as a delicacy in Japan and the reason is Is because you can’t cultivate it. They only grow in very particular environments where the conditions have to be just right for them to grow. And you’ll see the scene again at the end of the film, and I’ll speak more about the symbolism then. So the classroom scene where my dad comes to my class to clean up the mess of another student was the first scene I animated. It’s probably one of my strongest childhood memories, definitely not my favorite. I didn’t have a storyboard or a script. When I started shooting. I just knew that the scene had to be in the film. And so I started making the sets the puppets and then I shot it with a friend who’s also an animator, Jerome read to Shay, the background of the scene, you’ll actually see the Rocky Mountains. So I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, where the Rockies are maybe an hour and a half away. And I’ve always loved this landscape and I had to include them in my phone. So 88 was actually the original title of the film, and my mom still lives. In the house where I grew up, which is 88. And I won’t give the address but with my sister and her family, and there were a couple of other ad references, like the 1988 Winter Olympics that were hosted in Calgary, but I decided to go in another direction. So I actually went back to my elementary school when I started my research and the principal let me in during the winter break and let me walk around and take photos. The colors you see in the scene are the same colors of the walls when I was going there, and the kids voices here. They’re actually my sound designers, kids. So my sound designer was Rene roux is so I start going into the family photos. I love old family photos. I found this one of my dad and I even did some as a family we never ate out at restaurants unless it was Chinese food and even that was really rare. But my dad really loved flavorful food and Chinese food was definitely One of his favorites. So this scene I talked about the kind of ideal dad that I wanted I definitely wanted my father to be either Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid or one of the Japanese businessmen in diehard. So I, I created these kind of using 80s and 90s vintage men’s magazines that my sister found in Tokyo. So I had a lot of fun with this collage sequence really did want the images to feel too precious. So you’ll notice that I was kind of messy with the cutouts in some areas. I originally want to shoot this under the camera like an animation but in the end I just did everything in Photoshop. That is me dressed as a Miko when I was living in Japan 2003 wave sequence is probably the hardest shot to shoot. The most difficult shot took me 110 hour day to shoot One second of animation and that scene is 14 seconds long. This is archival footage. It was actually shot at the orphanage where my father was raised. It was shot in 1949 in Kumamoto, which is on the southern island of Kyushu. So the backstory of the orphanage where my father was raised is actually is that it was started by American Lutheran missionaries before the war started. My father was living there actually, at the time this was shot was probably about six or seven years old. I explained in the film that after my grandfather, my dad’s dad dies, my grandmother was alone with five children, and the orphanage offered her work in exchange for her for a place to stay and to raise her kids. So a film crew was sent by the United Lutheran Church of America to shoot a film about a Japanese orphan, converted to Christianity and became a Lutheran pastor at Philly. is called Fujita and my cousin, who I was visiting and do it when I was doing research in Kumamoto, at the time gave me a copy of the film. And he’s able, he was also able to get me a tour of the orphanage. Just still there. Yes. This is the living room scene. So this is probably one of the hardest sets to build for me emotional

y. Because it’s a recreation of my family’s old living room. My dad loved fake flowers, they were all secondhand. He decorated our house with them, also went through a phase where he titled everything black and white, kind of after it was trendy. And in the scene itself is a homage homage to my family, because each family member is actually represented by an image or an object. Yeah, and sometimes when I was creating those objects, I would just start crying because I just felt so emotional. It’s really the scene where my Father gets to explain himself to me. But that entire voiceover is all scripted by me. I used the interviews I conducted with those who knew my father, well, his brothers, his sister in law, his best friend, my mom, my siblings, right, his voice and I just wanted to show the audience that I interviewed people to construct my father’s story, you know, a story that he didn’t talk about when he was alive. You can see his ghost visit me in the scene and making this film really felt like that, like he was talking to me like he was inside are kind of a part of all of the objects that I created. Yeah, so if you look at this next photo here, if you look closely, you’ll see the 88 Olympics reference on my sister’s blue sweatshirt, so I just kind of wanted to throw that in there as well. And we are back in the forest scene. I’m looking for my second and Again, I never had a real script or storyboards. I was speaking to my brother on the phone one day and he reminded me about all the monster hunting that we did. And, you know, these were memories that I wanted to recreate without really thinking too hard about the symbolism but it was all really it just felt like really organic and natural. Of course, when I thought about this memory of us get going my second hunting it made it made sense. So yeah, and and believe this, this memory is about me on this journey, searching for my identity, searching for who I am, you know, that thing that’s rare and elusive. And it’s, it’s very difficult to find it’s really hard and difficult to find it and it’s ultimately my father who’s leading me to it.

