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Posted on 9th Nov, 2018 in Production

We've finally made it to the final entry in my 2-part interview series with Sweets, the director of Suit Up! Japan and co-founder of Hen Tie Cake. In the previous interview, we took a retrospective look at the entire production. Today though, I aim to address some of the burning questions I've received from readers of this series.

In another life, I had some journalistic experience. Keeping that in mind, I worked my hardest to present these interviews fairly and accurately. However, as you may have noticed in the previous post, I had to aggressively fact check Sweets. Unfortunately, this half of the interview will be no different since he has a penchant for "alternative facts" when it comes to this project.

Me: Have you had a chance to read the production notes?
Sweets: Uh… the post-production notes or the during-production notes?
Me: All of them.
Sweets: I have only seen during-production notes and I think I only looked at them for the first 2 weeks we were back.
Me: So, you've probably missed a lot of posts then because I was behind at some point. I'm pretty sure I finished the during-production notes a good few months after we got back.
Sweets: Yeah, then I definitely missed all of them. I think I saw like 2 posts total.
Me: You should have at least seen 3 because the third one was the one where I was trapped in China… and I was like welp I guess I better do something with all of this extra time
Sweets: Yeah, I couldn't actually… I didn't wanna be like, welp [SolidX] is in China and the less I know the less I'm likely to be interrogated by the US Government so…
Me: Oh…! Oh! I see we were going to just leave me there to die.
Sweets: I wasn't going to leave you there, I was going to tell the US Embassy and then you know—
Me: Let them handle it like I heard this guy was trapped in China, uh… you might want to look in to that. Bye guys!
Sweets: Like Hey, my friend is trapped in China, I don't know why he's there. Have a good day!
Me: I don't know why he's there. I wonder why I was there?

Me: A question my readers have frequently asked is, What is the deal with PayPal? Can you elaborate?
Sweets: PayPal, in its infinite wisdom, didn't like the fact that I sent a large amount of money to your account and didn't bother telling me that it never actually reached your account.
Me: Are you going to make them give that back to you or are you just going to let them run off with it?
Sweets: The problem is that PayPal gave it to the US Government and the US Government in turn said No. I'm like alright then.
Me: I mean they said no, but legally speaking they can't hold on to it for more than what was it, 21 weeks?
Sweets: The US government can hold funds indefinitely.
Me: So you're out on that cash forever?
Sweets: I can put in a lawsuit but it'll be more expensive for the lawsuit than it is to get the money.

※ Fact Check: Paypal can withhold funds for up to 21 days. The US Treasury Dept may do so indefinitely.

Me: Early on in the series there was a production note about the issue of people not reading things. While that's just kind of our regular banter, it has caused readers to ask How have we not killed each other yet? Would you like to weigh in on that?
Sweets: That's easy! While you are very detail-oriented, I am big picture oriented. While you will worry about how every single thing will come crashing down around it, I worry about getting one thing done after another and it works out fine that way. You can make sure I don't end up screwing step 87 by doing steps 1-3.
Me: I mean… it didn't exactly work out fine that way though.
Sweets: That's fine. It finished.
Me: Somehow, it is over. We all survived… which I consider a miracle.
Sweets: I've lead people for a long time. I was a Sergent in the Army. I've worked manager positions, in retail, in corporate offices, in various other places and generally speaking… yeah the guy up at the top is big picture. Everyone below has to just kind of… has to make it work. That's just the way I've always seen it. That's the way it's always been done in the Army, in retail, and in corporate offices, etc.¹
Me: Management
Sweets: Pretty much. You have to know when to push and when to simply back down and I've got enough experience to know when to just go "okay fine" and back down. That's all there is to it.
Me: That was absolutely a nightmare.
Sweets: Oh it was a nightmare, which is why when you got on site, I was like [SolidX] is doing nothing.²
Me: Well! I died.. when I got on site, mostly because I'd been kidnapped by China for a few days.
Sweets: Yes but besides that, like you didn't do anything on site.
Me: That's… true, I did not do… much…
Sweets: You essentially got the trip to Japan outside of helping move luggage. You didn't do anything.
Me: Well, I did a lot more than that. [uncomfortable laughter]
Sweets: Did you? I don't think… what else, what else…?
Me: There was quite a bit of translating, and hand-holding, and then there was the whole bus incident which is still infamous—³
Sweets: It's alright. It's okay. We solved that using my tourist money. That's all that matters.
Me: But that created more problems for the project…
※ Fact Check:
  1. Intentionally disregarding essential information (including but not limited to; people's legal names, travel directions, budgetary restrictions, transit schedules, and business hours) is actually negligence and not proper a management technique.
  2. Sweets, contradicting my advice, planned things such that all of the assistants (including myself) would have no part in the photoshoot. He did not decide to give me a break despite my luggage-less arrival the night before the shoot. This is documented in Production Note #04.
  3. As per Production Note #05, a short list of my duties while in Japan included but was not limited to; translation of speech and text, acting as a tour guide, providing real-time navigation information, moving luggage, delivering food, and laying out futons.
  4. Technically, I haven't even received a trip to Japan, due to not having been reimbursed yet for expenses incurred on behalf of the project.

