|Where Are We Going
STATUS: In distribution. Where Are We Going is available on the YBS online movie platform, Serenergy, as well as the Roku TV public streaming channel, All Hawaii TV. It was selected into the LA Film School’s film festival, Digital Filmmaking Events (for the relevance of this to the film see “Company Notes” to follow), and was also accepted into the Monza Film Fest in Italy, where it obtained an honorable mention recognition.
Through the film’s acceptance and screening in the Monza Film Fest, Where Are We Going was also selected to be in the World Book of Short Films. This is a special book produced by Cinebaloss, which contains shorts films that it has viewed over the years for the festivals it manages, namely, the Reale Film Festival, Assurdo Film Festival, Monza Film Fest, Milano Indie Movie Awards, and Night of Shorts – Drama and Comedy.WW
Where Are We Going was also accepted and screened in the 2024 Berlin Lift-Off Global Network’s Online Film Festival.
COMPANY NOTES: Yellow Brick Studio provided the underlying insurance for filmmaker Christine Tsuzaki – a frequent crew member on many a YBS production – in the production of this film, which was her final project in order to complete her studies for the LA Film School. Referred to as the curriculum’s “Capstone,” its final project, the requirement was to produce, direct, and edit a 10-minute short film, utilizing all the knowledge gained through the program. Beyond this, YBS will also assist in the marketing and distribution of the film once it is completed.
The Official Trailer For Where Are We Going As Edited By Christine Tsuzaki
IMDb: Where Are We Going
Project Origination & Development
Filmmaker Christine Tsuzaki was inspired to write her short film, Where Are We Going, because of a friend who had Stage 2 ovarian cancer. She told Christine that after her surgery she was told by her doctor that she had been dead for 30 minutes, and she didn’t even know about it. Christine asked her if she remembered dreaming about anything and she said she didn’t remember. This gave Christine the idea to write a script about her friend’s encounter with the Angel of Death. They collaborated and wrote a script in 2014, casting her friend as herself, while Christine was cast as Death. Christine would go on to rewrite the script in 2022 and in doing so, changed the Angel of Death’s name to the Woman in White. All told, it took nine years to bring Where Are We Going to the screen. Christine had a very specific vision for the film from the beginning. She wanted the actresses to be standing on a desolate, empty beach against a clear sky, and wear long flowing dresses that would flap against the wind— a blue floral pattern for Roxine and a white dress for the Woman in White. She imagined the ocean to be a large, mysterious expanse that separated earth from the afterlife. She chose to go with blues, teals, and whites as her main color scheme (her “mood” board appears at left). Teal is the color that represents ovarian cancer awareness. The fictional name of the hospital where Roxine has her surgery is Kailani Medical Center, which literally means “heavenly ocean,” a foreshadowing of the dream sequence. Christine also had a vision for each of the characters. She imagined Roxine, the ovarian cancer patient and protagonist, to appear vulnerable, innocent, and unassuming, the Woman in White to be a bit snarky and condescending, and the doctor to be soft spoken and sympathetic. She enjoyed playing around with the concept of an Angel of Death character who is treating her “job” like a disgruntled employee who has been doing her job for too long, and as a result she treats her “customers” as nuisances. This sharply contrasts with Roxine’s innocence, whose only desire is to survive. By the end of the story, however, Roxine manages to soften the heart of the Woman in White when she mentions the love she has for her husband, and the Woman in White decides to grant her more time to live her life. Christine found that the hardest thing was finding the shoot locations. She found the beach location when she served as a PA on another highly anticipated Yellow Brick Studio production, Shikata Ga Nai. The small stretch of beach was in the back of Roy and Kathy Kajiuye’s house and was ideal for the production because of the small space and privacy. Roy and Kathy generously allowed us to use their location and the cast and crew couldn’t have been more grateful for their accommodating spirit. Acquiring a hospital room was even more difficult. Christine reached out to many hospitals and medical facilities and all of them turned her down. Luckily, sound engineer Mark Bush had a longtime connection with someone who worked at the Hawaii Pacific University School of Nursing and had connections with the dean. The staff at the HPU School of Nursing were very gracious throughout the process, and within a month, she was able to secure their simulation lab, which is where the HPU nursing students train. The location appeared convincing and she was very happy with the end result.
The Video Pitch – Christine Tsuzaki Describes Her LA Film School Capstone Project
It is the day of the surgery. In a hospital room, lying in bed with get well cards and posters that say, “Cancer sucks,” lining the walls, is Roxine, dressed in a hospital gown and surgical cap. She lies nervously on the operating table. A heartbeat monitor steadily beeps in the background. Dr. Colton, dressed in a surgical gown, mask, and cap, smiles at Roxine reassuringly and tells her to just relax and that she will be fine. Roxine nods and takes a deep breath. The heartbeat monitor slows as she falls asleep.
