The Japanese Aussie

Silas Hickey (Cartoon Network) at the studio earlier this week.

I’ll always remember the first time I met Silas Hickey. July 2008. It was a smoldering summer evening in Tokyo. Choon Meng, Bernard and myself have just spent a good part of the day running around Tokyo meeting studios and people, and were going to meet this development executive from Cartoon Network in the evening for dinner. Call came in, and he was going to meet us at the hotel (the excellently placed Tokyu Stay Shibuya Shin-minamiguchi). Next thing we knew, a tall Caucasian bloke (in T-shirt, bermudas and skateboard shoes) pulled up at the driveway in a white Vespa scooter that seemed too small for him.

As we walked, Silas started to talk – and transit with frightening ease into an argument in Japanese with a traffic officer who was giving him some grief over the parking of his scooter. Turned out one of the officer’s colleague had given Silas a ticket earlier in the day for parking his ride outside his office for 5 minutes.

It was just a little bizarre seeing a white guy decked out in skateboard clothing arguing with a Japanese traffic officer who’s a head shorter than him and seemingly deaf to any reasoning or plea for common sense. My first impression of Silas was understandably: “What an angry Aussie.”

Of course it’s far from the truth. I should have know better – after all I lived 4 years among Aussies, and for the most part they’re laid-back, straight talkers with a wry sense of humour. Silas brought us to local restaurant where we ate and downed what must have been half a dozen of fizzy, lime-flavoured drinks that we only found out had alcohol in them much later. Then it’s some proper beer at a local joint near his place.

That was it – nothing more than a ice-breaker and intro session. We showed him some of our stuff, but mostly we talked about everything else that has nothing to do with work. A couple more meetings later at Tokyo Anime Fair and Seoul (SICAF), and we’re now working on a project with him and his team.

It just reminds me that this business is about people. Often we know what the other party does, and that’s out of the way in 15 minutes tops. The rest is mostly about whether we feel we could work with each other without becoming homicidal; whether we laugh at the same stuff; what do we differ in and how we talked about those differences etc. And just getting that feeling of trust – which clearly will take time to develop and validate, but even so you usually have a definite feeling about people after the first couple of meetings.

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