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Michael Goro Takeuchi


Mike Goro Takeuchi is a professional journalist who has written on film and sports  for numerous outlets sincr 2000. An award-winning creative non-fiction writer, Tak also pens a weekly sports column for a newspaper based in Southern California.

 

He was the production manager for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival from 2006-2015. 

Twitter-@irontak


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Film Independent's Josh Welsh's Accidental Discovery Leads to a Life Path (First of Two Parts)

 

By Mike “Tak”  Takeuch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Film Independent President Josh Welsh

While Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies at Kennedy Center may have given Josh Welsh his first love at movies, it was a little known independent film that he accidentally discovered that may have put him on his current career path.    On Saturday, the president of Film Independent (FIND) will get to express that love when he, his staff and a troop of volunteers will host the makers and performers of the best independently made films at the Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica. 

  “I am incredibly excited for this year’s Spirit Awards,” Welsh said by phone on Wednesday. “I think that across the board (we have) a really strong group of nominees. We have a beautiful set, Sean Davis and the production team is again doing such an amazing job running the show, and  our executive producer Diana Zahn always does an amazing broadcast with IFC (Independent Film Channel) our wonderful broadcast partner.”

  Despite having to face myriad tasks of everything from overseeing the construction of the large tent that houses the awards show (which can be viewed on Saturday evening on IFC), to  who is going to sit in what chair, to press credentialing and sponsor fulfillment, as well as preparing for forecasted rain on the Santa Monica beach that houses the awards, the director’s enthusiasm was palpable. 

  Perhaps it has to do with working in a field he loves.  The Washington D.C. native got a first taste of that when his parents Philip and Marilyn Welsh would take young Josh to the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts to see Fred and Ginger glide their way on the big screen.  

  “The Kennedy Center had a great program where they screened older films,”  Welsh said. “Because of that, my parents got me hooked on movies that they saw when they were younger.  As a kid I had heard of Fred Astaire, but didn’t know anything about those movies until my parents imparted their love onto me.”

  “But it wasn’t just what was on the screen that made a profound impact on me.  It was going week-after-week into a dark room with a big audience sharing the communal experience that made it so memorable.”

    Years later, when he was a teen, Welsh experienced a film unlike he had ever seen. 

  “I remember when I was a kid stumbling into a theatre with a friend to see John Sayles' first independent film, THE RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN  (1979), and  didn’t know anything about it,” Welsh said. “I thought it was so strange. It was not a very experimental film but as a high school kid I wondered what IS this movie?   I was used to seeing more big blockbuster types that I grew up on. But it really stuck with me.  It was a strange, captivating movie that had very adult themes that I was puzzled by. But I couldn’t let it go.   That was a turning point for me in realizing that there were other types of movies out there. It made me aware of way more possibilities to film than I previously had been exposed to.”

   The entire time he was earning a BA in philosophy at Kenyon College and then a Ph.D in the subject at Johns Hopkins University, Welsh kept his passion for film.  While facing a career in  the potentially difficult world of academia, Welsh felt a tug to move to Los Angeles.

 “Here I got to know more people working in independent film and some people working at Film Independent and got pulled toward film.  I was already going away from teaching philosophy  because I realized that it wasn’t the life for me.  It wasn’t what I expected, but my friends weren’t terribly surprised because they knew that it’s always been a passion of mine.” 

  After joining FIND in 2001,  Welsh helped select films for the Programming Department and worked with the nominating committee for the Spirit Awards as well as grants programs.   He then was the architect and implementer of the Film Independent Artist Development program, and the Fast Track film financing market that runs during the non-profit organization’s Los Angeles Film Festival.  He also designed the curriculum for the Filmmaker Labs while overseeing all the Film Independent Fellows through 2012.  He and Sean McManus took over as co-presidents in early 2012. After McManus stepped down last July, Welsh assumed the role of being FIND”s sole president. 

   “I loved working with Sean-for 15 years,” he said. “There was nobody better to work with. Even before we were co-presidents I learned so much from him.” 

   Welsh said that the growth process of the organization has sped up considerably over the last 18 months.

   Already at nearly 5000 members-mostly based in Southern California and New York,  Welsh said that there were two types of members joining, the filmmakers who benefit from the educational and financial offerings and the film lovers who enjoy voting for the Independent Spirit Awards as well as take advantage of live reads, free screenings and other programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  From the latter group, Welsh said he expects an even more rapid growth. 

    “Our membership has dramatically increased by over 30% over the last 12 to 18 months and I attribute that to a handful of things.  For one, the economy is better.  Two, we are better at making a concerted effort to grow our membership.  And three, I think independent film is growing and the need for support in the community is growing.  There are more people making films and we at Film Independent want to support that community.”

  While the Spirit Awards is internationally known, Film Independent also puts on the Los Angeles Film Festival in June-something that the group is already knee deep in the middle of planning. 

 “It’s busy yes, but the staff is fantastic,” Welsh said. “We have about 40 people working year round-many of which have been working here a long time. I feel fortunate to be working for our team.”

 

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About Michael Goro Takeuchi

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