Updated to include revised show link.
Premiering its first four episodes sometime in May on the new streaming comedy platform Twisted Mirror TV, Lost & Found Cowboy continues the evolution of actor/filmmaker Atsushi Ogata’s popular Yukata Cowboy character and web series franchise (Yukata Cowboy, Mona Lisa Cowboy).
Lost & Found Cowboy brings the hilariously misunderstood world traveler back to his homeland of Japan for an entertaining new series of adventures. Recently, Lost & Found Cowboy was announced as among several selections for this July’s Portland (Oregon) Comedy Film Festival.
Having arrived back in Tokyo following an eventful European jaunt, Yukata Cowboy helps an American newcomer to the Far East (Cindy, played by Kellie Holway – original touring member of the cast of Broadway’s 42nd Street, dancer at Walt Disney World/Tokyo Disneyland) get accustomed to her new life in an unfamiliar place.
A talented and graceful dancer, Cindy (whose name is a play on the classic fairy tale princess Cinderella, according to Ogata) slowly but surely learns the ways and traditions of Japanese culture while helping bring out a more confident side of her new lasso-toting yet rhythmically challenged companion through the gift of dance. Growing to trust and love each other, Cindy and Yukata Cowboy deal with the thrills and difficulties of romance before they inexplicably lose touch with each other.
Lost & Found Cowboy is the third entry in the Yukata Cowboy story-verse, following Ogata’s titular sketch comedy and its 2016 narrative follow-up Mona Lisa Cowboy.
The first Yukata Cowboy series introduced viewers to Ogata’s humorous version of Clint Eastwood’s mysterious wanderer “No Name” (from director Sergio Leone’s classic “Dollars” Spaghetti Western trilogy).
Throughout his travels, the globe-trotting Yukata Cowboy experiences a panorama of diverse cultures, while impacting – for better or worse – the lives of everyone who encounters him.
Meanwhile, Mona Lisa Cowboy introduced the backstory of Ogata’s character and placed him in the middle of a quest to reunite two distant Chinese twin sisters who call Europe home; one that leads to a hilarious conclusion.
As mentioned earlier, Lost & Found Cowboy will launch on the new comedy video platform Twisted Mirror TV. With the show’s pilot episode having won raves from audiences and attending filmmakers at the 2019 London Short Series Festival, Ogata’s partnership with Twisted Mirror TV co-founders Mikael Thiery and Erol Mustafov took off exponentially.
“After our successful screening and with our shared interests and love for international comedy renewed, Erol offered to stream our first 4 episodes of Lost & Found Cowboy on their newly launched comedy platform Twisted Mirror TV,” says Ogata. “We’re very excited about this opportunity. With Twisted Mirror’s recent partnership with Huawei, the Chinese firm, and Konnect Digital/Dice, we will reach audiences worldwide, which is one of my primary ambitions!”
Recently, Ogata has taken his popular Yukata Cowboy character to the stand-up comedy circuit with performances in Tokyo, Los Angeles and Boston. For him, those performances are an important means of extending the brand awareness of both Yukata Cowboy the character and the eponymous series franchise.
Well accustomed to collaborating with talented actors and filmmakers across the international landscape, Ogata’s multicultural background and experiences have informed a great deal of his work while gaining him praise from his peers and the larger worldwide indie film community. With both Yukata Cowboy and Mona Lisa Cowboy winning dozens of awards and immeasurable attention from the web series industry, one of Ogata’s biggest supporters had even greater plans in mind for his next series.
“As we were cycling through Berlin during the festival bicycle tour for Webfest Berlin guided by Joel Bassaget (screenwriter/advisor for Web Fest Berlin), Joel, who had just watched Mona Lisa Cowboy, kindly suggested that I further extend the Yukata Cowboy brand into a new series (Lost & Found Cowboy) literally produced in multiple countries around the world,” remembers Ogata. “Thus I conceived the theme of Yukata Cowboy visiting different countries and wreaking comedic havoc, possibly filming in Germany, Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands or Croatia.”
