Actor Adam J. Yeend’s latest role was anything but run of the mill.
The former Winmalee resident plays an Australian prisoner-of-war in Japan who finds comfort in the piano playing of a teenage girl from a neighbouring home.
Based on a true story, the emotional shoot for the short film was made even more powerful when Mr Yeend, 32, met the real life little girl who inspired it — Youko Koshida is now in her 80s and lives in the same home where her childhood piano lessons provided hope for the World War II POWs.
“She was very gracious. She said she remembers feeling sorry for the soldiers as a little girl and not quite understanding what they’d done wrong.
“She also remembers that some of the soldiers would crawl through a fence to her family’s property to get some of the vegetables from the garden, something her parents never reported,” he said.
“After hearing her story, she actually played on the same piano she did during the war which was incredible and then offered for me and one of the other cast members to play on it. I was shaking a bit — I’ve never been the best piano player although I learnt through school — and I played what I could of Beethoven’s Fur Elise which was met by very enthusiastic and polite applause from Youko and the rest of the cast and crew.”
Director Paul Leeming had worked with Mr Yeend in 2005 and chose him for the role without an audition.
“I worked with Adam back on my first film, Eve, and found him to be an actor without fear, completely dedicated to the character and trusting of my vision when asked to do uncomfortable things,” he said.
He hopes the short film, titled An American Piano, will be seen by as many people as possible — giving recognition to a “real life hero” in the process.
“I was inspired by Mrs Koshida, who as a teenager touched the hearts of so many POWs through the simple act of playing the piano for them even though they were supposedly the enemy to her,” he said.
“The universality of music in overcoming hatred was the most powerful aspect of the story.”
It’s a sentiment Mr Yeend can only agree with.
Although he is now back in his Los Angeles home of the last four years, the memory of the Tokyo film shoot will never be far away.
“Having the chance to meet the real Mrs Youko Koshida was an experience I’ll never forget,” he said.