世界で活躍するグローバル・リーダーを bimonthly (隔月ごと）にYGCでインタビューしていきます。全て英語でインタビューが記載されていますので、是非最後まで頑張って読んでいきましょう！
- What made you decide to become a film director?
It was when I was 19 years old during my year at Yozemi, a university cram school, that I decided I wanted to become a film director. I was actually working part-time jobs, getting my driver’s license, and watching lots of movies in between my studies. During that time, I happened to see the movie, Born on the Fourth of July (Director: Oliver Stone) that eventually became life-changing for me. The movie is based on a true story about a protagonist, played by Tom Cruise, who served in the Vietnam War at a young age. He suffered from paraplegia by being shot by a bullet, and is thus forced to live in a wheelchair and becomes an anti-war activist. I later learned from reading a pamphlet on the movie I bought at the theaters that Tom Cruise lived in a wheelchair for a year to prepare for his role. I was shocked that he went through such lengths to play a role in a movie, and I still remember to this day how moved I was with his vehemence. It truly was a time in life when I had to contemplate on what I wanted to do with my life, just before entering university. In the midst of all this, I indistinctly thought to myself, “I want to be in a job where I can be enticed by it for the rest of my life,” just how Tom Cruise has had a lifelong love for movies. And just like that, I knew I wanted to become a film director.
- You left your job in business after 6 years to become a film creator and to fulfill a lifelong dream. What was the driving force behind this big decision?
Even after I entered university, my mind was all set on becoming a film director, and I was preoccupied with watching movies rather than studying. There were no smartphones back then, so watching movies was not readily accessible as it is now, and there really weren’t ways to learn about filmmaking – I taught myself the art of filmmaking by merely watching and analyzing movies. But I then soon realized that there were limitations to this and I decided to study abroad in the United States after graduating from university in Japan. With this goal in mind, I studied and worked hard. Then came my third year of university when everyone around me started searching for their jobs, while I talked with my father about studying abroad. He completely denied my desire to pursue my dreams and told me to get a “real job,” and that supporting me financially with this was out of the question. The reality dawned on me that I was not going to study abroad. I even consulted with the university’s career counseling by asking them, “How can I become a film director?” They didn’t take me seriously and declined to help me. My dream came crashing down and I just had to face the reality.
After this ordeal, I had no choice but to search for a job and actually got a job at a computer company. Even though I had a stable job, I felt that I didn’t fit in with the company culture and was living a miserable life. I wanted to escape the life I was living as I knew in my bones that I did not find myself fit for that job. I started to think, “I only live once, so I might as well challenge myself again to become a film director!”
I then came across a movie that would again change my life and inspired me greatly, Fight Club (Director: David Fincher). The scene that left a deep impression on me was when Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt), a soap salesman, holds a convenient store worker, Raymond Hessel, at gunpoint. Before shooting Raymond, Tyler questions him about what he wants to do in life. Raymond shakenly says he wants to become a veterinarian after which Tyler rebukes him by saying, “If you’re not on your way to becoming a veterinarian in six weeks you will be dead! Now run on home.” Just before that, Tyler also exclaimed, “Would you rather be dead?! Would you rather die? Here, on your knees in the back of a convenience store?” I felt as though I was the one at gunpoint with Tyler questioning me, “What the hell are you doing at a computer company when you know you really want to become a movie director?” I bawled my eyes out as I continued to watch the movie and realized how much I truly wanted to become a movie director. I also felt the need to ascertain whether it was a matter of wanting to follow my dreams, rather than determining whether it can be accomplished or not. The movie changed my life in that the day I saw it was the day I firmly decided to pursue the path to becoming a movie director.
- Why did you choose to study at Vancouver Film School in Canada to train to become a professional filmmaker?
When studying film abroad, most people would go to Hollywood (Los Angeles), famed for its film industry. However, I was already 29 years old at the time, and I was completely behind the curve as a film student that I felt the need to do something out of the ordinary from others. I decided that if many international students went to Los Angeles to study, I would study elsewhere: Vancouver, Canada was my next destination.