Me: Was there any moment when you were not certain that everything was going to work out in the end?
Sweets: The very beginning. Like the moment I said let's do this thing.
Me: Oh you mean like the moment I told you "Nah that's never going to work out"?
Sweets: Yes. Like, like at that point, I was like, it's probably not going to work and I said no, it's probably not going to work, but let's keep trying until it does and so I just kept going. I thought when we had cosdrama, I thought that like okay this project is dead in the water. There's no way we're getting any further than this. This is going to turn in to one big huge issue.
Me: Like I don't even think I mentioned it in any of the notes but, there was definitely some issue there and… it wasn't getting resolved, so I kinda just lost my shit one day and was like that's it. I'm fixing the problem, by removing the problem.
Sweets: Yeah, I mean even when it first happened— I'll have to go and remove this person because this person is being a huge pain in the ass. But they're a larger name and I'm more likely to get the funds I need for the project if I keep them on. And then the funds came and with the stipulation of "I would like this person to be here and I would like this person to be here as well but if they both can't work together, drop that person." Okay fine and with our new silent backer, I went okay, these are the rules in the overall contract. This is what I have to deal with. And I said to one of the girls, Hey, here's what's up. I need you to understand that and she refused to outright work with one of the other girls and it was… very, very hard to deal with. As I was like, I don't need you to be friends. I don't need you to even like each other. I can keep you two separate. You guys can do different things while you're in Japan. I don't care. I just need you to take pictures in cosplay.
Me: But even then that wasn't enough because they held up our workflow by preventing anyone from signing contracts.
Sweets: Yes and at that final part, I was like I can not work with you. And that was one of the big things of can you be professional? Yes or no? Yes or no? Like—
Me: [Her] answer was no in the end.
Sweets: {Her] answer was you'd better do what I say. I said No, I have all the power in this situation, I'm sorry. Good bye. And then we began piling on more, more models. I think we signed 2 more, like 3 more the following day.
Me: Yeah I think that was actually how that worked out. We signed on 2 more the following day and then we went and looked for a third one…. and we had 1 tentative but it didn't pan out in the end.
Sweets: Yep and we still ended up losing 2 of those people.
Me: Sounds about right, yeah.
Sweets: Overall, yeah at the very beginning, at the very very start before everything had been fina— before we even had the money, I said this is never going to work. But I kept going through every single motion. Just keep going, it might work. Probably not going to, but just, just keep going.
Me: We somehow survived so… it worked… kinda.

※ Clarification: The person in question was removed from the project by me at my own discretion. Sweets then received the heat for it.

