Yesterday I spent the day helping out with a shoot for TV travel program. Although I’ll only appear in a small segment of the show, it took a full day to shoot, but that’s the way these things go.
I’m not a big fan of TV and have always had very mixed feelings about being involved in anything TV related in Japan. However, after meeting with the freelance director a couple of weeks ago, it seemed it might be a good opportunity to get across what a special place Hiroshima is to visit to an overseas audience interested in making trips to Japan.
After a full day, as the sun started to set, we moved to the riverbank next to Chuo Park for the final, and most important part of the day’s filming: a talk between myself and an actor playing a travelling American. This was where I expected to be able to talk about how over the 18 years I’ve been in Hiroshima I’ve come to love the place and how it is proving to be a great place to raise a family, as well as the reasoning behind the tourism related work Joy and I do with GetHiroshima.
As we walked along the riverside, the director comes alongside and, after stressing how important this shot is, proceeded to say he wouldn’t be needing me to mention any of the stuff we talked about in our initial meeting.
He wanted to “go deeper”.
He didn’t need me to talk about Hiroshima’s incredible example of largely leaving recrimination behind in an effort move forward with its campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
He didn’t need me to talk about how my children – two clearly non-Japanese kids who are on paper American – have never been on the receiving end of any nasty or even careless comments from their classmates at the public school they attend, even during or after classes about the A-bombing. This was something that had struck me for the first time when talking with the director over drinks. I wondered if this was a result of Hiroshima’s “peace education” program and thought that it perfectly illustrated the fact although western tourists may feel some trepidation coming to Hiroshima, they should not let fears that they will not be welcome stop them from doing visiting.
He also didn’t need me to talk about the message which, alongside Joy, I’ve been working hard to get across for 10 years. About how if visitors extend their stay in Hiroshima, they have time to not only absorb and start to make sense of all that they have learnt, but give themselves the opportunity to make connections with local people around a teppan or at a bar, putting a face on the tragic city. How, by enjoying modern Hiroshima, it’s message of reconciliation and desire for future peace is felt all the more powerfully.
He said that these sentiments would come across as contrived.
But it’s all true, I said.
He said, there’s no point, no one will believe it. He wanted to “go deeper”.
Fucking television, I thought.
I have no idea what he really wanted out of me. I got the feeling that he wanted me to come out with some things that Japanese people would be reluctant to say to about Hiroshima, its past and its message, but his “directions” were so vague, (or too “deep” for my Japanese language level) that I can’t be sure of that.
One thing was for sure though, I felt ambushed and I was angry. I wanted nothing more than to pull out the mic, tell him to stuff his program and storm off diva-like. If it had been earlier in the day, I might have done just that. But, after a long day with the “traveler” and the rest of the crew, it just didn’t feel right to leave them in the lurch. As the “traveler” did his lead in, I could feel my shoulders shaking with anger. I did my best to answer his questions honestly. I don’t know why, but I also tried to “go deeper”, to give them something that they might want.
I’m not even really sure what I said in the end. My feelings and thoughts about the bombing and “peace” in Hiroshima are in a constant state of flux and I may said some things on subjects that I am not qualified to talk about and on which so many other people here are.
I doubt I went deep enough, but after the final shot the director seemed, on the surface, relatively pleased with it. He apologised for making me uncomfortable, saying he needed to push me, to make me look more serious, I look too friendly.
Make me sound negative about the city I love and I will sue you, I said.
I may have nothing to worry about. It may end up looking (possibly) and sounding (unlikely) great. Maybe no one will see it. In the larger scheme of things, who cares? These are big issues and the feelings of a dad who spends some of his free time recommending places for people to get drunk in really don’t matter. And of course, it’s television, so hopefully the show will be shown a few times before disappearing into the ether just like in the 20th century.
But shooting finished 9 hours ago and I’m typing this at 3am because I can’t sleep. I’m still fuming inside. I’m angry at the director. I’m angry at television. And, I’m angry at myself. I feel that trust was betrayed. That I was used. I feel violated.