So Feel like I was talking and while I’m in

Howie Shia 9:03
it it was great though. There’s so much information to cover. I made half a point while where

Anne Koizumi 9:15
You said director’s commentary and I was like, oh my god I have to be talki

Aram Collier 9:25
Different directors are different.

Kelly Lui 11:05
And I know you mentioned how you didn’t really have a storyboard setup for your short. I’m just curious, like, how did you end up arriving at the order in which you put the scenes together?

Anne Koizumi 11:20
No, I didn’t have a storyboard. And I didn’t even really have a script. And I think and the way that I was making the film, and my dad took me almost four years to make this film. I yeah, I was basically shooting Well, I’d like I decided I’m going to shoot a scene. And I would, you know, make the puppets and the sets did a lot of it on my own with the exception of the animation. I did that with my friend. And we, yeah, like I would just shoot a scene and then I would edit it together on my computer, and then I would just leave it and then I would shoot another scene, and then edit it together. And then I just had to kind of make all of these separate scenes. And then it wasn’t until like the last year or that I that I started to assemble it. And my friend actually gave me an idea of writing a conversation between my father and I, because she watched the forest scene which had been shot like really early on in production. And the only thing that was being said in the forest scene was me calling out for my dad in the forest. And then when she saw that, she said, you know, the structure of the film could really be basis, like could be a conversation between me and your dad. That’s kind of what gave me the script structure for it. Because Initially, it was like me kind of narrating and talking to the audience, like when I would edit together a clip, I would edit, I would do like my own voice recordings and just talk about what you were seeing, essentially, and kind of describing it to the audience. But then as soon as my friend said that and that was like, maybe less than a year ago, she I was like, Oh, that was like If that makes sense, and then I started to write a script for my dad. And yeah, and so really like, that’s when the archival footage started to like, that’s when I wrote the script for my dad. And then I edited the archival footage, and then even the last like, the photo collage sequence was like the last thing I shot which was like maybe in February, or like December, January, February, and that all just kind of came together. As I was editing.

Aram Collier 13:29
I love to hear when things kind of just come together, like something just unlocks an idea, and just powers you know you to completion or just takes the project in another direction. It’s so cool to hear that kind of thing. And then also, you know, when whenever that happens to your own work, it’s so cool, you know, something that both you and and how he mentioned and this is just totally changing my perception of what I thought I was gonna ask you that like I did I hear you both say that you didn’t have storyboards because I always thought like, oh, animators, they plan everything out. Like, everything’s planned out. So so that’s not true.

Anne Koizumi 14:13
A lot for me, I’m just not like, I’m a self taught animator and I, I only really make my own films because I don’t think I could, like, I just don’t imagine myself being able to work professionally. Like, for me, I like that freedom of just not being, you know, stuck in a linear system where it’s just like, you have a script and you storyboard and animatic and then you start shooting. And I understand why in animation production, you would do that, especially because it’s very, you know, time consuming, and it’s expensive, but really this project. I know I did it outside of my work hours, like I was working on working on it on my own. I did take like an eight month sabbatical to work on it initially to do the research. Shoot a couple of scenes. But outside of that I did everything. Now outside of my, my job, basically. So I just I needed that freedom to play around and to just experiment. Like I had a bunch of scenes that I shot that never ended up in the film, I was experimenting with different techniques, I thought I was going to use a bunch of different techniques, and I didn’t, but I, I just need that kind of freedom to be able to do that and to not have like somebody asking me like, outside of my friends when I’m going to finish the film. So, so yeah, I’m just like, I would say that I’m very non traditional in that sense, but I don’t like Howie must have a totally different work. I don’t know Howie can answer that question.

Howie Shia 15:49
I mean, it’s different I in fact, it’s, I mean, I’ve done a lot of stuff for with the NFP I’ve been lucky to do that. And And they require they’re very interesting, the energies is a really interesting place because they they absolutely understand sort of, especially with the kind of animation that they they champion, they understand that or encourage it to be an organic process, which often animation is not only studio animation is not necessarily but they also require in order to sort of move things along through development they need to see have a sense of what you’re making. So there is like an initial animatic of sorts, but for me, that’s and luckily, for the people looking at it, they know that it’s just a starting point. I think it’s I imagine it’s similar to like, storyboards are all fine and good in live action, but you can’t really do anything until you’re on set. You don’t really know what it’s going to be until it’s on set. You’re on set Aram, you can certainly speak to this. Tell me if I’m wrong, but

Aram Collier 17:12
Yeah, I avoid storyboards. Either I do a shot list and I have it planned in my head, but it’s like, it’s gonna change.

