How ex-army journalist, Charlie Maib, is leading the Western invasion of erotic Japanese gravure films (pics NSFW)

served two tours in Iraq with the First Calvary Division (2005 -2005, 2006-2008) producing news stories and documenting combat and everyday life in footage that found it’s way to everywhere from CNN to FOX News, ABC, CBS, etc. [image-1] I was also on the ground for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as well as the tsunami that struck American Samoa as well as doing some pick-up work during the ongoing relief efforts here in Japan; so I know my way around a news story. But making films is a different beast altogether. I discovered that our first day of filming Sundae Girl, my first commercial release. When you’re filming news, things happen around you that you capture on video. You have to make split-second decisions on where you’re going to be and what you’re going to film to capture the moment on camera. In news if you miss something, odds are it won’t happen again. Once I found myself in the controlled environment of a commercial video shoot, well I was a bit lost at first. Suddenly people were counting on my direction to make things happen… a situation that I had never really found myself in before. Thankfully I quickly found my bearing and we charged forward; but for a brief moment, time slowed down and I thought to myself, “what the hell am I doing?” Now it’s all a little old hat and I try to come up with ways to challenge myself with each new release.


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[image-2] What’s the biggest difference between lighting a room for a love scene as opposed to an interview?


CM: That is a great question. In the military, they send you to a school called the Defense Information School, or DINFOS. It’s like a crash course in broadcasting. They cover interviews, lighting, camera operation, radio announcing, and the like. I think the entire three months I was there we spent maybe a day on interview lighting. When you’re on the go in the military, especially somewhere like Iraq or Afghanistan, you usually don’t have the time to light your subject with something like a reflector; you use what you have, which is normally natural sunlight. The standard for lighting in a controlled environment in the military is 3-point lighting, which is usually provided by the cheapest lighting kit they can get their hands on. Flagship journalism shows, 60 Minutes, 20/20, etc, have great, creative lighting by people who’ve studied the subject and have years of experience. I prepared myself for lighting our scenes by reading up on lighting and color theory; but the truth of the matter is that you learn lighting by doing it, not by reading. Each scene in every one of my films is lit differently. I’ll use Ayaka is Your Angel as an example. For the bar scene we used 3 low watt white lights as fill lights and then blasted out the room with an additional 3 Craftsman flood lights. Usually, you don’t want to mix the temperatures of your lighting (Craftsman floods produce a yellow light) but the mix of the white/ yellow lights combined with the custom color setup I fed into the camera produced an effect that really made the colors in that scene pop. Exactly what I was looking for. Now if you take a look at the shower scene later in the video, the colors pop equally well but we lit that with a single white light, creating a nice inky back shadow effect. So in theory shooting an interview and shooting a scene are not very far removed: the lighting should reflect the emotional intent of the scene.


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[image-3] Why do many Japanese businesses seem opposed to working with foreigners?


CM: There are books written on this subject! Part of it has to do with the widely accepted idea in Japan that if you are not Japanese there is no way you could possibly understand the Japanese mind. It’s very common to hear that non-Japanese people can’t understand the Japanese culture. And some of that is true to an extent. The way people think and what appeals to a Japanese person is not necessarily the same as the way an American thinks and what appeals to them. But then that can be said for any culture. In Japan, it seems to be taken to an extreme, though, and in my opinion creates unnecessary walls. I also believe that there’s a sense of national pride in Japan that we don’t have in America. In America if someone succeeds, we don’t care about race or nationality or gender so much. What we see is the success. In Japan if an American comes in and succeeds in something, it’s seen as a slight; why is the American succeeding when we aren’t? In Japan, people tend to see race much more than in America. There are still places, restaurants, bars, museums, that you can’t go if you aren’t Japanese or you don’t look Japanese. In Japan if your mother is Japanese and your father is any other nationality, you aren’t considered Japanese; you’re called “half”. The only way to be truly Japanese in the eyes of the majority of the population is to be of pure blood. These ideas grate on me constantly; but I always have to remind myself that as a nation in the modern world, Japan is still young. They first opened up their country to the world in 1854, and their ideas of democracy didn’t begin to develop until after the end of WWII, so we’re really talking a little over 75 years. Think about how race relations were in America 75 years after it’s founding; or even 75 years after the Civil War. Japan will eventually have a more well rounded embrace. It’s something I see in the youth over here, and it gives me hope.


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A: What is the most difficult thing about filming in Japan?


CM: The most difficult thing is finding places that meet my vision that work within our budget. Things can get expensive very quickly in Tokyo, so we’re always looking for ways to get more with less, but never at the expense or quality.


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A: How do you define gravure?


CM: Imagine a beautiful woman... she’s on the bed wearing a tight little dress, its sequins shining blue in the light, the hem of her skirt barely concealing a peek of her cherry pink panties. Chestnut eyes look at you teasingly as her fingers slowly trace the lines of her body. She’s a peach, and as skin touches skin you can feel her juice ready to burst forth from the surface, ever so ripe. She’s on her knees now, peeling back her shimmering veil to reveal her intimates. Her hands tease her ample bosom, milking the glistening white orbs as a hint of a smile creeps across her face. This is gravure. Gravure is the art of being sexual without sex.


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A: [image-4]You’ve said that you’re constantly battling to prove your films are not pornography. How would you classify them and what is the problem with having your films labeled as porn?