While Ogata struggled to find traction for his new series, another trusted ally convinced him to bring his latest concept closer to home.
“In the summer of 2018, journalist friend Roland Kelts, an expert on the impact of Japanese anime and pop culture on the West (who also interviews me in The Unofficial Guide to Yukata Cowboy in Japanese and English), encouraged me to develop Yukata Cowboy episodes set in Tokyo.” (Full disclosure: this writer’s previous interview w/Ogata about the eponymous series also appeared in that book.)
During a chance meeting at a filmmakers’ gathering in Tokyo in 2018, Ogata met the brilliant actor/dancer who’d become his co-star on Lost & Found Cowboy. “Kellie talked about her project, which immediately triggered something about the process I had just gone through with Mona Lisa Cowboy. Kellie watched my Yukata Cowboy series right away, and I checked her website.”
Recalls Holway: “He (Ogata) told me about Yukata Cowboy at that time and also about his feature film Cast Me If You Can which I had seen in the cinema when it came out and totally loved – what a surprise! I also talked about my love for comedy and a project which I was working on at the time, and it seemed like we could talk forever about all kinds of mutual interests. That night, I think we joked around about doing a project together, but who knew that it would turn into something big!”
The more Ogata and Holway conversed, the more they found in common with each other. “…We (myself and Kellie) met again for coffee,” Ogata adds. “That too was such a funny encounter because the whole time, we just talked only about funny things that happened to each of us! It was clear that we shared similar comedic sensibilities and creative experiences, which was really surprising to me, as it is so rare for me, especially in Japan.”
Following a productive rehearsal for what became the first episode of Lost & Found Cowboy, Ogata, Holway and a supporting cast that mostly hailed from Ogata’s previous theatrical film Cast Me If You Can began production on the series in Tokyo. Inspired heavily by the multi-national travels, experiences and backgrounds of Ogata and Holway, Lost & Found Cowboy now stands as the next stage of Yukata Cowboy’s humorous journey; one where the character begins a relationship that defies geographic distance and personal differences.
To accurately reflect its narrative approach, Ogata refocused the concept of the series. “I re-conceived Lost & Found Cowboy into a story about two characters of Yukata Cowboy, a guileless Japanese cowboy, and Cindy, a globetrotting dancer, losing and finding each other as they travel through different countries around the world; pulled apart by their consuming desires for independence, solitude and travel, they both struggle to learn to compromise if they want to stay together.”
In contrast to the two previous series, though, Lost & Found Cowboy’s storyline is predicated on how Ogata’s character relates to someone other than himself.
“In the original Yukata Cowboy series and Mona Lisa Cowboy, Yukata Cowboy’s goal is to find himself, whereas in Lost & Found Cowboy, his goal is more to find and adjust to someone else, so that he can be more connected,” says Ogata. “We see Yukata Cowboy struggling to transform more, and this is something the audience can relate to in terms of their own personal relationships.”
Since there are always two sides to every story, Lost & Found Cowboy reflects that reality in the manner it portrays its two primary characters. “While the earlier series were told, for the most part, from the viewpoint of Yukata Cowboy, in Lost & Found Cowboy, both Cindy and Yukata Cowboy tell their own stories, and the episodes unfold from each of their viewpoints,” Ogata replies. “So again, this emphasizes this relational aspect of Lost & Found Cowboy.”
Obviously, as Ogata adds, viewers of Lost & Found Cowboy will see a completely new side of Yukata Cowboy: “Having dance as a major element is another thing that makes Lost & Found Cowboy unique compared to the earlier series, especially since the world of dance is ‘foreign’ to Yukata Cowboy.”
The creative connection between Ogata and Holway only got stronger during production of the series. “When we did start working on and testing material for Lost & Found Cowboy, it seemed just like a continuation of our animated talks about comedy and even throughout the whole process (including during our very packed shooting schedule), it was incredibly fun working together,” Holway says. “It truly felt like creative play, and we were able to totally ‘be in the moment’ when we were shooting. I think our working style has been unique and we always end up having fun and even creating more comedy from our mistakes!”
