Meet a Digital Histories Filmmaker: David Osako

Digital Histories is a video production and storytelling program for senior citizens created in 2003, and aims to showcase the unique voices and perspectives of our seniors. 

As the 2018-2019 season of Digital Histories program gets closer, our Visual Communications (VC) Social Media Intern Elizabeth Kim had a quick chat with Digital Histories Filmmaker David Osako to learn more about his DH experience.

 If you're interested in supporting Digital Histories (DH), please donate here.

EK: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

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DAVID: I’m a Sansei (third generation) half-Japanese American mix, raised mostly in Los Angeles by my Japanese American mother, who was born in Oregon. I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where I lived and worked for almost 30 years until I returned to L.A. in 2000 to retire. I was pretty much out of touch with anything having to do with my Japanese cultural background.

Around 2009, I was drawn to explore Little Tokyo and Japanese American culture by attending the Nisei Week Festival, where I heard Japanese music and saw Japanese dancing that really resonated in my heart and made me hunger for more Japanese culture. I started taking Japanese folk dance lessons, then moved on to Japanese classical dancing from Fujima Kansuma, which I continue to this day. 

EK: How did you find out about Visual Communications and Digital Histories?

DAVID: A friend recommended it to me. I was curious about filmmaking, and wanted to understand more about how it was done, and how to do it myself. It turned out that I loved it.  

EK: What inspired your 2018 Digital Histories Film DANCING THROUGH LITTLE TOKYO?

DAVID: The film is about the process of starting to explore my Japanese American roots by attending the Nisei Week Festival and parade, being moved by the music and dancing, and taking lessons and learning more about Japanese culture. My first draft was about my classical Japanese dance teacher herself, and the process of taking lessons from her. But the story later broadened into a story about learning by returning to my roots, and learning various forms of Japanese dance.

EK: What was your favorite part of the filmmaking process? What was the most challenging?

DAVID: My favorite part is seeing a story emerge from a mere assemblage of clips, and if I succeed, to see that it moved or inspired people in some way. Film is so engaging and provides a wonderful way to share experiences, ideas and feelings with others.

EK: You mentioned that music is a very important in your films. Why is it such a crucial element?

DAVID: It enhances the film by conveying moods and feelings in a nearly imperceptible way that is almost magical, and can be very powerful beyond mere words. It guides the viewer and creates expectations, and modifies whatever is being viewed. 

EK: Is there any special music you added to your most recent film DANCING THROUGH LITTLE TOKYO?

DAVID: I used various dance music I have come across while learning dance. One piece was the music used for a recent Nisei Week Festival Parade Dance; others were clips from classical Japanese dance music used in my lessons and performances.

EK: Since you’ve been a part of many LAAPFF cycles, what is it like to see your films premiere on the big screen? Do you still get nervous?

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DAVID: It’s amazing to see my small films on a huge screen in a big theater, and I am always nervous to see how something I created on a small desktop computer monitor comes out when magnified a thousand times. I am nervous also knowing it will be shown to hundreds of total strangers. It’s incredible when an audience reacts where and how I hoped they would, and to see they understood a point or emotion I was trying to get across.

EK: As a senior filmmaker, what do you personally think is the value of a program like Digital Histories?

DAVID: Filmmaking is unlike any other means to convey ideas or feelings and connect with others. It also provides a kind of testing ground for the quality of our ideas or vision, to see if the film resonates with the viewers.

EK: Are there any future projects or dream projects that you are thinking of trying out?

DAVID: I’m considering doing a film about the Go For Broke Monument next to Japanese American National Museum, and the vets who until only recently would come out every weekend to share their experiences with visitors and answer questions. Now they are mostly gone, too old or infirm to continue, or passed away. The transition has happened in only a few years.

EK: Are you planning on continuing with Digital Histories in the future?

DAVID: Yes, for as long as they’ll have me.

EK: Is there anything there anything else you want to add?

DAVID: It is wonderful to be supported and encouraged by a long-established organization like Visual Communications, and to work with the creative and caring people—including the volunteers and interns—who share our vision.

Help us continue our Digital Histories program by donating here