Me: It's in one of the Production Notes that was never published, but… can you explain the logic behind not writing the word "calendar"… on the cover of the Suit Up! Japan calendar.
Sweets: It's… literally… a sideways… book.
Me: A sideways book, with dates in it… and a softcover.
Sweets: Yes. Most people will assume calendar. They don't need that extra bit of information. The consumer is tired of being talked down to.
Me: Uh… I don't think calendars talk but…
Sweets: Generally speaking, market research says most consumers are tired of being talked down to.
Me: Okay but labeling an item with what it is, kinda of you know… helps move it faster
Sweets: Sometimes. There are some items I pick up, I don't even know what it is.
Me: Oh yeah that happens all the time, especially in foreign countries.
Sweets: Mhmm. I go Oh, the picture— I thought this was apple juice. This is literally tomato soup.
Me: That's…
Sweets: Behold apple juice. But, no. It's just one of… It's like uh… adobo.
Me: It says "adobo" on the label.
Sweets: But it doesn't… it says "All purpose seasoning". It doesn't give you a reason as to what it the seasoning should be with.
Me:That's fair but it does say what it is.
Sweets: Yeah, but you can tell what it is by looking at it. It's seasoning.
Me: It's a seasoning of some sort, but I would like to know which seasoning it is.
Sweets: That you have to go through, in to the actual directions in ingredients.
Me: No, it says it right on the label.
Sweets: It says Adobo, All purpose Seasoning
Sweets: Yes, the assumption is that adobo is something that people know what it is, is because you know what it is. But you can look at it and know, this is some kind of seasoning. Cool. Got it. What is it? I don't know exactly. Same concept.
Me: Not quite but…
Sweets: The mystery also adds a layer…

Me: Will there be a 2019 edition of the Suit Up! Japan calendar?
Sweets: I'm probably going to get started on making a 2019 version of that same calendar because the girls are now promoting the calendar.
Sweets: They're showing off a lot of the pictures we didn't use at the hot springs. And I'm like, you guys suck. Now I have to make a new calendar because people are asking for it on the site.

Fact Check: At time of publication, no one has ever asked for more calendars on the Hen Tie Cake website.

Me: We've heard you're currently working on a magazine. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Sweets: The Hen Tie magazine? Sure. I've never been quiet about the fact that I liked Playboy and the idea of Hugh Hefner and his empire forever ago.
Me: Whoa it's like there's a trend here. Who would have thought?
Sweets: But, I didn't realize I was working towards that goal until I had realized that I was doing everything that he had done at one point in time and at that point I realized I'm trying to emulate someone who's done this before. He's done all the steps before, I can just follow in his footsteps. The path has been cut already. I don't have to blaze a new path. There are some differences now. The internet age does makes it easier for people to go and pirate and remove things. Frankly, while pirating is bad, it's not— people who really care about the company and the product will buy the product and support the overall company. People who don't or who aren't, they're just not going to. I knew this forever ago in the gaming communities. I knew this forever ago in the comic book communities. This isn't anything new in the cosplay communities… in the topless style photography, boudoir shoots and things a lot like that. This is nothing new. Most you can do is file DMCAs and call it a day and that's pretty much what I end up doing now. As we're gaining more models for Hen Tie Cake, I'm simply the buffer. Instead of them having to go through the whole process, I've done it so many times. It's practically regulated for me. I just have to press a button and it goes through the whole process for me. And then you have a button for Hen Tie Cake, for Hen Tie magazine. I wanted to make something that makes people think, makes people enjoy things. Things that entertain people. There's so much negativity. So many bad things. Everyone's shitting on each other. No one can be neighbors. It's kind of awful out there and I want to bring people together on things that they like, that is a passion. Whether it's interesting stories about AOL's fall being systematic of WCW's fall or whether it's an article about mental health in Evangelion, or it's pictures of girls topless; whatever people enjoy.
Me: In some cases all of the above?
Sweets: In some cases all of the above. For me it's all the above. I'm essentially making a magazine for me and if other people like it, great!
Me: When do you plan to start publishing this magazine?
Sweets: I would like to have it out by January.
What's with the obsession with nudes?

Me: Is there anything you want to say to the readers out there?
Sweets: While this project was less than perfect, no project is ever going to be perfect. Nothing is ever going to work out exactly how you think it's going to. If you have doubts in the very beginning of your project and you need to re-evaluate, continue re-evaluating but keep working towards your project. Keep working towards the end goal. Find that thing you want to do and just keep walking towards it. The worst thing that could happen is that you have to stop. And even if you stop, you tried. That's the way I kinda approached this project. It's kinda how I approach life. I just keep trying. The worst that could happen is I have to stop.


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