2024.05.23 Thu

Report and Interview of “The Special Movie-making Seminar by Director Koreeda” (held on March 31, 2024)

“Take Advantage of the Location of Fukuoka to Create a Movie Production Hub That’s the Most International in Japan.”
“The Special Movie-making Seminar by Director Koreeda” was held with the purpose of developing creators who can shape the future of the movie industry and was instructed by the globally successful movie director, Mr. Hirokazu Koreeda (hosted by Creative Lab Fukuoka). Five film directors currently based in Fukuoka City participated in the valuable one-day-only seminar. During the highly valuable seminar, Director Koreeda carefully commented and gave advice on each of the works by the participating directors. There was also a Q&A in the second half of the seminar where Director Koreeda talked about his filmmaking, current challenges of the Japanese movie industry, and wide-ranging topics regarding filmmaking. We asked Director Koreeda about the special seminar, his feedback, and the challenges and potentials of making movies in a regional city.

Five Participants Gave Presentations to Director Koreeda on Their Works
Five movie directors who could participate in this special seminar had to meet the criteria, “Creators must want to be movie directors or producers and are working, attending school in, or active in Fukuoka City. Creators also need to have experience showing the film they created for a fee or winning an award at a movie festival, etc.” A diverse group of participants with different careers, backgrounds, and styles gathered, including a participant who just graduated from a filmmaking course in university, a participant who joined the video industry from a very different field, a participant with many participations/awards won at film festivals in Japan and overseas, and a professional film director who has already released a feature film.

“The Special Movie-making Seminar by Director Koreeda” (held on March 31, 2024, at the Kyushu University Ohashi Campus meeting room)

For the special seminar, each participant had about 20 minutes. They first gave brief presentations about the works they made in the past and screened works about 15 minutes long. After that, Director Koreeda commented on their works and activities, and then gave advice.

Director Koreeda Watching Each Work and Giving Specific Advice on Fine Production Details

I don’t dare say I’m in a position to “make participants grow.”
However, I can give advice on specific skills.

Among the comments Director Koreeda made for participants, what stood out was how he gave specific comments one by one regarding small cuts, camera angles, standing positions of characters, and the naturalness of characters’ lines.
While working as a leading global filmmaker, he has also been teaching film production as a Professor at Waseda University since April 2014 and has been giving out online seminars regarding filmmaking related to his work at Coloso. As such, Director Koreeda is known for actively supporting the growth of next-generation film producers. What philosophy does he have regarding “teaching filmmaking”?

“It’s our role to create a suitable environment for young directors to make movies. I think that’s our responsibility. I don’t prefer to do it though (laughs). Also, I don’t dare say I’m in a position to “make anyone grow.” I also don’t want to lecture regarding the mentally of filmmaking at all. No matter what anyone says, a filmmaker has his or her unique style and this comes out in every type of activity everywhere. Still, I can give advice on writing the script or shooting techniques.”

Director Koreeda often interacts with young directors at lounges of the Tokyo International Film Festival where Asian students (including Japanese) learning film are invited. However, he rarely meets movie directors in regional cities away from Tokyo like this seminar.
His comment on the seminar was, “Each participant had a different goal and career, so it was hard to give specific advice by only watching a work that was 15 minutes long. I wanted to know what they were aiming for and how far they felt their current works were from that goal. If I knew that, I could have given more useful advice and encouragement…”

For the Japanese Film Industry as A Whole, the shortage of Producer is a problem
During the seminar which lasted about two hours and a half, Director Koreeda focused the most on having a dialogue with the participants. During the Q&A, participants asked questions specific to filmmakers that were not related to shooting, such as “How can I meet a good producer in Fukuoka” and “What advice can you give when participating in a film festival outside of Japan”?

“It’s the same situation in Tokyo in the sense that there are few good producers around. In particular, I think it’s hard for independent filmmakers to find a good producer. The lack of producers is the biggest challenge that the Japanese movie industry is facing right now. It is the result of the industry not developing human resources and so there is no foundation to develop producers. Still, I’ve been teaching practical filmmaking at Waseda University for 10 years and the program recently produced two skilled producers. One of them worked as an assistant producer for “Shoplifters” and then became a producer for “Monster.” The other joined Toei and became a producer. Right now, this producer is part of my production group Bunbuku *1, producing works by young directors. My seminars at Waseda University were not aimed at developing producers, but I think they are successful examples of my many years of teaching while feeling exhausted (laughs).”

*1. A production group of movie directors, producers, directors, and scriptwriters led by Director Koreeda and Director Miwa Nishikawa. The group “gathers people working on video production and loosely forms a collective.

Make Personally Earnest Things into Film Rather than Aiming for a Film Festival Success and Trends
“I don’t consciously aim for the film festivals overseas. It’s because I think it becomes too obvious when you aim for them. I think the starting point to making the most powerful work is to turn the currently most earnest theme into imagery and shape that into a film. Of course, there are movies that aim for film festivals and successfully receive awards, so that may be a valid strategy. Still, even if you try to identify trends and make strategies when you are looking for a movie theme, it may not be successful. Similarly, if you make whatever you want to make, that also doesn’t mean people will watch your film. The important thing is to properly deliver a theme that feels earnest to you. Skills are needed for this purpose.”

“Also, if you are participating in a film festival, it would be a good idea to have as many meetings as possible (with producers and investors). It would be important to present the next idea for a movie in English. This is especially true for Asian film directors whose domestic markets have not been established in a business sense. These directors have a clear vision of finishing shooting the first movie in their country and then shooting the second movie thereafter with producers mainly from France or the UK, utilizing overseas capital. Meanwhile, there are many Japanese film directors who join film festivals for fun and think it is good enough if their movie can come back to Japan and then become successful domestically. That is a negative aspect of the Japanese movie industry and mindsets need to be changed in these areas.”