Roxine opens her eyes and finds herself standing on a sandy beach. She wears a blue Hawaiian style dress with white flowers on it. She squints in the bright sun and notices a woman dressed in white, appearing to be in her early 30s, in the distance, standing very close to the ocean. Roxine beckons to her. “Hey! Excuse me! Ma’am?” The woman turns around and sees Roxine, and slowly walks towards her. Roxine apologizes that she didn’t mean to bother the woman and receives a confusing response. “Oh, you’re a young one,” the woman says. “I hate it when they’re young. They take so much longer to deal with. Oh, well. A customer’s a customer. Roxine Shelaine Barasco Merritt, 29 years, 4 months, 3 days, 17 minutes, and 40 seconds. Married… ovarian cancer.” Roxine stands stunned and confused. She asks the woman how it is that she knows her. The woman responds that she is there to take Roxine to another place. “Another place?” Roxine asks, “Where?” The woman explains that she can’t say, and when Roxine asks specifically who is she, she’s met with comments from the woman that the process never gets any easier. The woman admits to being 2,549 years-old and upon this Roxine realizes who she is and why she’s there. “I didn’t think I would meet someone like you now.” Roxine surmises, “It’s a little early, you know?” “It’s never too early,” The woman responds, “That’s our motto.”
Roxine and the woman in white partake in a discussion centering around the woman explaining that they need to leave for she is to take Roxine away. Roxine asks, “Where are we going?” When the woman responds that it is to another place, Roxine starts to ask, “Where is that?” but then stops herself. Roxine laments that she thought she would have more time. The woman admonishes that the time is now. “Are you ready?” She asks. But Roxine is not. She responds, “No.” Roxine asks what would happen if she said she didn’t want to go? She asks the woman if she could come back later. Confused, the woman cannot understand Roxine’s desire. “But, you have cancer. If you come with me, you won’t have cancer anymore. In fact, you won’t even have a body anymore.” While Roxine admits she would want to be healed of her cancer, she asks if her husband could come with them. “Sweetie, I’m not supposed to see Rolando Francisco Merritt for another 58 years, 5 months, 43 minutes, and 7 seconds.” Roxine looks at her wedding ring and then asks the woman, “Have you… ever been in love?” The woman admits she has not. Roxine explains that “she” is in love, and that she and “Lando” had plans together, and that she couldn’t leave him. The woman asks Roxine, “What does it… feel like? Love?” Roxine relives her life in her mind and says, “It’s… painful. Dizzying. It makes no sense, but it happens. Suddenly you don’t really belong to yourself anymore. It’s like you’re one body. There’s no me without him. Even without my cancer… I would never be happy. As much as I want to be healed, I want my husband much, much more.” The woman is moved to ask, “Is love really worth… giving up everything? Roxine looks down at her ring and says, “Yes, it is.”
Moved by Roxine’s heartfelt summation of earthly love and existence, the woman turns to her. “Well,” she sighs, I guess I could wait a little longer, and give you more time.” Roxine is overcome with joy and appreciation. However, the woman offers a parting comment. “Can you promise me that you will not forget what you said about… love? For if you do, our deal is off. If love is that important to you, then spend the rest of your life proving it… to me. Roxine agrees and the woman in white bids her farewell and walks into the ocean. Confused, Roxine begins to ask, “Hey, what are you doing?” But before she can finish, she opens her eyes and awakes back in her bed in the hospital. She looks around at her surroundings and sees that she’s back in her room. Then Dr. Colton enters with a relieved look on his face and comes to her bedside. “Hi Mrs. Merritt.” He says, “So, good news. We removed your left ovary successfully. I told you it would be a little risky and it was. For about a half hour during your surgery there was no pulse. We spent the entire half hour giving you CPR. We were about to give your husband the papers.” At his words, Roxine is shocked and looks away in thought, while her wedding ring is visible on her hand. Dr. Colton picks up on Roxine’s distant gaze and calls out to her, “Mrs. Merritt? Mrs. Merritt?”
The Cast & Crew
Cast in the principle roles are Tiger Tam as Roxine, Romyn Sabatchi as The Woman in White, and S. Rick Crump as Dr. Colton. Mark J. Bush makes an appearance as the anesthesiologist. Christine Tsuzaki directed the film and Denny Hironaga (director of photography), Mark J. Bush (sound), and Steven Dillard (PA) served on crew. Christine also served as the project’s editor, with Mark providing post-production audio support.
