Peter Grasse EP at Dictionary Films + judge at Ad Stars says "We're in the midst of a digital dark age"

Peter Grasse.jpgThirty advertising executives are making their way to South Korea to judge the 10th Ad Stars Awards next week, including Peter Grasse, Executive Producer at Dictionary Films in Tokyo.

Grasse (pictured left) arrived in Japan last year after shaping the reputation of award-winning production companies in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Since then, the one year old Dictionary Tokyo has already produced commercials for Diesel, Nike, Adidas, H&M, Unesco and BMW. 

At Ad Stars next week (which runs 24th to 26th August), Grasse will be judging the Film, Film Craft and Video Stars categories. Ad Stars' Barbara Messer caught up with Grasse to find out how he's been settling into life in Tokyo.
You're judging Ad Stars for the first time this year. What are you looking forward to about your week in Busan?
Food glorious food! Friends fabulous friends, and work wonderous work! And not necessarily in that order. The work in this region is simply excellent. East Asia has a great and unique sense of humour, as well as an admiration for craft.

As for the show itself, it's become a very popular show in the past few years, and for good reason. Preliminary online judging for Cannes this year was nearly 600 spots. In comparison, preliminary judging for Ad Stars was not far off that mark. Meaning that Ad Stars is growing in importance and popularity.

As for the location, I've been to Korea a number of times, and Busan promises to be one of the best spots in the country. People just rave about it and say the food is amazing. They also rave about the show and comment on the camaraderie between the judges and the delegates. I reckon I'm going to rent a sailboat of a day and have the time of my life.

It's been just over a year since you landed in Tokyo. It's not the first time you've launched a production company from scratch. What's your vision for Dictionary Tokyo?
We care. We execute every script beyond all expectation because we can take pride in what we create, because pride in our work is what we value. That's the vision. And... it's important to say that we still have that vision because we haven't compromised it. Once you've collectively made a piece of shit, you're dirty & done.

Any challenges or achievements you can share?
Japan itself is not really challenging to me. I don't speak the language as good as the natives, but I learned over 20 years that you don't have to speak perfect Japanese to be charmed and fall in love. This part of the world is just magic, and again it's the people and their attitude to life.

dictionary films.jpgNike Japan_ Minohodoshirazu.jpgMy biggest achievements have been building a team of people I really adore and making exciting work with them. Honestly, it's truly inspiring to work with the crew at Dictionary and Cutters. They work hard and play hard. Just like all my production heroes like TK Knowles and Traktor.

You're a Japanese-speaking American living in Tokyo. How does Tokyo inspire you?
Sydney is much more inspiring than Tokyo with the harbour and its natural beauty. Tokyo tries hard to be hip, but that doesn't give me a rise. I've just been fortunate to meet some very interesting characters here. They are inspiring. That, and the service. That's inspiring. People work hard and do a good job at what they do. Like me, they care about what they create. That's inspiring.

What would you say to agencies thinking of producing their next TVC in Japan?
I would advise and have advised Australasian agencies to work with Japanese talent for years. Yet, that's still to happen. Nevertheless, perhaps not for long. You'll see in Busan that everything down under has started to look the same, I'm sure some clever creative somewhere can see that and motivate a change. Just look at Gravity Cat. It blows everyone's mind and that's just the tip of the iceberg. People need to get out more.

You've lived in Pennsylvania, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, now Tokyo, plus stints in South Africa and Germany. How did you catch the travel bug?
I honestly saw America's future on the horizon 20 years ago and wanted out. South Africa was amazing. I'd like to go back there. I also still love Germany and all those places. The best thing about moving around is all the places to stop over in and say hello to good friends. Like you never left. Just as it ever was. Busan is going to be like that. Another place on the map to go back to and reminisce, I'm sure.

I was curious to read that you arrived in the region as an anthropologist writing on the Ainu, Hokkaido's indigenous people. What can you tell me about the Ainu people?
The most relevant thing I can say about the Ainu for this publication is that their culture was at a disadvantage because they primarily had an oral history, and because of this, Ainu culture was eventually eclipsed by Japanese culture. This is both important and relevant to today's society because we are in the midst of a digital dark age. Such that because of the digital ephemerality of our current communication, much of what is documented will lack validity and permanence.

Egad! How do we stop the end of our culture & society? Simple. We need to make things, which is good news because we're in the business of crafting stories in multiple durable mediums, and in doing so we motivate and craft culture itself.

Long story short: it's important. We should value what we do. More so than ever, actually.

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