'Big Dreams, Little Tokyo' Translates to Big Success

Boyd unknowingly sits near his beloved

Entering the expansive desert country of Australia, several sights and sounds are long-regarded signatures of the massive continent.  The call of a didgeridoo, wallaby-crossings, or even a friendly 'g'day mate!' from locals seems to be the expected experience of 'the Outback.'   

Suffice it to say, 'konichiwa,' the traditional salutation of Japan, is probably not part of the protocol.  Ask David Boyle though, a Mormon missionary to the Japanese quarter of downtown Sydney for two years, and he will tell you just how much of the 'Hello Kitty' culture there really is.  Drawing from his personal experiences, which required becoming completely fluent in the Japanese language to convenience converts, Boyle was struck at the clash and communion between two very decidedly modern cultures from Eastern and Western thought. The beauty, and the admitted oddity, inspired Boyle to not just tell his friends and family about his experiences once returning to the States, but shouting it to the world on the platform of film.   

That expression came through 'Big Dreams, Little Tokyo,' a new independent feature film in which Boyle writes, directs, and stars.  Bringing a similar clash of culture onto the big screen, Boyle relocates to the conflict to the melting pot that is the United States, following the misadventures of Boyd.  A young, struggling American entrepreneur who owns several 'companies' of his own creation, all under the name 'Tiger,' Boyd's primary goal in life is financial independence on his own terms' even if those terms are a bit difficult to negotiate.  A Caucasian American that speaks fluent Japanese and is well-versed in the formalities of the culture, his star project is a translation service he offers to Japanese entities only.  Unfortunately for Boyd, his target audience is a bit hard to come by in the unnamed college town the story seems to be set.

                                    

Boyd is a wannabe businessman, and Jerome is a sumo-in-training

While pursuing his dreams to become a Japanese businessman, Boyd fills the space between by dealing with his Japanese-American roommate Jerome (Jayson Watabe), a sumo wrestler in-training, trying to find a better way of blending in with those who share his heritage.  At the same time, Boyd seeks to make side money through several different Japanese-oriented business approaches, including a promising move to offer English lessons to a pretty Japanese nurse named Mai (Rachel Morihiro).  Along the way, the characters meet others like them, including a Latin sushi chef (Drew Knight), and pool their unique talents to prove that despite how out-of-place they may seem in everyday life, their existence is not to be undervalued.

'Basically, it came less out of personal experience than it did out of observation of other people,' says Boyle of the inspiration for his creative film, drawing largely on reality.   'When I was on my mission in Australia, I just saw a lot of really, really funny situations when Japanese culture came head to head with Western culture. It was too funny to pass up' [even] my character Boyd is based on a Japanese guy that I knew in Australia.  He was this guy who always wore a three-piece suit and carried around a briefcase. He was like eighteen years old, and he introduced himself as a businessman!'

    
It's hard to believe that even though Boyle was a student at Brigham Young University for a short time after returning from his Mormon mission, he is virtually untrained in the art of filmmaking.  With a background of dabbling in independent endeavors and animation, Boyle's strongest asset in his projects is the ambition and innovation that many other potentially bright stars lack.  Working from the time he returned from his mission to write the story, get the financing together, cast, and finally film, the non-stop drive of this young filmmaker is what ultimately helped him to turn into reality what many only dream.

By bike is Boyd's primary mode of transportation

In addition to the ambition, perhaps one of Boyle's stronger points is in his excellent style of execution and innate storytelling ability.  Considering the film is based largely on the sporadic events of Boyle's Mormon mission, the film could have easily been merely a string of disassociated vignettes, meant to be self-contained and independent of a larger view.  Instead, Boyle finds a brilliant way of networking multiple characters together, and developing them all to where they are flesh and blood, and have definite motivations within the script to propel it forward.   The endearing, if not quirky characters, all have needs, wants, and desires for acceptance that each member of the audience has most likely faced at some points in their lives as well. 

Though Boyle maintains no real effort was made to say anything of major intellectual significance regarding the human condition, it is the relatable nature of this film that, inadvertently or not, explores some very strong and real themes, just as much as it explores the absurdity and eccentricities of its characters.   The meaning doesn't bang viewers over the head as other didactic films such as 'Crash,' but it is the effort of Boyle's characters to 'fit in' that really hits a nerve for viewers in linking them to the story.  Tapping into that universal desire of acceptance by ones peers, 'Big Dreams' finds a way to sensitively, and humorously, find a way of making people appreciate themselves for who they are.

That connection to its audience and their inner feelings is what makes 'Big Dreams' one of those enduring films.  While few people will would admit to aiming to be a white American attempting to thrive in the American/Japanese marketplace, or training to become a sumo wrestler, every character in 'Big Dreams, Little Tokyo' finds themselves a fish out of water, trying to fit into a society that won't accept them for one reason or another.  Though such a theme might have come across as secondary to Boyle, is the strength of character and integrity that his players show the audience that really tells the story, and helps us to realize the importance within ourselves. 

More importantly, in Boyle's own words, the film attacks social stereotypes and forces audiences to realize that '' most people, in one way or another, don't fit within their own cultural paradigm or stereotype' What defines us as an American, or what defines us as a Japanese person?  People are individual, and that personality transcends any sort of cultural boundary or stereotype.'

Boyd and Jerome contemplate how to further their business ventures...

It is only appropriate that David Boyle's first major indie effort references 'big dreams,' as it seems the director himself has a penchant for grandeur.  At the ripe old age of 23, Boyle has already achieved what some filmmakers take a lifetime to set into motion.  One major milestone behind him, Boyle plans to continue on making movies that speak to people and make them laugh; he also plans to focus more on directing rather than writing in order to better hone his skills. Certainly, the film world will be on its toes waiting to see where this up-and-comer heads in the future to achieve his 'big dreams.' 

'The biggest thing that I learned in making this movie is just that all the pieces of the puzzle that make a movie should all lead to telling a good story and also defining character,' Boyle finishes, speaking like a seasoned pro.  'That's my primary concern. I want to tell interesting stories and show interesting characters.'

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