Howie Shia 17:19
Yeah, it’s just like I because because I, I have a really hard time taking my storyboard drawings seriously enough to believe in it in any way. Like they’re really bad drawings. And I can’t for the life of me commit myself doing a good drawing for a reason. Or, you know, just a drawing that I don’t know that I’ve ever done a good drawing but like a drawing that I’m really committed to. So it’s not until like, I know I’m making the film that I will sit down and like, really put together an image that I think has some image And direction to it. And then once, so then I have that and then the film sort of, and then that in sort of plays out. But it’s not until I’m actually working on the film that the actual composition and movement and all that stuff happens when you have to hire other people to to sort of help animation then that’s a bit harder and you have to sort of I what I usually Hand in Hand them is a fully finished first frame with with as much of the layout as I can so that it feels like I have my actors in place. I’ve hit up the camera and so I know what that the feeling of that shot is supposed to be. But yeah, I insofar as I rather not be tied down too much until I actually start animating

Aram Collier 18:59
So Anne it sounds like then you have this scene where you’re looking for mushrooms in the forest. So this was something that you kind of created independently that it was a memory that you had.

Anne Koizumi 19:13
Yeah, no, this is definitely This is a recurring memory. This is like our summer vacations. We’re camping and searching for mud stuck so but it really is kind of one of my fondest memories of of spending time with my dad I really enjoyed. I really enjoy being out in nature and I think that’s definitely one of the things that I miss about you know, being in Calgary is that I was so close to the mountains. I was close to Drumheller, which has like the hoodoos and the desert and then I you know you’re close to the prairies. So I and I really think it was my dad who like gave me the appreciation for nature, you know, because that’s what we would do. Like I always wanted to go to Disneyland as a kid. I never did, but he took us camping and I Really glad that he did now? Yeah, I found it really again, sorry not to like, bring up the storyboard piece again. But it’s actually really neat that there wasn’t like a planned out way that you wanted to tell the story just because I feel this film in particular, like, based off of your memories, the way that like memory works. It’s not, it’s not linear. And I think kind of going off from that. You did a lot of research into it from like pulling this like footage of the orphanage to the family photos to the actual interview. So I’m just curious, like, how long that did that take? And for sure, it was like your story to tell, but also all the other people that were involved in this film as well. People that you interviewed, but did that bring up for them as well? It just seemed like a very, like, collective kind of memory as well. Yeah, no, for sure. I think my approach for sure was more documentary than it than anything like, I initially approached it as if I was making a documentary film, which it is. So what I wanted to do is I wanted to start right off the bat with interviews. So like when I started my sabbatical, I was in Calgary, and I had and it was Christmas. So everyone was home. And I had that opportunity to interview you know, my, my family members, and my dad’s best friend, you know, kind of all within the span of a week. Then it was a month later when I flew to Japan, and then I did all of my interviews in Japan. In terms of the the memories, the interviews, were for sure, challenging, and I don’t think any of my family members thought it was gonna be hard. I had, you know, had I had written down a bunch of questions. And I was asking, basically, all of my siblings like the same questions, at some point, like, I think this is a family. You know, we do talk a lot, but we don’t really talk about our feelings. And so when we, when I kind of brought up these memories of my dad, I think it was really painful for my family, you know. And I think there was a realization that, you know, there’s there’s so much grief that they hadn’t really been. They hadn’t really dealt with or really thought about. And so for them, yeah, it was an emotional process, but at the same time, like, they’ve all said to me at some point that it really was important to do that, like even for them just to be a part of the film process. And just to see me make this film and even to see it, see it finished, like for them as much as it was for me it was it was a big, like it was a healing process. Oh, so yeah, like my family. The response from them has all been like really positive

Howie Shia 23:01
So, so and then, to that end, what Where did the film start for you? And where did it sort of end up? Like, were you anticipating it to be as immediately emotionally draining as it sounds like it was or not draining is not the right word. But uh

Anne Koizumi 23:26
I’d say that’s a pretty good word

Howie Shia 23:30
It seems like to some extent it starts with the imagery. But also, I mean that you’ve decided to do this, you know, it’s gonna be about your dad. I think you know, it’s gonna be about your dad, or is it even more vague than that.