Vancouver is in fact ranked as the third largest filming locations in North America and is known for spending large amounts of money on film-related subsidies. When I thought about how I can succeed in the industry from the late age of 29 as an ordinary businessman, I needed to market myself differently from others, and hence I decided to study in Vancouver, at Vancouver Film School. Another deciding factor was that this school offered a one-year intensive film course.
- What is your fondest memory of your time at Vancouver Film School?
Since the course I enrolled in at Vancouver Film School was only one year, I studied intensively every day. My current specialty is documentary movie creation, but in actuality, I only studied documentaries for a few days back in school and was basically learning mostly about screenplays and dramatic films.
My biggest asset that I gained from studying there would have to be meeting the 30 classmates with the same aspirations and goals. I still go back to Vancouver once every two to three years and get in touch with great friends I made while studying there.
- What kind of English education did you receive as a child before you studied abroad?
Ever since I was a child, I had a limited concept of studying English. The only English education I received was through the standard secondary education and thus was not able to speak the language. But this changed from the moment I decided to study abroad to become a film director during my university entrance studies. From there on, I created opportunities to learn English by teaching myself, participating in a short-term English language studies program in the United States, and traveling alone on backpack tours to around 30 countries. I was able to finally master speaking English conversationally, but it wasn’t until I enrolled at Vancouver Film School that I assiduously began to study English.
For me, I believe that English is a communication tool where the goal is not to merely be able to speak the language, but that it is more vital to know what and how you want to say things. I especially felt this when I traveled alone backpacking, trying to make and find friends who could trust me. At 19 years of age, participating in a short-term study abroad program for the first time in Los Angeles was a pivotal chapter in my life. Because the European students who attended this language school spoke fluent English from the first day, the Asian exchange students felt completely isolated. Through all of this, I was fully absorbed with thoughts of how I could become closer with the European students. So, the idea that suddenly came to mind one day was: “make yourself appealing with laughter.” For the time being, my thinking was, if I could make my classmates laugh, then I could get along with them, so I deliberately started to arrive to class late. By being late to class, my teacher started to question my tardiness and that is where I made a routine to display some funny lines. By appealing centrally around my personality to others, the interesting character I had created attracted a lot of attention around me, and my classmates started to pick up conversations with me. Through these conversations, I naturally developed an ear for English. Although there are a lot of Japanese people that have a shy personality and are scared of failure, I realized through these experiences that being shy does not benefit anyone when going out into the world.
- After studying abroad, how did you feel the education was different from that of Japan?
There are two major differences in the approach to education. The first is that there is no true power structure in the classroom. Unlike Japan, no clear division of roles exist between the teacher and the student; instead, the teaching style is that of a flat and equal relationship. Secondly, communication is the cornerstone of the lessons. While valuing the relationship of both parties, we did group work, and in this setting, I realized the importance of peer and student-teacher communication. With this foreign education style in mind, I feel that the Japanese educational system cannot progress without students learning how to communicate, communicating what they want to do, and eliciting the perspective and opinions of another.
Recently, I produced a new documentary film called, “A Children’s Meeting.” This movie documents children conducting a “meeting” over the course of one year at a nursery school. Children aged 4-6 form a circle and discuss various themes, actively drawing their ideas from a wide range of viewpoints and appealing to them. In this way, these experiences lead me to believe that Japan would be an entirely different world if children grew up in an environment where they could master communications skills from a young age.
- You place great importance on encounters and relationships with people, and on properly expressing love and gratitude, which I feel are reflected in your filmmaking. Where does this drive come from?
My driving force comes from my younger brother. My brother has difficulties with learning, and has struggled as a child by not being able to achieve good grades despite his effort, and I always felt I had an advantage compared to him. I took things for granted in that with effort, some things could be achieved for myself, but I felt that this was a sin against my brother if I didn’t work harder and do my best. With that in mind, I just had to pull out all the stops.
Furthermore, my brother liked meeting people more than I did and excelled at making lots of friends. He even received more New Year’s greeting cards than I did, and from that, I thought this trumped the idea of just the good or bad of knowledge and studying. It may be difficult for my brother to lead and carve out his own life by himself, but at a young age, I always believed it is wonderful to steer through life with the support of close friends and other special relationships. My brother’s existence has been a big part of my life.
