Naoyuki Ikeda 池田直之
Title: "Actor" as a Way of Life
Naoyuki Ikeda came to the U.S. after 13 years of teaching in Japan as an English teacher, a dream job that he will continue for the rest of his life. I asked him how he came to be active as an actor in Hollywood, a completely different field.
"I came to Los Angeles in September 2009 and have lived here ever since. Before that, I lived in Orlando, Florida for a year as a participant in a training program right after I graduated from college in 1992. I had the opportunity to work in a Japanese restaurant in the Japanese Pavilion at the Epcot Center in Disney World. My roommates were German, Norwegian, French, etc. From this experience, I fell in love with working and living in an international environment in the U.S. and began to think that one day I would like to live outside of Japan, in the U.S. or Europe.
After returning to Japan, I worked as an English teacher at a private junior and senior high school in Nagoya from 1996 and at a public junior high school and prefectural agricultural high school in Kagoshima from 2000. Teaching was my dream job and I thought I would do it for the rest of my life. I thought I was leading a fulfilling life in Kagoshima, getting married, teaching research classes, participating in an English language study group selected by the prefecture, teaching English as a volunteer in the community, being busy with club activities, and working with students who did not fit in at school as an educational counselor. Then one day in July 2008, I couldn't go to school anymore, and the hospital judged that I was suffering from depression, so I took a leave of absence, but ended up getting divorced and resigning. The reason was very vague, there was no specific event, I just felt that my heart could not keep up with my life and the clock inside me had stopped. For some reason, I often went to funerals during this period and thought about death. I decided that if I was going to die, I wanted to do as many things I had given up or left undone as possible, so I chose to become an actor in Hollywood, which had been my dream since childhood, and came to Los Angeles.
I came to Los Angeles after suffering from depression, but I always had a smoldering desire to live abroad in the U.S. or Europe. At that time, I couldn't imagine myself in the teaching profession, and I didn't see any reason to live. At that time, I decided to attend the wedding of my Norwegian roommate with my German roommate. When I traveled to Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and Italy, the world was still wide open, and the endless blue skies, picturesque clouds, historic cities, and cultures made me want to see and know more about the world and live in more ways. Also, through many coincidences, I joined an entertainment production company in Kagoshima, took acting lessons, and when I found my way to act in the U.S., I found myself standing in Los Angeles six months later, as if guided by a guide.
I am currently the director of the Japan Film Festival Los Angeles, theater management of the Asian World Film Festival, and in charge of Japan, in addition to acting. My acting career is mainly in films, and thanks to my experience, I have been able to play roles with dialogue more often, and I received the Best Supporting Actor Award in 2019 and the Best Actor Award in 2021. As a director, I am also involved in the overall management of the Japanese Film Festival, and I am trying to keep the light of Japanese film alive here in Los Angeles by taking on new challenges every year, focusing on films that have significance and messages to be shown, and starting in 2021, I will be running the festival in a hybrid format of online and theater. From 2021, we are operating a hybrid online and theater film festival.
I am now the only Japanese member of the festival's steering committee, and I am making efforts to screen higher quality films, especially those that will be submitted to the Oscar Awards and Golden Globe Awards from other Asian countries.
Advice to future generations
In this day and age, it is now possible to live the life you want to live, to live your dreams and adventures, rather than a life of hardship and endurance. What do you like? What makes you happy? We live in an age where we can make choices. Try to find reasons why you can do something instead of looking for reasons why you can't. Try to live honestly with your own thoughts and feelings without being misled by other people's opinions. I hope you will enjoy failure and take great action.
Autumn Film Festival Information This year's Japanese Film Festival in Los Angeles is scheduled for online world streaming from September 1-13 and theater screenings from September 15-17. For more information, please visit the festival website: http://jffla.org/ Asian World Film Festival will have theater screenings from 11/8-17. For more information, please visit the HP: https://asianworldfilmfest.org/ Advice for aspiring Hollywood actors
I believe that acting is a way of life. How have you lived your life up to now? How will you live your life from now on? The choice is yours. What kind of place is Hollywood? What do you need to live there? It is not a matter of technique, but there are a number of specific hurdles that must be cleared. I think the only way is to keep challenging yourself and not give up until the end. The answer is very simple. Will you do it? Or not to do it? Which will you choose? I will do it!