Circus Prospectus

Finished writing the “Circus Prospectus” that my contacts have been asking for.  The goal was to explain what New Circus is, how it relates to Cirque du Soleil, and why it should interest people here:

Montreal-style “New Circus” is coming to Japan!

In only twenty years, the world famous “Cirque du Soleil” grew from a small, Montreal-based non-profit organization into one of the world’s most profitable live entertainment corporations.

Montreal is now known as a center of artistic creation, and the local economy has benefitted immensely from housing Cirque du Soleil’s international headquarters in its home city.

Now a team of eight Montreal-based artists are in pre-production of an original, Montreal-style “New Circus” premiering in Fall, 2006 and touring Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Canada in 2007.

The eight members of the creative team include contemporaries and former artists of the Cirque du Soleil, as well as graduates of the renowned “National Circus School,” located adjacent to Cirque du Soleil in Montreal’s “City of Circus Arts” complex.

Although the high-caliber acrobatics and spectacular production values will be immediately recognizable to any fan of Cirque du Soleil, the Directors and Producers have decided to create a show that uses a blend of acrobatics, high-energy dance, multi-media, martial arts and modern music to specifically target younger Asian audiences in a geographical area that includes the metropolitan centers of Taipei, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.

The creative team is currently searching for corporate sponsors who are willing to help support a production in the Tokyo metropolitan area.  They would benefit from the enormous publicity campaign planned for this tour throughout greater Asia and Canada, and from association with a youthful, high-energy production.

This production would be the first step in a three-step strategy to create a Tokyo-based live arts organization that would produce shows like these on a regular basis:

  • A limited engagement run in a medium-sized venue. 7 days, 10 shows (planned for Spring, 2007)
  • Month-long run of 50 shows (planned for Fall, 2008)
  • Produce a high-quality show/tour annually every year in conjunction with artistic organizations from Japan and throughout Asia.

We are now looking for corporate partners for the first step of this business venture.  This is an extraordinary chance to support the formation of a production team that might be able to do for our sponsors and Tokyo what Cirque du Soleil was able to do for their local sponsors and Montreal!

All right, sending this off to Adco now!

A Canadian Partner

I met with a Montreal producer visiting Tokyo yesterday.  We got on really well and just sort of hung out around Tokyo, chatting, and looking at girls for about 8 hours.

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I really think that he and his company could benefit from supporting new circus development in Asia and Japan.  They want to reopen an out-of-business theater in Japan and run it like a Canadian theater with emphasis on bringing cool art people together from both sides of the Pacific instead of on making lots of money, essentially what The Rocker is trying to do in Taiwan, and what I am trying to do between Taiwan and Tokyo.

Their problem is that they do not have a project to sell yet.  My problem is that I do not have a government or an organization behind me to lent a little weight and credibility to the project when I talk to people.

If we could combine this project with theirs so that it showcases not only what we are trying to do artistically in this show but also what can be done in Asia, I think it is a win-win situation all around, potentially guaranteeing us a venue in Japan for future projects.  This is huge.  I just thought of this while the two of us were getting drunk together, and mentioned it in passing.  He seems interested, but needs more details.  He is in town a few more weeks, so I will try to set up another meeting, but first, it is this Saturday at a bar for a Montreal-style party.

I imagine that this organization that he is with has access to some sweet government grants to bring Canadian art to other countries.   If we can combine a pull from Canada with the push that we have from Taiwan, and me here in Japan staying in contact with local investors…could be great!

Corporate Sponsorship

In just two weeks, the possibility of doing a corpo show of 15-30 minutes for Sony in Sri Lanka evolved from a surprise showing of my number at a house party to tonight’s sit-down with a Sony producer.

This is all thanks to The Activist, who has been something of my guardian angel in Japan since I met her at the Expo.  We have a common connection to the emigrant Japanese diaspora – her grandfather has history in Hawaii and San Francisco around the same time that my family moved to Hawaii.  She’s been keeping an eye out for people in her network interested in someone of my experience level with an in Asian policy, international development, political science, and international studies.  She’s even gone so far as to generously offer to help cover my ticket back to Japan if I have to leave, but I feel really uncomfortable about accepting such a favor, even though she says it is her company that would pay for it as an investment in a future artist/political activist.

For this reason, she invited me to a party thrown by the most successful Sri Lankan auto importer in Japan for a famous Sri Lankan singer and the Sri Lankan ambassador.  Unknown to me, she came with the DVD of my number, and after the concert, she put it into this projector and played my handstand number for the whole party.  I was the only non-Sri Lankan there other than her and was shocked at first, but the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Later, she told me that she knew that as a performer I would not be able to do my own publicity well without seeming overbearing, so she decided to just put my money where my mouth was for me… and it worked.  That was when the ambassador came to talk to me about this Sony deal.

