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Norman England: The author behind the book “Behind the Kaiju Curtain”

Norman England was one of the international guests at “Anime Village” exhibition last year in Saudi Arabia.
Norman England was one of the international guests at “Anime Village” exhibition last year in Saudi Arabia.
Norman England was one of the international guests at “Anime Village” exhibition last year in Saudi Arabia.
Norman England was one of the international guests at “Anime Village” exhibition last year in Saudi Arabia.
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03 Apr 2023 03:04:43 GMT9
03 Apr 2023 03:04:43 GMT9

Amin Abbas

DUBAI: Norman England, is a film writer, film director, screenwriter and set photographer from New York who has been living in Japan since 1992. Utilizing a vast knowledge of genre cinema, he began a writing career scribing for fanzines in the 1990s until graduating to Fangoria, where he covered Japan’s J-Horror film movement for nearly twenty years. During this time, England became involved with the “Millennium” phase of the Godzilla series (1999 – 2004) and was granted unprecedented set access.

In addition to Fangoria, England has written for English-language publications that include Starlog, the Japan Times, Japanese Giants, Rue Morgue, etc. As a writer in Japan, his work has appeared in magazines Hobby Japan, Figure-O, S.M.H., etc., as well as a long-running monthly column in the popular Eiga Hiho movie magazine.

England has also released various books about genre cinema in Japan and his writing has appeared in film booklets sold in Japanese movie theaters. An accomplished photographer specializing in motion picture set photography, his set photos have appeared in countless publications in Japan.

England has directed several films as well: “The iDol,” released by S.R.S in 2020; “Bringing Godzilla Down To Size,” released by Classic Media in 2008; and “New Neighbor,” released by Midori-Impuls in Germany in 2008 and streaming on The Satanic Temple TV in 2022.

England told Arab News Japan about his inspiration for Japanese movies and pop culture: “For me, the initial appeal to Japan was the huge amount of imagination found in Japanese films, manga, and anime. After visiting Japan, I became intrigued by the culture and grew to enjoy visiting temples and hot springs. As for my favorite Japanese films, while I like the human dramas of Kurosawa and Ozu, my personal favorites are the horror films of Nobuo Nakagawa, the kaiju films of Ishiro Honda, and the more recent Gamera trilogy of Shusuke Kaneko.”

Speaking of the beginning of his career in the movie industry, England said: “I started as a reporter for the American horror movie magazine Fangoria. I covered Godzilla and J-Horror film sets for them between 1999 and 2015. In 2005, I directed my first film ‘The iDol’ and after that, I began doing other cinema-related jobs, such as set still photography. Today, I mostly create English subtitles for Japanese films.”

England shared with Arab News Japan the story, experience and most memorable moments working on (The iDol), the first movie that he ever directed: “After a few years of watching filmmakers work in Japan, I decided to make a movie of my own. ‘The iDol’ was the result and it’s a film about a toy-like alien that comes to Earth to feed off human emotions. I raised the money myself (this was before crowdfunding) and called in a lot of favors from friends in the Japanese film industry. It was challenging to make, but I enjoyed the process and I think the film came out really well.”

“The thing I enjoyed most about making ‘The iDol’ was the people I worked with. For example, Takeshi Yamazaki, who is directing the upcoming Godzilla film, did a cameo and created the film’s CGI. Working with Takako Fuji, the actress who played Kayako in “The Grudge” series, was a great experience. I also got a fantastic, original soundtrack from Kow Otani, who had written the music for the Heisei Gamera series, the GMK Godzilla film, and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, to name a few,” he added.

England has worked on multiple Godzilla movies including the (Godzilla Millennium series), he said: “As a fan of Godzilla from childhood, it was thrilling to watch firsthand the process of Godzilla filmmaking. Seeing miniature sets built and then destroyed by the monsters or ear-splitting explosions at Toho Studios has been one of my life’s most precious experiences. However, the most memorable moment was when I wore the Godzilla suit during a Godzilla production in 2001. It was heavy and difficult to move around in, but it gave me a real understanding of how difficult a job it is to be a suit actor.”

England was the director and associate producer for (Bringing Godzilla Down to Size) documentary movie that was released in 2008, he shared exclusively to Arab News Japan the story, experience and most memorable moments working on the documentary movie: “The most enjoyable thing about ‘Bringing Godzilla Down to Size,’ which is a film about the miniature effects of giant monster movies, was the excellent staff supporting me. In particular, Godzilla historians Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle. There were two exciting moments during the production.”

“One was getting the Showa-era Godzilla art staffers out of retirement to recreate a volcanic eruption as they did in the 1960s. The other was filming Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tom Kitagawa, the three men most associated with Godzilla suit actors. I think this makes me the only person to direct all three of them together in one shot.” he added.

England is known for being the author of (Behind the Kaiju Curtain: A Journey onto Japan’s Biggest Film Sets), the first and only book in English that takes the readers on a deep dive into the Japanese film industry, he said about his work on the book: “‘Behind the Kaiju Curtain’ is a journal-style book that details life on Japanese film sets, in particular, Godzilla sets. The book follows the beginning of my career as a reporter and how I worked my way onto film sets.”

England was one of the international guests at “Anime Village” exhibition last year in Saudi Arabia, he told Arab News Japan: “My wife, manga artist Miyako Cojima, and I were the first guests at Anime Village in 2022. It was my first time traveling to the Middle East, and, to be honest, I was nervous because of the history my country has with that part of the world. However, everyone we met in Saudi was terrific and we had a fantastic time. At Anime Village, I was surprised yet happy to see so much love for Japanese pop culture. What most impressed me during my stay was the sense of unity among the Saudi people. Even when there was a bit of backstage headbutting at the show, it was done in a kind manner. My wife and I are looking forward to visiting the region again!”

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