River

The modern-day odyssey of a Japanese host (male escort) and how a violent night sets in motion a journey back to his childhood roots.

Creative team

Writer/director: Kheaven Lewandowski
Producers: Kyle Hollett, Jason Aita, Daryl Wharton-Rigby

Filmmaker’s statement

River was initially conceived as a music video for Canadian band The Belle Game. Through my collaboration with The Belle Game and Much Fact I was able to create this short film.

We went to Tokyo to film the music video but I also brought a mic along hoping we could shoot some extra scenes with the actors. Luckily everyone was on board and loved the idea of expanding the narrative.

Shooting this short film was an interesting process as I asked my actors to do some guided improvisation during certain scenes. These would ultimately help connect plot elements into the short film version of the story. One major hurdle was the language barrier – I had to trust that the actors were talking about the elements I had asked them to discuss.

The most challenging parts to film were the ‘champagne call’ scenes. My cinematographer, Ben Leob, did a bit of a dance in trying to cover all the action. We instructed all the actors, who were all actual hosts that worked at that club, to do the ‘champagne call’ exactly as they would in real life. We strove to capture the host rituals and lifestyle as accurately as possible, and I think we were successful in that sense.

After we finished and released the music video, I tackled editing the extra footage to weave together the short film version of the story. It was then that I had the dialogue translated, and finally discovered what my actors were saying.

It was a beautiful thing to see it all come together but it was still was missing some key information. In the end I decided to add a voice-over narration by our main actor, Hiraku Ando, to tie the story together.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience shooting this film in Japan. The Japanese culture is so warm and gracious that it made for a truly memorable experience.

About Kheaven Lewandowski

Kheaven Lewandowski

Kheaven Lewandowski was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada.

Over the past decade he has had the opportunity to live in Los Angeles, Toronto and Montreal – collecting stories and experiences while working with a wide array of individuals.

His focus is on writing and directing short films and music videos that explore personal narratives and hidden cultural phenomena.

In 2014 and 2015 Kheaven received nominations for the Prism Prize best Canadian music video of the year – and he won the audience award for his music video version of River in 2014.

Currently Kheaven is back home in Vancouver writing a screenplay for his first feature film.

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