Tiger Tam (Roxine), Romyn Sabatchi (The Woman In White), And S. Rick Crump (Dr. Colton)
To secure her cast, Christine asked YBS producer Eric Nemoto to help her. Through him she found S. Rick Crump and Tiger Tam. She had worked with Rick before on a YBS shoot for a Prof Blood – Basketball’s First Great Coach. She remembered him as the meek superintendent in that film, and agreed that he was just right for the role of Dr. Colton. Tiger Tam had been referred by contacts associated with Eric’s online acting classes. Christine had her doubts about Tiger at first, since she was a martial artist, and she didn’t imagine Roxine as the athletic type. But when she held her cold reading with Tiger, she changed her mind entirely. Christine had met Romyn Sabatchi on Facebook when she did a casting call for the Woman in White on a Facebook page called Hawaii Acting, Film, and Media. Romyn responded within five minutes, and when Christine met with her to have her do her cold reading, she looked and sounded the part. When Tiger and Romyn rehearsed together, they got along well and had perfect chemistry, and both of them really took the time to understand their characters and motivations.
Denny Hironaga (DP), Mark Bush (Sound), And Steven Dillard (PA) Served As The Crew
Christine met Denny Hironaga, Mark Bush, and Steven Dillard while working on Yellow Brick Studio productions Shikata Ga Nai and Prof Blood – Basketball’s First Basketball Coach. Eric Nemoto allowed Christine to use YBS’ insurance, the project would fall under YBS co-production status. Christine subsequently chose Denny Hironaga to be her DP because Denny had a true love for Hawaii and also directed and/or co-directed Hawaii-based plays fraught with emotion at Kumu Kahua Theater. She knew that he would be able to understand her vision, and creatively capture the emotions in the characters and the beauty of Hawaii at the same time. Christine then chose Mark Bush to be her sound engineer because she had worked with Mark before and he had acting knowledge as well as audio recording knowledge. What she didn’t know was that Mark had also been a nurse in the military back in the day, which was entirely coincidental! Mark provided a lot of information and expertise about operational procedures, medical equipment, and location specifics for the hospital scenes. At his behest, she added an anesthesiologist as an off screen character which added to the realism of the story. Steven Dillard, Christine’s production assistant, happened to be visiting Hawaii during the time of the shoot to help out with Shikata Ga Nai as Executive Producer. However, some shoot cancellations for Shikata Ga Nai allowed him to help out on Where Are We Going, slating the shots and bringing craft services to every shoot. Overall, Christine would come to say that she could not have been happier with her cast and crew, feeling as if they were all meant to work on the production with her.
Where Are We Going was shot on two days, Saturday, January 21st, 2023, and Friday, February 10th 2023. The January date featured the filming of the beach scenes, which were filmed on the beach outside of the property of Roy Kajiuye at 272 Paiko Drive, Honolulu, HI 96821(inset photo left). Tiger, as Roxine, and Romyn, as the woman in white, were the actors, with the crew of Christine, Denny, Mark, and Steve working hard to bring in what Christine was to describe as a fantastic first day shoot, filmed in the perfect location, with ideal weather, great sound, great looking wardrobe, and the perfect hosts in the Kajiuyes, Roy and Kathleen. The February shoot involved the hospital room scenes and were filmed at the Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) simulation center, at HPU’s Hawaii Loa Campus on the windward side of Oahu located at 45-045 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744. Christine secured the location by working with Dr. Jessica Nishikawa of HPU’s nursing lab. Like the first shoot, the second and production wrap shoot went amazingly well with Christine reporting to all that the HPU simulation lab was the perfect location, that the actors looked great, and they finished a half hour ahead of schedule.
BTS Shot Of The Cast And Crew Preparing For One Of The Hospital Room Scenes
Post-Production & Premiere
Principal photography for Where Are We Going was completed in February 2023. Its post-production followed in quick fashion, with Christine Tsuzaki editing her own story and Mark Bush assisting with final sound editing. In fact, the short film was finished incredibly fast, on April 10th, 2023, and a private premiere was held on April 29th, 2023, at the home of Martine Aceves-Foster (a cropped photo of the house facade is seen inset). Attending the luncheon viewing were Christine Tsuzaki, her parents, Curtis and Maki Tsuzaki, Martine Aceves-Foster, Mark Bush, Denny and Karen Hironaga, Eric Nemoto, Romyn Sabatchi, and S. Rick Crump.