While Sony has always worked with UNESCO take care of these gigs which are a bit like Sony commercials in developing nations, the ambassador (who was formerly at the UN and also the minister of arts and culture) prefers the more spiritual side that he saw in my number.  The gig is supposed to be in September, and it is meant to introduce some new robots.  The show’s theme is how spirituality of humans lead to the creation of technology.

So The Activist is working with me right now on preparing our materials because she is friends with the Sony project manager and the ambassador.  She’s like the grease that can make this machine work and it was she who told me that what would be helpful would be these letters of recommendation and intent to show people involved in the Sony project.

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She knows so many people and I’m learning that you never know who might be interested in something.  The more people you can contact, the better the chances of finding some success!  Not only because of their interest, but also because of them spreading the word: I’ve heard that the Sri Lankan ambassador is mentioning our work to other Sri Lankan companies visiting Japan.  The Activist has been working since then to get all the inside information about the project and what they are looking for so that our proposal fits exactly that when they start looking for potential groups.   We’ll be ‘first in line.’

What she’s learned is that there is a Sri Lankan company that wants to help Sony invest in Sri Lanka.  in order to do that, they need to have a little event for Sri Lankan investors to advertise all that Sony can offer them.  If that event generates enough interest, and Sony is convinced that it can work with these investors and vice-versa, everyone is happy, and this show is meant to be a part of that event.  The current option for the show is some Sony robots but some people are not convinced that a robot show will excite Sri Lankan investors, so the idea is that maybe we will do some sort of live show with robots involved.

About a week after that party, I actually had the chance to show my press kit to this company and it went far better than I had hoped.  Even without a DVD they say that this is want that for their event in Sri Lanka instead of the robots.  Of course, I’ll only believe it when I see it because after all, unlike the robots I was not designed and built by Sony, but at least it means they are open to a new idea…

Once Sony see the sort of work we do, the two companies will decide together what they want and will ask for an official proposal.  Still so early to say anything, but things are going better than I imagined, so far.

Interestingly, she is hesitant to contact the Sri Lankan ambassador directly for some reason, but I think we are doing fine with the contacts we already have.  The Activist tells me that they are like her own family and that they are already sharing the project idea with lots of other Sri Lankan companies.  I’ve asked her to keep me informed about these companies’ expectations, so that I can start imagining a show in my mind.  Then, I can suggest various approaches we can take.  She has a very strong energy that makes people excited to work together and to make big projects happen!

That brings me to tonight’s meeting which was a big step forward.  I finally met the guy from Sony who is managing this show…  a very cool guy.  I had to make a “lowest budget possible” in terms of artists fees so that they know what we are working with, so I suggested a team of 5 people, a musical director, a director, me, maybe some acrobats from Canada/Europe, and maybe some of the Taiwanese artists.  Since the National Theatre really liked the presentation I made for The Rocker I’m using what I learned by preparing that presentation to tailor-make this one.

The major costs are like that of the last gig in Taiwan: fees, plus room, board, and travel, but the point is that it will be a big corporate event with all the major companies in Sri Lanka as potential future investors, and we will be televised all over the country.  They are being really perfectionist, and I support that the goal is to maximize production values to make a really good 20-30 minute show.

So I’m feeling positive about the meeting.  He is still in the process of trying to find a corporation in Sri Lanka that will be willing to look at it as a full-on investment, which would allow us to earn corpo rates for each show plus rehearsal, room, board, and travel.

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Staying in the zen zone.

Acrobat Sensei

On the Taiwan side, it seems that the little video I made of my act and for the festival is doing its job for The Rocker in his meetings in Taiwan.  I wasn’t sure it was up to snuff when I finished it in my tiny little tatami room.  The investors who have seen it have been really positive, but as The Rocker says, “it helps a bit if they nothing about performance.”  His point is that it keeps them out of our hair and in the position of throwing the money where it needs to go.

My experience teaching in Taipei has encouraged me to explore in parallel the possibility of teaching workshops in movement and clowning, etc, etc, in the style of Jacques Lecoq and the work we did at ENC…  for example, I could go to Taipei with a curriculum that could support future work for shows with The Rocker later…  just something to introduce some ideas that can then incubate for a month or two so that we are not introducing everything all at once during the creation.

I am counting on Taiwan to be my main source of revenue for 2006, for better or worse.  The only annoyance right now is that sloshing sound of money going down the drain!  What would help me feel a bit more stable is to understand dates (the sooner I can be in Taiwan and the longer I can stay hooked up with paying projects, the better), and budget.  I’m not panicking, though; things always have a way of working out in the end.

Just Take It In Stride

So I didn’t get the job from Global Live Entertainment; it is a bit of a disappointment, but that is the business!

