Creativity Exercises #2: Genres

Personal Note: I never realized I've jotted down several of these techniques a few years back. Had I remembered any sooner, they would've made it in Geekology 2.0.

This one I formulated for the workshops I did in Fully Booked back in 2009. The full version of the exercise / game involves a rubber ball and a box of doughnuts. You'll find out in a bit where they would be used.

It's crucial that this is played by at least five (5) people and one (1) facilitator. The job of the facilitator is to come up with a particular topic to start, without any restrictions. E.g. MUSIC.

The first person in the circle (whom the we could choose randomly), would start the game by saying anything about the topic at hand. For example, if the topic is MUSIC, the first person could say anything about music.

1st Person: "Backstreet Boys"
2nd Person: "Nick Carter"
3rd Person: "Vince Carter"
4th Person: "Toronto Raptors"
5th Person: "basketball"

Just because the conversation began with music, it doesn't mean that music should be on the only topic at hand. The sequence of words could be related in any which way, deep or mundane. Such in the names of Nick Carter and Vince Carter, they just happened to share the same last name, and that it itself is a connection. So the link from Nick Carter to Vince Carter then to Toronto Raptors is made. Follows the weird logic of a known idiom:

"Love is blind. God is love, therefore God is blind."

Another example:

1st Person: Kurt Cobain
2nd Person: Nirvana
3rd Person: Hinduism
4th Person: Ghandi
5th Person: India

A strange connection between Kurt Cobain and India is made through a bridge of in-between words. Topics could just jump left and right either because of some deep connection or simply the words sounded the same. Either way, a connection is made.

Usually, the number of turns depends on the total players. If there are more than 10 players, it's advised to just do a max of three (3) turns per round. If there are less, it's really up to the GM on how many turns until the particular genre is relatively exhausted by the participants.

You could further add difficulty by adding parameters on the beginning of each turn. For example, for the second round, you could add time or medium as a restriction:

E.g. Television shows in the 1980s.
E.g. Black Soul and R&B musicians
In effect, you're limiting the field in which the participants could think of relational words.
Genre > Time Frame > Medium > (etc...)
Of course since this exercise is all about building connections with words, eventually the words could find themselves going out of the parameters, and that's ok as long as a connection is made to the immediate previous word.

The rubber balls acts as a marker on whose turn it is to give a word. If that person doesn't come up with anything within five (5) seconds, he / she eats a doughnut as a penalty.

This exercise gives the opportunity to look at how our brains store memories and logic. Off hand, don't we find it more difficult memorizing words of no relation vs. the ones that have a relationship? The way things are connected is a crucial factor in understanding memory and recalling it. It also let's us subconsciously peruse at the reality we lived in. You get to find out common things with other participants and share the same kind of experiences. From there you could see who would appreciate the eventual concepts you to do. In a sense, you get to test the waters on the feasibility of your concept against the supposed "target market."

Now by being able to recall the connections through the words, we somehow create a mind-map of concepts. Mind-mapping is another advertising technique in creating the reality of a particular vague idea based on a single word. It is how concepts for shoots, ads, designs, etc.. are born. We start to make sense of the reality that a word emanates by the words surrounding it. 

There's a tougher version of this, and it's loosely called, "one (1) second concepts". Instead of taking turns, everybody just blurts out words related to the idea, every second, for one (1) minute. And you shouldn't stop; now that's where the hard part comes in.
Again, this is also honed by practice. When we learn how to create a "spider web" of relational words instantaneously, we could construct its reality. From that reality we could then filter out the one we want to include or exclude in our final concept. Our idea gets more concise along the way.


Model Portfolio: Abby #NSFW

Funny enough, despite the small circles in the industry Abby and I revolve in, we haven't really worked with each other on a fun shoot. So quite some time after Abby - An Intimate Escape, I thought of having her again in front of the lens for a quick "gravure"-ish session. 

This girl has been in front of the camera so many times and already knows her angles pretty much. She isn't conscious about anything either as it shows. When made-up right, she kinda resembles like a Japanese idol, which makes gravure a good genre to shoot her in.

These were all done in natural light with a combination of silver and gold reflectors, the latter giving the warm skin tone. In post, all I did was put this retro color grading similar to what you get with Instagram filters. 

Production Credits:
  • Photography: Jay Tablante
  • Make-up / Hair: Jet Babas
  • Styling: Hannah Kim
  • Model: Abby Poblador


Nescafe - Takes You Away

This is the first time I got to "direct" a video, and quite a unique project this turned out to be. Picking up stuff we've been doing in our cosplay photography work, we sought to create a fantasy world that can't exactly be pin-pointed in terms of style and period. A good inspiration were the art and interior designs from Final Fantasy 7 and 8. It was a mix of a classic taste with a modern approach.  