Anne Koizumi 23:45
I think I started making the film. Like I knew for sure I was gonna have to face my own demons. I didn’t know to what extent I was going to have to do that. I kept telling people Oh, I’m making a film. About my dad. And then like, a few months later, I would be like, making a film about my dad, but it’s actually turning more into film about me, you know. And so, I think for sure, I saw that evolution, like as I was seeking out stories, because initially like getting those interviews was really about finding more about my father. And then as I was working on the script, I realized, okay, it’s actually like, it has a lot to do with my memories of my father and the and the real painful ones. And, and, you know, including that one in the classroom, and I just thought, Okay, this is going to be about our relationship. And so that’s it. Definitely. Yeah, it definitely started as me finding more about my dad knowing that I’d have to incorporate my personal experiences in it, but I just didn’t know how much and then as I was making it, I just realized that it was really about a lot of a lot of the The robots a lot of the regret, I guess, that I was carrying and the guilt that I was carrying, was definitely put into the film

Aram Collier 25:12
I’m curious about this. Well, I really liked that you mentioned this story about, you know, your friend gave you or notice something about this address to your father a conversation to your father. And one of the things that I that really resonated for me is that, you know, we don’t talk to our parents, we don’t talk to our elders want to talk to her siblings, sometimes there’s linguistic reasons, linguistic barriers for that, but I think it’s also you know, cultural factors too. I mean, I’m, I’m so curious like, why, like, why don’t we talk to our family like the you know, because, you know, so much of the emotional weight in this is is is that is that you didn’t know get the chance to express that. And, and we experienced that in the film too, because it’s framed as this conversation and we find out that you didn’t have this.

Anne Koizumi 26:08
Well, I think a lot of it for my father was that it was it was cultural, you know, I think talking about his past was not necessarily something that he was proud of. I don’t think he he thought that I would benefit at all from hearing his story. I think he, but and I also do think that, you know, in Japanese culture, there’s an expression it’s she cuts like a knife. And essentially, it means there’s no there’s no reason, you know, there’s there’s no point you know, so it’s like, what is the point of discussing it if nothing can be done? So I think that that can that kind of cultural understanding, like really inhibited him from talking about things that were painful. And I think, think things that are painful are different difficult to talk about in my family, you know, because there’s shame that’s attached with pain, you know? So it’s like, you don’t want to share those stories because it’s because it’s embarrassing, but it also because you know, it carry shame. So, um, I think, I don’t know, I think that’s one of the reasons I feel like, you know, after making this film, like, like, I, like I again, I’m really close with my family, and especially my siblings, and we do you talk, like, we’ve had more open conversations about painful things since I’m making this film. Sure.

Aram Collier 27:45
Well, that’s awesome to hear. Like, that film can do that. You know? Sometimes you make a film and you’re like, what am I doing right? Um, but you know, I think another thing that I feel like this film gets to that Further complicates that, like, that kind of communication is the kind of generational issues between first and second gen, right. But that second gen, you know how hard the first gen has it, you know, what they struggled through? And that, like any of your struggles, like don’t mean anything compared to that, you know what I mean? And I felt that really strongly in your film, and that and that, like, I mean, I think that’s also one reason why we don’t talk about things sometimes, too, you know?

Anne Koizumi 28:30
Yeah, for sure. And there’s definitely I think moments even where my parents kind of reminded me of that, you know, like, complaining in general was just like, very much looked down upon in my family. And so it was all about like, kind of enduring pain and my family was just like, parents I should say, my my parents weren’t necessarily hear about my problems.

Kelly Lui 28:57
There’s a line. I think It’s at the 430 mark, or it’s a line that your you scripted that your father wrote. I called out your name, because I want you to know that I see you

Anne Koizumi 29:11
Yeah, this line

Kelly Lui 29:13
Okay, I honestly like I’ve seen this film, like four or five times this. I don’t think there’s been one time that I have not cried, watching your film. I did cry earlier, had to be. I was like, oh, gotta cry quietly. But, um, I think about this. I was just kind of curious, like, How many? How many drafts did did you have to go through before arriving to what is in this film here?

