Location, Location, Location

If all goes according to plan, I should be shooting something the early part of June. This time I plan to memorialize the event with video in addition to stills. Just one problem: I'm a fanatic when it comes to location. For me, just any old place won't do. As a result, Motel 6, my apartment and faux red plastic dungeons are out.

There are the so-called SM hotels around Tokyo. Most of them appear to be of the red plastic dungeon variety. They are filled with stupid-looking bondage chairs, St. Andrew's crosses and other useless garbage. Much too Western-looking -- and red -- and plasticky.

Why doesn't at least one of these places have an old broken-down room with tatami mats missing their covers and some weathered and creaky wooden beams and posts? Throw the fucking feather bed out the window. I don't even want it in my frame. It ruins the aesthetic I'm trying to get and takes up valuable space. Rooms in Tokyo, even at relatively expensive hotels, can be tiny.

Kabukicho -- not the love hotel district, but close.

Of course, there are places around that match my needs, they're just not in the hotels, which have the advantage of being easier to find and rent. And also quite cheap if you get the "rest" rate.

I have found one place that might be an acceptable compromise. It's in the love hotel district of Kabukicho. It's a Showa-era hotel and has a tatami floor, an overhead beam and at least one wooden post.

A friend referred me to a blog that covers love hotels that are at least somewhat useful for SM. However, I misread the blog. I went into Kabukicho looking for a certain hotel but with the wrong name.

When I found what I thought I was looking for, I went inside. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had gone into a different hotel.

This place in Ikebukuro is all right but it only has one good prop, a hydraulic pulley. The rest are useless.

Once inside, I talked with the nice lady about reserving a room and the fact that at least three people would be in attendance: the model, the video guy and I. I should mention that I believe that love hotels are not accustomed to accepting reservations. Also, they sometimes frown on more than two people.

Long story short, mainly due to my survival level Japanese ability, I struck out. Nope, don't think we can do that, the woman said apologetically. It didn't help that I misinterpreted the word "business". In hindsight, I think she just figured I was some lost gaijin looking for a business hotel -- something altogether different.

This little camera looks silly perched on the big tripod but under the right conditions it produces some interesting images.

I went back over there a week later with my model in tow. Now there's a lady who can speak Japanese! It also helps to have a firm grasp of the culture, know when to bow, etc. This time was completely different. The room is ours.

But before all this happened, as I started heading toward the doorway, the model said: "Hey, dummy! What are you going in there for?" Huh? Isn't this the entrance?

Well, it was certainly the same entrance I had used before, it just wasn't the entrance to the place I had told her we were going to. So we found the "right" entrance but, once inside, we realized this was not the hotel I was looking for at all.

The much-loved model Aiko. This is a frame grab from my cheap high definition video camera (shown above). No post processing.

As we left I said, well, let's just try the other place -- the one I had "mistakenly" gone into before. It turned out this was the correct hotel after all. I had gone into the right one the first time thinking it was someplace else. It was very fortunate, indeed, that the two hotels were right next to each other.

Since there have been some delays in setting up this shoot, the video guy may not be in town on the new date, so I'll have to look around for a backup just in case. I'm not interested in doing this the "no staff" way. It's too much work and the chances of ending up with a good finished product are drastically reduced.

I will take stills, both digital and film. I want to compare the two for myself. As of right now, I'm sorely tempted to throw my digital stills camera in the trash. I don't care that glossy magazines are now using digital cameras for two-page spreads. The bondage photos I'm seeing these days look like hell compared to the old ones taken with film cameras.

So I'm going to do a test myself. Of course, I won't have a medium format camera at my disposal -- I'll be shooting 35mm film. Let's see what happens.

Another video grab, this one taken with the higher quality tape camera. I have this camera set to take flatter images and this frame has been worked on a bit in post

As far as video is concerned, there is no choice: film is just too expensive and too much hassle. But I have two digital video cameras and I'm trying to decide which to use. One uses tape (dinosaur format) but has pretty good dynamic range. The other shoots to memory cards but over-saturates and has some other issues.

I have found, though, that under controlled conditions, it produces an interesting image. I'm just not sure how it will pan out in this hotel room. I like the idea of shooting to SD card, but I feel more confident with the tape camera. It's just a higher quality piece of gear.

I will also be controlling the light better this time around.

My other job will be tying the ropes. Not that I know anything about tying ropes, but I know what I want -- and what I don't want. I'm not interested in shooting a rope show. That's not what I'm aiming for. I wouldn't mind having someone else tie the ropes but any rope guy on a shoot of mine would have to be able to take direction. It's as simple as that. For now, anyway, better to just do it myself.

This video will be shot film style, if not shot on film. Stop-go, stop-go. It's not necessarily a load of fun for the participants but what I won't do is press the record button and prance around the room whilst zooming and panning. That's get-it-done-quick-and-out-the-door video shit. No thanks.


Some photos in this post were taken at Studio SIX

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