CM: Part of the problem is the image that comes to mind when you hear the word “porn.” I think the average person envisions something quite explicit and sexual. In today's society porn is synonymous with fucking, be it someone fucking themselves or someone else. My films are never explicit. Hopefully, they stir great emotion in someone and people find them arousing, but they never cross the line into crudeness or vulgarity. It may seem that I’m being a bit harsh on the porn industry; but I don’t mean to be. Even though we’ve been embraced by many websites and stores that cater to that market, our titles were rejected by the folks at Adult Video News (the sort of clearing house for pornography in America) when we submitted them for consideration for the AVN Awards. Even they said that while our films were erotic and well made, they were not pornography. It puts us into sort of a grey area. I like to think of it as the difference between burlesque and stripping; they’re both designed to arouse, but one is different from the other.


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A: What is the most challenging aspect of your profession?


CM: The most challenging aspect is to come up with new, exciting, fresh ideas and present them in a way that either hasn’t been done before or is better than what’s previously been available on the market.


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[image-5] How important is marketing and packaging your products in comparison to content?


CM: Marketing and packaging is very important, especially in relation to content. A good example of this is a review one of our customers wrote on Amazon.com for my film Thai Relax. They simply stated “I brought (sic) this DVD because of the cover. Cute girl but not what I thought.” And that brings us to the problem of what Americans expect from a sexualized release. There really hasn’t existed a place between explicit pornography and non-explicit eye candy video, so especially early on, when people bought our videos they were expecting a porno. We try to be as upfront as we can be as to what our product contains, and that’s why I do interviews such as this. I’ve been trying to educate the public for the last year on exactly what we produce. We’ve seen great strides in market acceptance since we first started. Now you can find our films at such mainstream retailers as Target, Best Buy, and even Sears! I’ve gotten emails from couples that thank me for producing something that’s erotic but not embarrassing to purchase or to watch together. One guy said he and his wife had watched the video 3 times so far! That makes me feel like I’m doing my job. Now, for packaging, in the past we’ve kept the Japanese covers for our releases, but as more and more mainstream shops pick them up, we’ll probably start releasing American versions of the cover as well so that consumers are better able to identify the product. We kept the Japanese covers to make them seem exotic; but now we have to shift focus. Our first release to have two different covers was the Blu-ray of Ayaka is Your Angel. The Japanese cover and the American cover are radically different.


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[image-6]A: You’ve said that in American erotica, women are depicted as more bold, while in Japanese films, women are often portrayed as more submissive and powerless. Are you conscious of these stereotypes when producing a film? How do you respond to critics who may see your films as reinforcing a negative image of women?


CM: I am totally not aware of any stereotypes when I’m planning or shooting a film. I craft each film to the model that stars in it, so I try to play to her strengths. If she has a submissive personality, we’ll go more in that direction. If she’s more bold, we’ll go that way. In a way, I sort of reject the Japanese model of how these films should be. Our films are as unique in the Asian market as they are in the American.


As to people who might see my films as reinforcing negative images of women, I could totally see where they are coming from. But then, in any sort of media, be it books or music, or film or even video games and comic books, there are certain generalizations being reinforced. Look at the typical action star… there’s a generalization. Or how about how women are portrayed in Hollywood. For all their open mindedness, people are clearly round pegs being fit into round holes. Society will always have stereotypes and generalizations. It’s up to the individual to be able to see fantasy for what it is. That being said, we go over everything in our films with the actresses, from scripts to clothes, poses… everything. We make sure they’re comfortable and good to go with the kind of film we’re producing. Then, we pay them royalties from every DVD or Blu-ray sold. It’s in every model’s contract. We empower our actresses and models to be as involved as they can be and as profitable as they can be. Whether a film is good or bad not only reflects on me, but them as well; so we’re very careful about that.


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[image-7] What projects are you working on now?


CM: Currently I’m putting the finishing touches on a film that we shot on some desert islands in the Philippines called Island Girls. It features Naomi and Risa who appeared in one of my most popular films Les Gamins. After that I’ll be shooting Another Take on Catherine featuring CoCo. That’s a gravure take on a popular PlayStation 3 and Xbox360 game called Catherine. And then it’s on to Ayaka is Your Devil, the follow-up to our critically acclaimed release Ayaka is Your Angel. From there I’m playing with the idea of making a gravure themed Alice in Wonderland that takes place in the Shinjuku district in Tokyo, as well as laying out the groundwork for a few sexy travel series for TV, if we can find the right partners.


Check out more content by Studio Happy Chicken Pink at hckpink.com


Follow Alfie on Twitter or Facebook,


and email him if interested in writing about Sex and Love.

Established in 2009, Studio Happy Chicken Pink's goal was to produce videos of gravure idols (bikini models who tease viewers by appearing in various states of undress) and present them in a more imaginative and visually stimulating way than other films produced by Japanese companies. Studio Happy Chicken Pink is the only gravure studio in Japan to be operated by Americans, and Charlie Maib (directing under the name HCK) is the only American to ever work as a gravure director. Happy Chicken Pink is also the first studio to introduce Japanese gravure films to American and European audiences, with some of the company's titles now being sold at Best Buy, Target, and Sears.

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Alfie: How did you transition from working as a broadcast journalist in the U.S. Army to making erotic Japanese films?

Charlie Maib: The transition was a little abrupt because I started my work for the company while I was still working for the military. During my time in the Army, I

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