Anne Koizumi 29:43
Many, many, many drafts. I think I wrote every line probably about like, I don’t know, like, least five times and there are some lines in there that I wrote probably 20 times like I just couldn’t figure out the best way to say it. But But you Yeah, that outline. Really just came out of having, just wanting to understand my dad’s behaviors, or like just wanting to understand like, I, he teased me at school like I why he insisted on drawing attention to me in front of my friends. You know, like, I really just wanted so badly to understand that instead of trying to empathize with me and being like, Oh, she’s shy, you know, I don’t want to embarrass her I just said I’m gonna leave her alone. Like that was not my dad’s thinking

Aram Collier 30:35
One thing that I feel it’s like, really strong in both films. And and we’ve kind of talked about it to the the effect of growing up in the West in the prairies has on your perspective and how you see the world. Obviously, in your film, and you know, it’s your it’s your personal experience growing up in Calgary, but there’s something about Both the the location of the prayers, but also in that time, both, you know, I think you’re you’re talking about the late 80s. And then how you’re talking about the future, but the future, kind of in reference to your past your personal experience there. There’s something like really interesting about how these places and this time has influenced both of these films. And so, so, so first in an answer, you know, you talked about having you wanted your dad to be this jet Japanese salary, man, which, you know, and then you also mentioned diehard, right? You wanted to be him to be the guy who owned the tower and diehard right? Which is Jameson data. Right? It was awesome. And, you know, it’s, it’s incredible how that time of the 80s there’s so much like cultural imagination of what what Japan Was or represented to North America, you know that it could affect you in that way, right?

Anne Koizumi 32:06
Mm hmm. For sure the media had a huge impact in terms of how I perceived my family and how I perceived myself. Absolutely.

Aram Collier 32:15
Yeah. It’s I mean, it’s so fascinating to and then and then we see in, in in Howie’s film, I mean, I, I think about similar in that era in that 80s. And even it carries forward to now and that like, East Asian things being kind of like, always the future and you kind of see that in Howie in your film. That it’s like, it’s a ramen shop, right? Like that’s, that’s cosmopolitanism. That’s a that’s the future. I mean, I just, yeah, I don’t know what I’m kind of getting at but this is cultural imagination that that is mixing all this like prairie at ease. Together, you know, in both of these fillms.

Anne Koizumi 33:04
Yeah, well, I for me, I think like being from the prairies like I, I guess I instantly think landscapes, you know, like I think of epic landscapes. I think about the prairies, I think about the mountains, I think about like the desert and the Hutus like, and I feel like that’s kind of imprinted into my visual brain. And it’s like very hard not to include those in my films. And in the same way that you talk about the 80s. And those cultural references, like those had such a strong impact, I’m sure on a lot of visual artists. And, you know, it’s it’s hard not to think about those things when you’re making and creating something like they are inherently influencing our work.So yeah, I totally, I totally hear what you’re saying Aram.

Kelly Lui 33:57
Yeah. I think No, just not I’m not asking the question. On behalf Aram, but like Aram I talk about this all the time, it’s like really interesting to think about how torontonians kind of think that like, we are like the be all end all in some way. And so both of your works, both of you, as creators from the prairies, who were we don’t often see as much like narratives or stories from our least maybe it’s not like it’s not in our purview as much. Like it’s it’s really interesting to see those stories situated in those spaces specifically

Aram Collier 34:30
And also definitely very much informed by those spaces, but also not just the location, but also the time, like the era that you grew up in, like, I mean, and you’re very much you know, referencing that time in a specific way because that’s when you grew up, but also how he in your piece that you know, you are referencing that even though your film takes place in the future, so you know what were some of the things for both of you that made you decide to set these films in the prairies.

Anne Koizumi 35:00
Yeah, well I guess the reason I like my story set in the praise because I was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, but but speaking about kind of the influence of the prairies on my films, like I, you know, I have been, I’ve always been a visual person and you know, when I think about the prairies, I think about, you know, epic landscapes, I think about the Rocky Mountains, I think about the prairies and I think about, like, even the Hutus near Drumheller, and I feel like you know, these images are really imprinted into my brain and into my visual brain. So, it’s hard not to include them in in my films because they’ve been so highly like because I’ve been exposed to them for so long. But also there’s like, a, like, I would say that there’s a bit of minimalism in my aesthetic and it’s, you know, spaces are open, you know, spaces are not always crowded and cramped. And I would say that growing up in the prairie Has has really had an impact on my visual design, like, I like generally things to be more minimal and open and there’s space to breathe in it. And that’s because that’s I’ve been surrounded by that kind of landscape where it is, it does always feel so open. And there is always kind of space for me to move around.

