Big In Japan

How far would you go for fame?

Big In Japan What is fame, and how does someone become famous? After hearing about Japan's obsession with foreign talents, three Aussie filmmakers embark on an outrageous mission to find fame in Tokyo. Along the way, they meet a cast of eccentric characters who have found stardom within Japanese culture as foreigners. This riotous doc explores humanity's craving for popularity in the age of the internet, revealing the darker side of the search for stardom.

“It’s a drug, it’s addicting. And once you get a little taste of that, I want more, I want more of that.” Bearing no particularly stand-out talents, 'ordinary' Aussie Dave and his two friends have one mission: experiencing and understanding fame. And they are prepared to do whatever it takes get there.

Aware of the rising demand for foreign celebrities in Japan - the popularity of which has become so absurd that you can achieve fame simply for not being Japanese - star-to-be Dave and camera-men Lachlan and Louis fly themselves over to Tokyo to make the biggest splash they can. As they venture deeper into the city, they meet an eccentric host of gaijin tarento (foreign talents), that inform and inspire their path to stardom.

Fellow Australian turned Japanese icon Rick ‘Ladybeard’ Magarey is a cross-dressing rock sensation. Having wracked up 60,000 twitter followers in just six months of arriving in the capital, he appears to be going from online strength to strength. Yet he is beginning to realise that fame comes at a cost. He recounts that back home “I can’t do anything. I can do what you saw on stage. I can get in the ring and do some wrestling. At real life I suck so much”, but now he has reached the point where he can’t walk down the street without being mobbed by fans.

Meanwhile TV veteran Bob Sapp has adopted the character of ‘The Beast’, a pro-wrestler and MMA fighter from the nineties. At first a hit TV personality with the Japanese, 'The Beast' must now struggle to keep his reputation and celebrity status alive. He reflects that being famous is certainly a double-edged sword: “A little over 10 years I’ve yet to see anyone in my family, yet to speak to anyone”, he laments, not wanting to compromise their safety due to obsessive fans.

Last but not least the team come across Canadian teen turned Jpop idol Kelsey Parnigoni, who left her home at the age of twenty in desperate pursuit of recognition in Japan. Yet the world of Jpop is perhaps not all Kelsey dreamed of, as she comes to terms with the fact that this role strips the individual of their right to have a boyfriend or indeed any public opinion of their own.

For Writer and Producer Dave, sacrifice manifests itself in the humiliation and degradation of his alter-ego, ‘Mr Jonesu’, who is pushed to swim in icy waterfalls or publicly expose himself in order to gain followers on social media. Having tasted the lifestyle of celebrity-hood - highs include securing an advertising deal with Toyota and receiving 14000 retweets on one of their twitter pictures - the crew is finally pushed to ask: ‘When is it time for us to go home?’. The further they pursue their journey, the more difficult it becomes to gain a tangible grasp of what it actually means to be famous.

It may be wild, funny and even downright bizarre, but beneath the laughs Big in Japan reveals the disconnect between our glorified perception of fame and the restricting reality of the lifestyle it entails. Flashing lights and national reverence aside, Dave’s endeavour stresses the importance of keeping sight of what is real.

Reviews and More

Big in Japan (2018) on IMDb

"The documentary is well paced. The soundtrack is perfect. Tokyo has never looked so appealing" – Follow Magazine

Big in Japan finds its own crucial statement and style” – Louise Agostino, Film Blerg

"A strange and oddly philosophical fame joyride in the vein of Louis Theroux" – Cinema Australia

For a Q&A with writer and prodcuer David Elliot-Jones, see here.

LaurelDocumentary Edge Festival - Official Selection
LaurelMelbourne Documentary Festival - Official Selection

The Producers

Lachlan Mcleod: Director

For his first major project (Convenient Education, SBS 2012), Lachlan set out to India to unveil the plight of would-be migrants who fell victim to Australia’s dysfunctional international education/migration policies. He has since formed Melbourne-based Walking Fish Productions with friends and colleagues Louis Dai and David Elliot-Jones. He believes that building respectful relationships with subjects is key to authentic storytelling. Lachlan has spearheaded the creative vision and artistic approach for each of Walking Fish’s long form projects.

David Elliot-Jones: Writer/Producer

David is a writer and producer with two major credits in Big in Japan and Convenient Education. Other achievements include producing a successful crowdfunding campaign for Big in Japan in 2017, and building fruitful partnerships with brands to facilitate funding and distribution of his films. Outside of Walking Fish projects, David freelances in film and TV and as an entertainment publicist.

Louis Dai: Editor

Louis is an independent filmmaker who grew up in Footscray, Australia in a Vietnamese migrant community. As well as co-directing and editing Big in Japan, he has been directing a feature documentary that focuses on the wrongful conviction of Iwao Hakamada – the longest-held death row inmate in the world - while looking at the systemic rot in the Japanese criminal justice system. Outside of documentaries, he directs web videos for VICE and organisations such as the Foundation for Youth Australia.

Making The Film

Having grown up in the YouTube-hungry, reality TV-obsessed noughties, filmmakers Lachy, Louis and Dave had always been fascinated by the nature of fame and what compels humans toward it. It was this, and the want of an adventure, that drew them to Japan to try to make Dave famous. Japan, with its fascinating celebrity culture and track-record for propelling ordinary foreigners into national limelight, provided an ideal setting for their two-year fame experiment.

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