So... they're technically called cinemagraphs as standalone images, but we laid them out to tell a story. Just like passion projects, our aim is to make you believe, even for that brief a moment that you can be taken away to your happy place in a mug of Nescafe.

Production Credits:

"Grand Central Station"
Client: Nestle Philippines
Agency: MRM (McCann Worldgroup)
Director: Jay Tablante
Producer: Cris Dy Liacco
Production Design: Aby Jam Rivera
Caster: Geneive Mercado
Production Staff: Tina Cuevas/Maricor Lipa

Cutting Edge Post Productions
Head of CG: Anthony Vega Cruz
Executive Producer: Diana Francis Vallada
CGI Team: George Tapao, Aljo Ignite,Marlon Fernandez, Emman Bares, Norman Aguilar, Wesley Tan
Matte Paint: Mike Cea / Bants Jose Jr Abantao
Compositing/Editing: Benjan CaƱada

Music: LoudBox


Osaka - Kyoto 2015: Personal Travel Guide

Japan has become a semi-regular pilgrimage for me (with the wife in tow), for the past few vacations we get to take out of the country.

It's my first time to visit Osaka and Kyoto, but took some lessons from our frequent past travels to Tokyo. If there's one thing about Japan, what you learn from one city is transferable to the others. Their system is that efficient. They just come in different names.

Of course this is by no means a complete travel guide, but something I decided to write to remember by trip, with some tips. 

Traveling from Manila
PAL and Cebu Pacific unfortunately have afternoon flights. You'd end up in Kansai around 7-8PM. You would have already lost a day just getting into Japan. A good alternative is taking Cathay Pacific which gets you there by 3PM, but you'd have to leave early from Manila, and go through a 3-hour lay-over in HK. 

The main airport serving both cities is Kansai International, that man-made island-airport they constructed off the coast. It's immediately connected to the trains that can take you to either city.

Haruka (Kyoto-bound) 
This is operated by JR West. As a visitor, you are entitled for a discount (just show your passport) when you purchase a combination of their ICOCA IC card, and a round-trip in the Haruka. The return ticket is redeemable within two (2) weeks of your stay, which is roughly the length of time an entry is allowed on a tourist visa. 

The last Haruka for Kyoto is 10:16PM, and the trip is about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

Coincidentally, you can also use the Haruka to end up in Osaka since it makes a brief stop at Tennoji Station.

Nankai (Osaka-bound)
This is run by the Nankai Electric Railway, a private railway company servicing Osaka, Kobe and nearby areas. This usually terminates in the Namba station. 

As an alternative, you can also use the Kansai Airport Rapid Express, since it leaves the airport in between the timings of Nankai. 

More details on the Nankai here.

Both operators could be found across the concourse when you get out of the airport. 

What is ICOCA?

An ICOCA IC card is a top-up / prepaid card for use at their trains and subway lines. It's exactly like a the Octopus in HK. This card is invaluable during your stay since it saves you of having to purchase one-way tickets each time you take a train. 

Other JR Railway companies operating in Japan have their own version of IC cards, and if applicable, a combined rapid train shuttle. E.g. Narita Express-SUICA IC card for JR East in Tokyo. Since then, most of these cards are cross compatible all over the country. I was able to use my SUICA card in both Osaka and Kyoto. 

Sakura Season
We took the bandwagon route and arrived during the height of the cherry blossom blooms in the country. Unfortunately, this meant higher airfare and hotels, but the experience was worth it. It's not that often you'd see these trees come into full bloom. 

Hotels vs. AirBnB
I've been quite the skeptic type about services like Couch Surfing or AirBnB, but given we booked our accommodations quite late in the game, we took to AirBnB for our places to stay in Kyoto. Hotels are cheaper if you're able to book way ahead of time, but AirBnB has more consistent rates as you come closer to your travel dates. We certainly enjoyed our stay with our AirBnB hosts that's for sure. In Kyoto, we stayed with:

  • Rere: Her place is southwest from the station, and along the train tracks. She provides with the smallest of amenities you could think of from a host. 
  • Gacky: A bit more sparse, but handles more guests since the bed is are tatami mats with futons. This is a northeast, and bit closer to the station as well as other subway stations going to other parts of Kyoto.
Both are walking distance from Kyoto Station, and near convenience stores and small restaurants. 