I’m starting Japanese lessons again through private lessons with my former Japanese teacher.  While I’m pretty good at understanding spoken Japanese (except on the phone) I would really like to read and write Japanese, and perfecting my spoken Japanese.  I am still training as much since I only work the mornings…  but I am much more tired when I get home, so I am not getting as much business done at night.  Luckily, I have lots of days off, so I will be able to catch up then.  Unemployed life is fucked up, but at least things are moving.  I am happy, but confused.  I hope when work starts on the Taiwan project in March, it will clear my head.  This producing stuff can drive you crazy!

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My attention is shifting to developing the network I’m establishing here in Japan and showing them what The Rocker and I can do by adding circus and multimedia to their projects.  Multimedia can really make a show look very modern and large and affect a public in an emotional way.  The Rocker did great work with a very spiritual and famous dance company in Taiwan where dancers move in a very minimal and spiritual way with a film projected behind them.  A very moving show…  he said that if Japan ever needs such services, he is willing to contact his people, a Vietnamese and a Japanese couple who work together to create such things.

Japanese MBA

Doing projects in Japan is very different from the way of doing things in Canada and Europe.  There, I used a sort of ‘do it yourself, it’s just so crazy it just might work’ kind of philosophy.  I think my friends here understand it in theory, but the idea of lots of little companies banding together to get something done is a little weird here, I gather.  they are used to a big company footing the bill and taking little companies along for the ride, which I think contributes to why everyone says that it is so hard to innovate in performance art here in Japan.

I keep learning more and more about what my Japanese contacts think are important:

  • Be visual.  I am noticing that the people I am talking to are very visual.  Until they see a diagram or something, nothing registers.  For example, one person asked that I draw up a quick schematic of what a project like this entails.  I can do a basic one, but I need to run it by The Rocker quickly to see if there are any things I am forgetting.  I’m also looking for programs and brochures of The Rocker’s past shows and creating a DVD of his work and starting to work on translating these publicity materials.
  • Have letters of intent. The idea is simply to show that there is interest and the potential for financial support to bring our show to Japan.  They have this “no risk investment” ideal (is such a thing even possible?) and I need to feed it at least in practice.  If they know that another party sees this show as a valuable product, they will be more willing to jump onboard.  This is an interesting thing I have noticed in Japan…  you could have the Mona Lisa here, outside on the street in Ginza, and no one would give it a second look.  As soon as you have a lineup of 15 minutes to see it, though, you will suddenly find that everyone in Japan wants to see it and it will take reservations and a 4 hour wait in like to get a peek.  Same psychology, I guess.
  • Have letters of introduction.It seems that it helps if an established foreign director writes some sort of brief letter of introduction that lends some official weight and credibility to the things I am saying.  My friends at the largest Asian ad company are writing a letter that says that they support my work as an artist and businessman and The Rocker is writing one that says something like “We’re trying to push performance art in new directions in Asia and to show it all over the world” and that he appreciates my work as a showbusiness guy and creator.  I’ve been reading a book about the Edo period in Japan and in an interesting parallel, letters of introduction were just mentioned as well.  There were very strict rules regarding samurai, and being an illegal ‘ronin’ was severely punishable.  As such, unaccompanied samurai were expected to carry letters of introduction from their daimyo, saying that they are allowed to be wherever they are.  Furthermore, a letter of introduction was required before being allowed to meet anyone of great importance so that people would know it was not some rogue samurai on a suicide mission.
  • Look like an actual company.
  • register a website name
  • get a company email address
  • get a mailing address in downtown Tokyo (in Ginza or Aoyama-dori), through friends if possible
  • get business cards made for the project
  • Know the market and meet experts.  Visit theaters to get an idea of space available and range of prices, meet with some people or contact some people who have produced shows in Japan to get a good idea of publicity needs and costs, and definitely keep networking with creative people who can lend their energy and good thoughts to our project.
  • Get used to company profiles. If people haven’t hearD of you or your partners they are going to ask for something called a “company profile” that all Japanese companies are required to put on their website.  It talks about how big the company is, how much money they earn, how long they’ve been around, etc.  Obviously, mine is pretty useless and very easy to do, but to make up for that I do need to get corporate profiles of any potential Taiwanese investor organizations.

The Year of the English Teacher

While 2005 may not have ended in the best way for a lot of reasons, it looks like the worst is over for me right now; I have a visa extension of one year starting next week, and money to stay in Japan for two months which means that I will be staying at The Refugee Camp at least until March.

The way this happened was by getting a job teaching English part-time in the Japanese public schools from mid-January to mid-March, which will give me enough money to subsist on.

So it looks like all major problems are solved…  I just lose a little bit of time that I would have liked to be available to work on producing these projects, but for now, that is life, and it is just for two months.  After that, I think I can leave without anyone being upset.  They English lesson company told me there may be a manager position open in the long term, but I am not sure I want a full-time position with them because of the work I want to do on my own projects.