(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 final post in that series.)
When we sat down for our first pre-production meeting, after arriving in Okinawa, we went through the shooting schedule for our time there. Jeff and I discussed the timeline with Katherine, our PR rep from Torii Station, and made adjustments as necessary. Ted and his son sat around the table with us. At the end of the meeting, Ted kept asking when we were going to Ishimi Ridge. “The whole reason I came back here was to find that ridge I stood on.” he said to us. We realized that everything was becoming real to him. He was nervous and excited.
For sixty-eight years, he expressed to us, he has thought about those three days he spent at Ishimi Ridge every day of his life. Now he was back.
We had planned our schedule to end with taking Ted back to the ridge. Our hope was that after visiting all of the other areas that were associated with his time at Okinawa, his memories would be more open, that he would be able to share more stories with us. When the time came to take Ted to that area we had no idea how ready he would be.
There had been some contention as to where the actual spot was. When Ted was here the area was barren, it has now been covered with apartment buildings. Unknown to us, two Marines that volunteer their time at The Battle of Okinawa Historical Museum, had been studying maps of the battle and had scouted and found the actual site. At the crest of the ridge there was a park, an area free from construction, that was open to the entire area.
So here we were.
When we pulled our van up to the area outside the park, Ted was ready to jump out of the van. I had to ask him to wait a few minutes while the microphone was placed on him and I jumped out with the camera. Once I was set, everything else played out without interruption. When Ted reached the top of the walkway and looked around, he pulled his arm away from his son and, in front of us all, turned into a twenty-five year old boy again. He began walking hurriedly around the area. “This may be it, this may be it.” He would stop and look at Shuri Castle. He would look down the ridge and over the entire area. It was all coming back to him. Everyday, for sixty-eight years, he had thought about a horrible three days of fighting that took place on this spot and now he was back.
“This is it, I'm convinced this is the place I fought.” Ted finally said.
I captured all of his reactions. Questions were asked about his emotions and he answered honestly. These are things you recognize through the lens. But the moment came, the moment you never expect but hope happens, the real honest moment, when I had to run back to the van for the tripod and on the way back saw Ted standing, by himself, through a group of trees. He was standing at the edge, looking over the ridge. The shot was perfect and his microphone was still on. He was so far away I couldn't understand what he was doing, but I through the camera on the tripod and began filming. As I put the headphones on I realized what was happening. He was remembering. He was crying.
You are able to see these moments through a viewfinder. I've never understood why they come through that glass. It still seems like magic to me. But this moment was the one, from a completely selfish filmmaking point of view, that I had been hoping for from the first day we started planning this trip.
I am leaving with hours and hours of footage, all of which will end up in about eight minutes of the film. But that one, singular, honest moment is all that is needed to tell our story. MW.
Jasper-Blog Post Script from Wade:
I've been told this Japan trip was my idea. I'll take that. One of the funny secrets about producing reality based programming is how much location plays into the story, sometimes. I had traveled to Europe and thought it would be great to go to Japan. It made sense to balance out the series.
It's right to say that Jeff and I had become friends with Ted Bell and his story had affected us so much that it was a natural to go forward with it.
We had no idea what was in store for us from a production point of view. This whole trip could have been a bust. Thankfully, that was not the case. Maybe it is the intuition that comes with expereince, but we felt that good things would come from taking Ted back to Okinawa. We gathered all of the necessary footage needed to complete our show, but more so we were able to experience a rare opportunity with a great man. He let us share it with him and I believe we did this without “directing” him- making him do things to suit the purpose of our show.
I'm a better filmmaker for this week, but now it is time to move on to the next project. There is a full plate in front of me, but this will be time shared that I will appreciate for many years to come.
Thanks for reading along with this blog. I hope I was able to give a bit of insight to what the process is like for me. MW.