We had the good fortune of connecting with Toru Uchikado and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Toru, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I quickly realized I’ve got to be proactive especially when you are a minority actor. Even comparing to now there were a lot less Asian roles out there and if you are specifically talking about Japanese roles on major TV shows and movies there were only a handful of roles that came out each year.
The industry has fortunately been changing and there are a lot more opportunities for minority actors but I still think being proactive is a key to the success. If you patiently wait for your chance to come, a decade will quickly pass by.
For example, if you want to pursue acting, having a good demo reel is very important. When I came out here I first tried many student films to collect good footage for myself but the chance of landing a role suited for me was pretty slim so I ended up writing for myself, getting some friends together and making clips myself so that I can put together a solid demo reel.
My interest grew over the years to creating content and I made a 20 minute short film that was selected by film festivals.
And a year ago I started my YouTube channel. A part of the reason was due to the pandemic and I just needed to find a way to stay creative.
But having my own content on YouTube and other social media has led me to some interesting gigs already. In this current world, you never know what it will lead to as long as you keep creating.
Finally since I started creating my own content I felt that my long lasting anxiety with this acting life lessened a bit.(It’s still there… but less) I think it’s fulfilling my creative desire even when I don’t have gigs and things are slow.
I’ve always enjoyed the process of creating and nothing is stopping me now.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I consider my content to be unique. It’s not something everyone can do especially considering I don’t have people working for me. It’s thanks to the combination of many different things. My language skill, sword and action skill, filming and editing skill, my knowledge of two cultures and also all the relationships that I nurtured over the years here in LA. I don’t consider myself as a fun person in general. I’m not a good talker. But I think my ideas and editing skill make up for this to provide entertaining content.
I might be what people call a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. But this comes in pretty handy when you are a solo content creator because you have to do so many things by yourself. Having a variety of skills is actually really good.
As for challenges that I had to overcome, I’d like to mention one incident.
Many people consider me as a sword professional now but my sword journey all started because I had a pretty bad accident on set in 2015.
I had a role in this big budget tv show and there was a scene where my co-star’s character was training me with a sword.
We were using a bamboo sword and I ended up hitting my co-star’s face badly. The next thing I know, she was covered in blood. It was honestly one of the scariest moments in my career. She was carried to the hospital and production shut down for the day.
I expected the worst but it turned out that any facial wound bleeds a lot so it wasn’t as bad as I expected and she was able to continue working from the next day. I would also like to mention that she’s such a strong person and she has become my long time friend after this gig and I’m lucky that I still can call her a friend after the incident!
Anyway I had never practiced sword before then and I wanted to make sure I will not hurt anyone again, so I started taking Japanese sword martial arts class, learning on youtube and practicing with friends. Luckily I got hooked and stuck to my training. I’m not at a level that I can say I’m happy with my skill but it has definitely become a skill that I’m proud of. Also by persisting it sure brought me many opportunities.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
That’s a difficult question and I think it differs depending on who’s visiting but what’s great about LA is that you can enjoy many different cultures within the city. There is Little Tokyo, Little Ethiopia, Little Armenia and many others. So visiting many different areas like that would be fun. For food scene I would make sure to take them to Koreatown because that’s personally my favorite area to eat. If we have enough time I’d love to take them camping nearby to enjoy nature as well because that’s also one of the cool things about LA. Even though it’s a big city you can go see wild nature with a short drive!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d love to give a shoutout to my older brother who lives in Japan. He has a busy life with his work and his family but he probably checks my content more than I do. He often throws me ideas and feedback. For now, when I create content I’m doing almost everything on my own. Planning, shooting, editing, translating into Japanese, etc. And there are so many small decisions that I make on a daily basis. I often get pretty indecisive and the person that I reach out to first for feedback is my brother. I don’t see him often, being separated between the US and Japan, but he still supports me in many ways. Also although I did say I’m doing almost everything by myself, many of my friends help me out here and there depending on the project. I can’t really shoot everything on my own. So I appreciate the support of my friends and collaborators, and I don’t take it for granted.
Other: IMDb: http://www.imdb.me/toruuchikado