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  • Big in Japan | SXSW Review

    SXSW FILM 2014

    By | March 12, 2014

    Big in Japan

    Director: John Jeffcoat

    Writer: John Jeffcoat

    Starring: David Drury, Phillip Peterson, Sean Lowry, Alex Vincent, Tiffany Lowry, Robin Marsh, Adam Powers, John Jeffcoat

    In the 1970s and 80s, American rock bands fled the seemingly over-saturated music business of the United States in a somewhat risky attempt to achieve success in countries that offered less competitive scenes, such as Japan. The Ventures and Cheap Trick (maybe Bon Jovi, too) are probably the most notable examples of American bands whose success in Japan provided them with enough respect and notoriety to become more than just a regional band in the United States.

    When Alex (Alex Vincent) stumbles upon a Tennis Pro show in Seattle, he sees a little bit of his own past in this sublimely talented band playing to a devastatingly empty venue. You see, Alex was once the drummer of Green River, a legendary band that included future members of Pearl Jam and Mudhoney and is often credited as the first grunge band but curiously never achieved success outside of the Pacific Northwest. Confident that he can transform this particular power-pop trio into rock stars, Alex convinces David (David Drury), Phil (Phillip Peterson) and Sean (Sean Lowry) to temporarily give up their unsuccessful and monotonous lives in Seattle for the dream of becoming big in Japan.

    As most viewers will probably expect, Tennis Pro encounters plenty of [hilariously comedic] struggles once they arrive in Tokyo; in fact, things are not much different for them here than in Seattle. Not to make excuses for him, but the music scene has changed a lot in Tokyo since Alex last lived there. As the Tokyo scene has grown exponentially, American bands have become less nostalgic to Japanese audiences. Running low on money, Tennis Pro must find some way to adapt to the situation quickly. They take matters into their own hands, self-promoting their upcoming gigs and networking with local musicians.

    It is not without bitter irony, that if they took this same level of initiative in Seattle, Tennis Pro probably would not have been playing to empty rooms in the first place. With Big in Japan, writer-director John Jeffcoat captures the ever-changing trends in the music industry, not just in the United States but internationally as well. With digital technology, anyone can record and sell music totally independent of record labels; but, gone are the days of being discovered and breaking it big right out of the gate. Because the supply of music is now so much higher than the demand, bands must work really hard to get noticed. The difficult part is finding an audience. That is where relentless self-promotion and networking comes in. Most importantly, this new trend truly separates those who love music from those who are just in the game for a quick fortune. Luckily for the guys in Tennis Pro, they seem to really love making music.

    Rating: 7/10


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