Journey to Japan–Part IV in a Series of Guest Blogs by Columbia Filmmaker Wade Sellers

(editor’s note:  Jasper loves it when the work of local artists takes them away from Columbia–as long as they come back home and are generous enough to share their adventures with us while we’re waiting on them. Local filmmaker Wade Sellers’ newest project has taken him to Japan where he’ll be working for the next ten days. Lucky for us, Wade has agreed to post a series of blogs detailing his journey and his work while away. This is the second post in that series.) Katherine, our PR rep from the Army, brought her son along to dinner last night. He's ten years old and very curious. While riding in the van he looked at me and asked “Are you making a movie?” “Yes” I answered. Looking at me and Jeff he said “Just the two of you?”


For what we are trying to accomplish on this trip it is that simple. Make sure the camera is working, make sure the mics have good batteries, put Ted Bell in a place he hasn't seen in seventy years and capture his reactions.


The most critical event of our trip is to get Ted back to the area he led his men to during their assault on Ishimini Ridge. He has made it clear to us that his only concern is to stand at that point where his foxhole was during those three days of fighting. We have studied maps of this area. The problem is this area has now been covered with apartment buildings. Ted has very good recollection of the area so we decided to work in reverse.


Our morning began by visiting Shurijo Castle. It sits atop one of the highest points on Okinawa. When Ted Bell was attacking Ishimini Ridge he could see Shuri Castle in the distance. It was our hope that by taking Ted to the castle he could look over the area where we thought his battle took place and have him recognize the terrain. It took about five minutes. Once we pointed out the area where the ridge was, that he said “That's it, over there somewhere. Near the house with the red roof and garage.” His nerves were calmed.


When you take someone back to an area with the purpose of filming them you are taking a huge gamble. As a filmmaker you are influencing the situation a bit. I have learned to stay out of the way as much as possible and never turn off the camera. We purposely put Ted at Shuri Castle to look over the area. Our hope was that he would remember things that he hadn't thought of in the two previous interviews we conducted in his apartment. For him to go back to the fight. Two hours of filming took place at the castle. At this moment I have no idea how this footage will fit into the story. You just keep repeating to yourself to let everything play out in front of you and don't interrupt what's happening. But most of all the goal is to capture honest moments that can help communicate our story.


During a moment when Ted and his son were walking by themselves, I turned the camera off while I ran to reposition myself. The moment didn't seem all too important. A group of high school aged Japanese kids walked by in a group. Ted looked at them, paused, then looked at his son and remarked “Seventy years ago I would have been shooting at those kids.” I missed it. We asked him to repeat the comment later. It wasn't the same. Never turn off the camera.


Tomorrow we head to Ie Jima Island, located 7 miles off the northwest coast of Okinawa. This is the area where Ted first landed and set up artillery positions before the invasion of Okinawa. MW.