In Osaka, we settled in APA Hotels, a known hotel chain. It was right smack in the middle of two subway lines which got us mobile rather quickly around the city. I suggest booking these places through Booking.com

Traveling between the cities is actually quite convenient. You can take the Keihan line servicing both Osaka and Kyoto. Especially during peak seasons, hotels in Kyoto in particular could get filled up quickly. Osaka can work as a good base, and just do day trips to Kyoto. It takes about 30 minutes via the rapid service trains. 

Food Tripping

As much as Japan is awesome with food, you don't have to eat every takoyaki on every corner. You would eventually get tired of them if consumed consecutively. I suggest spacing your Japanese snack cravings. There would be lots of delicacies to enjoy when you walk around the public markets. Make sure to save space for those. What I enjoyed the most though is kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi).

Ramen and soba stalls are a common sight especially near the stations. These cater mostly to the commuting worker type, but still give a good meal. Don't miss the chance eat in one.

While riding the train, we impulsively hopped off Sakuranomiya Station to get our first glimpse of cherry blossoms up close. It was almost lunch and you could see couples, people sitting underneath the trees with their bento boxes. It was such an authentic quaint experience. 

Our main stop of the day was Osaka Castle, which was quite a walk from the station where we hopped off. Whether you take the northern or southern gates, the distance would almost be the same. 

Much of it authenticity of Osaka Castle was only kept on the outside. The entire castle has been gutted out and modernized to fit in a museum, gift shop and costume rental. We didn't really stay for long and made a quick pass the exhibits. There was also an old audio-visual presentation on every floor, but it was all in Japanese. 

Noticeably, there are no high rise buildings in Kyoto. This city was meant to preserve the cultural heritage of Japan. The only high-rising places you'd get to see are temples and shrines with the exception of Kyoto Tower. Funny enough, when you enter Kyoto Tower from the ground floor, it gives off that aura of the old Greenhills Shopping Center back in the 80s. 

Enjoy the parks. Sure there are the usual tourist attractions (that get rather tourist-trappy for the obvious reasons), but I highly suggest hanging out where the locals do. On the way to Yasaka Shrine, we decided to sit down at Maruyama Park. Spread around the park are tatami mats for public use, and you could buy bento box food in stalls peppered around the place. 

Kyoto is a walking city. The subway of course is convenient, but going around could be done on foot, and certainly burns the calories off from the food you would end up gorging along the way. The weather was also conducive during this time; we didn't break a sweat after walking about 3-5kms back to our AirBnB apartment.

The Japanese have respect for public spaces. They take off their shoes when stepping on the tatami, and pick up after themselves. If our society only had a fraction of their collective social discipline, we'd see some progress in ours. 

Everything is packaged so neatly and nice, it appeals to the impulsive buyer in you. If you can't control your retail therapy sessions, you might just end up buying every knick-knack on each corner because they look cute. 

I'm such a sucker for Japanesey accessories since I use them for shoots. 

Nishiki Market has lots of local delicacies you'd enjoy snacking along the way. It's best to just buy small morsels and taste every bit, rather than just filling yourself from one stall. 

Shots from Kiyomuzi Dera. This is place never runs out of people because of the scenic view of Kyoto from the mountain side. There lots of eateries and small restaurants along the way. 

I certainly don't mind going back here. There are lots more places to explore, and we've only scratched the surface. 


Model Portfolio: Jinri

Jinri would easily be in my top muses list. Always awesome to experiment with various looks and concepts with her. So here's one where we toyed around some mish-mash of contemporary Chinese- in a modern setting house.

I was just working with one (1) for most of the shoot since the glass walls went up as high as the 2nd floor. We had all the light we needed even as the afternoon pushed on. My strobe was powered down and placed on the far end of the house. 

Working with natural light means working against time. Light shifts in direction, temperature and texture as the day progresses, and it's all about maximizing each moment. There are chances when you had to throw out your current idea because you've already missed the opportunity to shoot it right. 

I can't really give a straight up lighting tutorial on this one, except for some guides in searching for that perfect setting. 

  • Never get transfixed in just one spot for that moment. Like I said, time is against you. If it doesn't work, simply move on. You could revisit that layout in the middle of the shoot if you want.

Ara did an awesome job with Jinri's make-up. This look reminded me of Ayumi Hamasaki, some popular J-Pop singer. 

  • Never settle for physical setup of your venue at face value. There are lots of ways to work around the setting to maximize your shooting potential. 

  • Favor the light to your model's best angle.

Production Credits:
  • Make-up: Ara Fernando
  • Styling: Hannah Kim
  • Model: Jinri Park
Behind the scenes