Ogata also has high praise for Holway, who brought out the best in him exactly as he did with his co-star. “I felt that working with Kellie allowed me to expand my creative potential and tap into areas of my creativity (including dance, as Ogata says) that I myself wasn’t even aware of. Because Kellie provided a very safe, fun and encouraging environment, I did not feel shy or discouraged at any point to full heartedly dive into this new creative adventure. In my experience, this is very rare.”
Comprehensively choreographed by Holway and meticulously filmed by director of photography Motomu Ishigaki, the dance scenes between Ogata and Holway in Lost & Found Cowboy are not just entertaining set pieces meant to provide a breather in between the series’ silly and dramatic moments.
The true purpose of those sequences, as Ogata explains, is to illustrate how Yukata Cowboy and Cindy become closer to each other despite the former’s reluctance to strut his stuff.
“We also tried to express the development of the relationship between Cindy and Yukata Cowboy visually through dance – becoming better partners literally through development over multiple dances, and using dance to express their feelings. As their relationship becomes intimate, they also start to have mini-fights, and we tried to express this both as visual gags and through dance.”
Ogata received a wealth of encouragement and education from Holway as they worked on rehearsing their dance scenes together. “I didn’t have any experience with dance except for dancing socially at parties and clubs, so I first asked Kellie to show me what types of dances she could perform. Then for a number of them, I tried to join her and videotaped us together to see what might work. We incorporated the various types of dance in all stages of the Lost & Found Cowboy episodes.”
Even though Ogata and Holway initially rehearsed their dancing without the benefit of tracks written for each scene by series composer Masataka (Taka) Odaka (his cues were still being prepared at the time), both actors would find their patience rewarded as they became more comfortable with the intricately structured movements of every sequence.
“It was truly a kind of intuitive as well as trial and error type process—and we laughed a lot throughout our rehearsals,” notes Holway. “We devoted many of our rehearsals to developing the dance pieces. Everything changed and evolved over time. In the very beginning, we had done a camera test with different styles of dance and music, and I think from there, we had a feel of what worked well (and what was potentially good in a comedic way, too!) We basically would try some movement sequences, see what worked, and then (we’d) go from there.”
On camera, the final product was even more remarkable than what Holway and Ogata had imagined. “When I saw the 6K footage, I just couldn’t believe how good everything looked – the camera movement and different angles of us dancing was incredible to see,” Holway says. “We had rehearsed the dances so much that it almost felt like second nature, and despite having to do multiple takes, we had so much fun shooting all of the dances. We could just relax and enjoy performing them, since we had rehearsed so much leading up to shooting.”
Although Ogata and Holway feel that Lost & Found Cowboy will bring a smile to viewers during the otherwise gloomy atmosphere of our current worldwide health crisis, they also want them to appreciate the places that await them whenever the lockdown ends.
“I just hope that people enjoy seeing something a little bit unusual—and if someone feels some sort of inspiration—or even feels an interest in Japanese culture or exploring different cultures in general, I would be really happy,” adds Holway. “It would be nice if it makes people laugh too!”
“I would like diverse viewers of different ages and nationalities to watch and enjoy our series and become our fans so that we can keep creating more and more episodes around the world! It would be wonderful if watching our series will trigger the audience to loosen up and to see their own lives in a different light,” Ogata responds. “Perhaps they’d even laugh at themselves, become more open to celebrating different cultures and ethnic groups, (and) even feel energized and inspired to start dancing themselves – no matter how down they might be feeling!”
NOTE: Regarding closed-captioning/subtitling of Lost & Found Cowboy, Ogata says: “Lost & Found Cowboy will have English language subtitles (closed-captioning) throughout each episode. We also hope that Lost & Found Cowboy will be subtitled in other languages so that it can be seen widely beyond the English-language territories.”
Watch Lost & Found Cowboy on Twisted Mirror TV:
ON THE WEB: https://www.lostandfoundcowboy.com/