- Out of the many movies you have seen, what is your favorite?
The movie director I adore and respect in this whole world is the late Akira Kurosawa. During my university preparation years, I watched a film directed by Kurosawa, and I remember being shocked by the worldly view and texture of the images that were drastically different from the historical dramas on TV. It was almost as if I was time-slipping into that era. For example, the way characters wore and stained their kimonos were very real. It seems that Kurosawa dirtied the insides of drawers to add another touch of reality, and even small details like those were engraved in the film. Thus, I was astonished when Kurosawa’s works were brought up as a historical figure or a great man during my studies abroad. In a way, Kurosawa was a global leader, because he gained respect from all over the world. I would urge young people who are about to go out into the world to watch the great works of Kurosawa!
- What was the most challenging moment you experienced as a film director? How did you overcome it?
Vancouver Film School’s lessons were centrally based around group works. In a certain class, we produced one piece with a team of around 6 members. After dividing up our respective roles, we made a short-film. There was a situation where before we actually started to produce the film, we presented the content of a film that we each wanted to create. Naturally, we all had to present our part individually – but I lacked the skills to present in English, and I remember to this day how broken and fragmented my speech was. I remember being very frustrated and having bitter thoughts of not being able to assert what I wanted to express as I was never really prepared for it due to the lack of opportunities in Japan in my days as a student. On the other hand, my teammates recognized my aptitude for shooting, so I was very happy when they chose me for the role as cameraman.
Then for my graduation project, I finally had the opportunity to produce my own script and director piece. I made a 7-8 minute short film set in Chile. The day of the screening was the graduation ceremony, so the school rented out the local movie theater and invited parents of the attending students and graduates to showcase what the students had learned over the past year. There, I was most shocked by the fact that only 5 pieces were going to be screened due to the large number of graduation project entries. In the end, to uphold fairness of the 5 pieces to be screened, the selection was based on voting, and the result for me ended in the regrettable form of 6th place. After working so hard for one year and finally getting a chance, I was extremely disappointed that the film I put so much effort into placed 6th and was not screened. But all I thought then was to put in more effort in hopes that I would be able to produce better results and works in the future, which kept me going to continue working hard. I originally planned on studying in Vancouver for just one year, but I ended up staying there for three and a half years as I felt I needed to put more work into my film and English studies.
Additionally, to overcome difficulties, I believe you need to continue believing in yourself and working devotedly. It is important that you choose to make an effort and work harder than the average Joe. I also think that while you undeniably need talent and luck, only you can control how much effort to put in. Being able to work hard is essentially a talent in itself.
- Going forward, what do you hope the younger generation will be conscious of when putting themselves out there?
Because I have many opportunities to create documentary films about topics related to life, I have studied in the past, the mechanism of why a life is born. In the earliest stages of human birth, an incredibly low probability that a fertilized egg is produced is about one in 50 to 100 million. This is because there are many things along the way that obstruct fertilization, such as white blood cells, until the sperm reaches the egg. Only about 100 can reach it (there are various theories). Moreover, a sperm can only live up to a week while the egg can only be ovulated once a month with a lifespan of just three days. With this in mind, I realized everyone is actually a leader by nature. By being conscious of how we were all brought into this world, we can lead a life in a slightly different way even by merely living our mundane, daily lives,
- Please give a message to the younger generation who aspire to become future global leaders.
At the end of the day, English is just a communication tool, and I think what is being communicated is far more important. On top of that, if technology advances as we go, I think it would be possible to create a world where people can communicate using devices (smartphones) without speaking English. By then, in a few more years or so, English could become the next abacus – a remnant of the past. Even in such an era, the content and manner of speech would undoubtedly still remain important. You should think about what topics and content you want to convey with others and have communication and networking skills to develop your own unique styles. Communication skills are lifelong. So long as you live in a society, I believe communication skills will work in any community. If you train to value interactivity and synergy from every day, casual conversations, the rest will bear fruit later!