Howie Shia 36:23
So yeah, I was gonna say and the, the, the opening and final shot of of your film that is, is the magical because if, on the one hand, it’s very theatrical and sort of, we’re very aware that this is a set piece and lighting and all that there’s this incredible sense of immersion, that you’ve created it. I think I assumed sort of comes from from that instinct and that I don’t think you necessarily learn from composition class. I don’t I have no idea how you learned. God. I don’t know if there’s such thing as Yeah, I mean i i agree with with what he said and I’m similar I think the to this day my when I’m asked to do a layout, I start drawing a straight line and then clouds usually in there somewhere.I think the other part of it is and Anne’s film speaks very directly to this very beautifully is that certainly when we were growing up and to some extent still now. I think there is there is a sense of being Asian or in Saskatoon, you know, they still use the term oriental pretty freely. And that’s partly why I, you know, I read the liberties or angelyn restaurants in the restaurant. There is still a sense of sort of exoticism, if not entirely another, but there’s certainly there’s an exotic sort of thing where you are fielding questions about what it’s what it’s like, what do people in your culture do? On this day or in that situation? You know, there’s a lot of those questions that you have to answer on a daily basis, growing up questions that you answer when I was growing up, and maybe now still, but I certainly I think that sense of difference between sort of whatever the perception of mainstream culture is and whatever we are meant to be how We fit into that is populates our both our film

I did I just saved like random words there

Anne Koizumi 39:18
No, No, you didn’t.

Aram Collier 39:21
I mean, we’re all saying random words, right?

Howie Shia 39:24
I’m just reading things off of Google Translate

Aram Collier 39:29
I mean, I think that, you know, this idea of the cultural imagination, we really see this in both films too, especially, especially when we think about that late 80s time, you know, like, and in another interview, you had talked about how you wanted your dad to be the salary man and you wanted him to be the guy who from diehard who owned the tower, you know, and, and then how he in your film how, you know, and especially when you think about 80s movies like Blade Runner and stuff like that. It’s like how the the Asian was like, especially East Asian was like the future quote unquote, right? And so really see this cultural imagination so strongly in both of these and and cultural imagination specifically, I feel like from that era too.

Howie Shia 40:20
Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. I was in Taiwan a few years ago with my family. First time I brought my kids and there was there’s a few sort of scenes that at night when you’re walking through the streets where you think, Oh, this is Blade Runner and in it and, and I did sort of scratch my head about, you know, was Blade Runner sort of prophetic or, or is it the other way around or the difference, you know, so I, yeah, I do wonder about because as it turns out, it usually is, you know, comically is what everybody seems to be talking about these days. And, you know, certainly in film, China is funding everything it looks like. So I wonder about sort of whether those films in that moment it when we were growing up was precursor, or, or if it hurts, it’s just coincidence that everybody is turned this corner to think, once again, see, you know, Asia is the future.

Anne Koizumi 41:36
Like going back to what Aram was was asking like in regards to those representations of Asia and in my case, like Asian, Asian men, like there weren’t a ton of Asian men being represented in mainstream Western media, like when I was growing up, but the few representations there were was again, like either Mr. Miyagi Like the Zen master Sensei, or like the Japanese salaryman and like when you think about the 80s like, there was a huge boom in Japan, you know, so like, during that boom, like all of you, you know, you saw that the Japanese they were they were the wealthy ones, you know, they’re the ones who had money and it was really hard for me to kind of negotiate that because I was like, well if the Japanese are supposed to be rich, like why is my father and his family not rich? You know? So it was like, you know, it’s it’s hard when that your reality is conflicting with you know, everything that you see in in in the media but so yeah, it for sure had an impact in terms of like how I saw myself and and obviously how I saw my family and it and it does seep itself into my present day work.

Aram Collier 42:56
And would you say to I mean, I I’m I guess I’m assuming that That the communities in, you know Calgary in the 80s and Saskatoon in the 80s. Probably Asian communities probably not very large, right. So this kind of cultural imagination of Asia, Asian people probably took on kind of an outsize role for you maybe?

Anne Koizumi 43:18
I don’t know, the Japanese community is small, but there is a Japanese community for sure. in Calgary and my family was was a part of it, like, all of my parents friends were Japanese. And so but that being said, like, you know, at my school there were not a ton of Asian kids, you know? So, so yeah, it was, it was hard growing up, as you know, like as an Asian kid in the 80s when there weren’t a lot of others like you and he didn’t see a lot of yourself on the screen.

Kelly Lui 44:01
Backstory podcast is written and hosted by Aram Collier and Kelly Lui. It’s edited and produced by Seungwoo, Baek and is presented by Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. Check out our show notes for more information about Howie and Anne’s works. Let us know what you think of this episode. Email us at

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