The Japanese Film Industry Should be More Alarmed that Many Film Directors Go Abroad to Shoot
“Takeshi Kitano greatly changed the current perspective of Japanese movies in the world. After that, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, myself, and Naomi Kawase started to be called to film festivals abroad. All of our last names started with the letter “K,” so for a long period, our generation was grouped together as a new wave, even though we all had completely different styles. In the past few years, there have been new directors around 40 years old with “unique cinematic languages,” such as Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Koji Fukada, Chie Hayakawa, and Sho Miyake. They are making the Japanese film industry more talented. Mr. Hamaguchi and Mr. Fukada can now shoot movies using the French capital, and film festivals abroad are anticipating their next works. I also shot a movie in France called “The Truth.” In France, there are good producers in addition to developed support and financing systems that actively subsidize Asian directors, so many Asian directors shoot in France. That is amazing, but talented directors all want to go to France to shoot movies. The Japanese film industry should be more alarmed by that.”

A realistic advice: “Sometimes, you can’t join an overseas film festival. One option is to send your work to Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, an organization that can contact film festival directors and selection staff from various countries”

At the end of the seminar, Director Koreeda concluded with some words of encouragement.” In Japan, many things are not developed so there are no clear steps to improve your status as a movie director. I really feel sorry for this as someone who has started in the industry before you. We are responsible for making these improvements. In the future, I will work with the film industry so that challenges can be solved little by little. Please do your best. I will try my best too.”
Living up to his promise, Director Koreeda and Director Nobuhiro Suwa established “action4cinema/Committee seeking Japanese CNC” in June 2022. They are working on establishing a sustainable and growing mutual aid system for the future of the film industry.

It is Important for Municipalities to Actively Support Filmmaking and Creators
Director Koreeda is thinking beyond his position as a movie director and thinking about the future of the Japanese film industry as someone who started a career in the industry before others. We asked him about the significance and potential of a regional city, Fukuoka, supporting movie and video creators. We also asked about what Fukuoka City can do for the Japanese film industry.
“I think it’s highly important for municipalities to support creators. I definitely want these special seminars to continue. Ideally, these seminars should be a program with multiple benefits, like taking the seminar would directly lead to a next job. I was the only one at the seminar this time, but if there were many freelance producers here and they could match up with creators, that would be ideal. Independent filmmakers don’t have that kind of opportunity to expand connections, so they have a hard time advancing their careers. For example, a director could collaborate with a talent agency and use people from the agency to get a budget, make a movie, and step up from there. However, not everyone can get these deals, so a producer would be needed to bridge them.”

“Therefore, the first step would be to create a place where producers from Tokyo and local creators can meet. This should also be a place where local producers can learn. They would spend about a week with creators solidifying the next proposals. Continuing these steps would produce movies and directors. In other countries, film festivals often act as a hub for film professionals. In Japan, people may only recognize the flashy scenes of film festivals where celebrities walk on the red carpet. However, important functions behind the scenes are interactions, development of human resources, and discovery of new talents.”

There are Many Overseas Directors who Want to Shoot Films in Japan.
“Also, local areas should take proper measures to try to attract themselves as places to shoot movies. Japan is very popular among overseas movie professionals because our country is amazingly rich in scenery, food, movie culture, and history. However, it’s hard to get permits to shoot films in Japan even if they want to. That’s why many directors often go to Taiwan or South Korea. Government support and tax breaks should be considered and municipalities should focus more on appealing their areas for shooting movies. For this purpose, the role of a film commission is extremely important. For domestic movie productions, regional cities that support filmmaking with a support structure is highly attractive for producers. Around Tokyo, Nagano and Nagoya are very easy places to shoot films. In Nagoya, you can block entire roads taking up all the lanes. They are also very helpful when you want to use old buildings.”

Finally, we asked Director Koreeda to give a message to Fukuoka, which is trying to be a creative city.
“Fukuoka is close to South Korea, so location wise, it is a more ideal place to be an Asian hub than Tokyo. I think it would be a good idea to take advantage of the location and aim to be a creative city that can be the most international filmmaking hub in Japan. If so, film professionals would naturally gather. I hope Fukuoka can do what Tokyo can’t do.”

Hirokazu Koreeda: Film Director
Hirokazu Koreeda was born on June 6, 1962. After graduating from the Department of Literature, at Waseda University, in 1987, he joined the TV Man Union. He mainly produced documentary programs, then in 2014, he became independent to launch the production group, Bunbuku.
His main TV works include “Shikasi (But)…,” a story about the suicide of a high-grade Ministry of Environment bureaucrat who was in charge of Minamata mercury poisoning (1991/CX/Winner of Galaxy Award of Excellence) and “Mouhitotsu no Kyoiku (Another form of education) Record of Ina Elementary School’s Haru Class” (1991/CX/ATP Award of Excellence winner).
He made a debut as a film director in 1995 with the work, “Maboroshi” He won leading film awards in Japan and overseas through films, such as “Nobody Knows” (2004), “Still Walking” (2008), “Like Father, Like Son” (2013), “Our Little Sister,” (2015), and “The Third Murder” (2017). In 2018, he won the Palme d’Or at the 71st Cannes Film Festival for ”Shoplifters.” This work was nominated for the 91st Academy Awards in the International Feature Film category. In 2019, he produced a movie entirely shot in France starring Catherine Deneuve titled, “The Truth,” which was shown as an opening movie at the 76th Venice International Film Festival for competition. In 2022, the Korean film “Broker” won the Cannes Best Actors for Song Kang-ho and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. His latest work, “Monster” (2023) won the Best Screenplay Award and Queer Palm at the 76th Cannes Film Festival.