Agency for Cultural Affairs’ ASEAN cultural exchange and cooperation project (Film Arts); Digital Cinema Production Workshop in Malaysia 2016 Report

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Imagica SEA [South East Asia] coordinated and supported the “Digital Cinema Production Workshop in Malaysia” that took place at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios (where Imagica SEA resides) from October 31st through November 5th, 2016 as part of Agency for Cultural Affairs’ ASEAN cultural exchange and cooperation project in Film Arts.

The project was planned and operated by UNIJAPAN, a non-profit organization, and Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts with the Agency of Cultural Affairs’ purpose for cultural exchange between ASEAN nations and energize the film art scene. Same as last year, the workshop took place in Malaysia (http://www.imagica.com/topics/aseanworkshop̲isea̲my/) and with the cooperation with Tokyo University of the Arts, creators with the top of the line art skills and experience in Japanese cinema prepared a practical curriculum for a highly technical, educational workshop.

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This year’s lecturers consisted front line creators in Japanese cinema, mainly instructors from Tokyo University of the Arts, spanning in the field of Directing, Cinematography, Production Design, and Editing; as well as instructors from Sound department called on by Imagica SEA [details of lecturers at bottom of article]. There were 24 attendees to the workshop; 13 students from the faculty of Cinematic Arts at MMU (Multimedia University in Malaysia), six from Lasalle College of the Arts, and five from Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts. Students joined together to create short films in a practical and comprehensive filmmaking workshop. The environment was also ideal as they utilized Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios’ facilities located next to Imagica SEA.

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We interviewed the instructors of the workshop


Nobuhiro Suwa, Director, Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts

Prof. Nobuhiro Suwa

Prof. Nobuhiro Suwa

Became involved in independent movies while attending Tokyo Zokei University. After graduating and gaining experience in producing TV documentaries, he released 2/Duo in 1996 and won the NETPAC Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. He was awarded the FIPRESCI Prize in the Parallel Sections at Cannes Film Festival for M/Other. His other major works are H/Story, Paris, je t’aime (omnibus), Un Couple Parfait which won the Special Prize of the Jury in Locarno International Film Festival, and Yuki & Nina. He is known for his particular method that uses uncompleted scripts. He served as the president of Tokyo Zokei University from 2008 until 2013.


-This was your first workshop in Malaysia. What was your impression of the students?

Suwa: I’ve taught a little before in Europe and this was my first workshop in Asia; as well as my first visit to Malaysia, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the well‒equipped facility here. This was also my first time teaching Asian students [outside of Japan] and they were not so different from students in Europe or in Japan. [One difference is,] students in Japan tend to stay in an environment comfortable to them, not very enthusiastic about learning abroad and become more reserved. Compared to that, students here clearly express their thoughts and feelings about their intentions, which probably comes from growing up in a multiethnic and multilingual region. I think this was very beneficial to the Japanese students to have a chance to learn in a different environment as their used to.

-It is likely that Japanese film industry will continue to grow its connection with Southeast Asia; what are your thoughts on this?

Suwa: I think it’s very important to acknowledge that. Information originating from Japan or Southeast Asia is trivial, but it will be beneficial for everybody and to the film industry that we continue this type of friendship. I’m currently basing my filmmaking in France and it’s an environment no matter where I go (on location or in a lab), I’m the “only foreigner” there. I try not to feel awkward about that situation, but it is very comforting for Japanese creators to have IMAGICA rooting in Malaysia, or Southeast Asia for that matter, where we feel well supported to have someone we know working abroad.


Katsumi Yanagijima, Cinematographer, Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts

Prof. Katsumi Yanagijima

Prof. Katsumi Yanagijima

After graduating from photography school, he entered Mifune Productions Co. as a contract employee. He became a freelance assistant in 1982 and filmed his first movie as a cinematographer in 1987. He shot 14 of Takeshi Kitano’ s movies such as Boiling Point, A Scene at the Sea, Sonatine, Kids Return, Zatoichi, and Outrage. Other notable work includes Sora ga konnani aoi wakega nai directed by Akira Emoto, Battle Royale directed by Kinji Fukasaku, Go directed by Isao Yukisada, Blood Gets in Your Eyes directed by Yojiro Takita, Sea Without Exit directed by Kyoshi Sasabe, Dear Doctor, and Dreams for Sale both directed by Miwa Nishikawa.


Hideho Urata, Cinematographer, Senior Lecturer at Puttnam School of Film & Animation, Lasalle College of the Arts

Sr. Lecturer Hideho Urata

Sr. Lecturer Hideho Urata

He has worked as a camera assistant for cinematographers such as Ernest Dickerson and Stephen H. Burum while attending Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. He is now a cinematographer with a wide experience and active in and out of the country. He has been teaching at Lasalle College of the Arts since 2011. Some of his films are, KAMATAKI (won five awards at Montreal World Film Festival 2005 and Special Mention at Berlin International Film Festival 2006), The Clone Returns Home (invited to Sundance Film Festival and won Best Cinematography at Montreal Fantasia Film Festival 2009), Disappearing Landscape (invited to International Film Festival Rotterdam 2013), and 7 Letters (invited to Busan International Film Festival 2016). 7 Letters was Singapore’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.


-What were your impressions from this workshop?yanagishima-urata_640-350

Yanagijima: For this workshop, we limited the students to shoot in monochrome, access to only one lens [35mm], and no access to a monitor. The focus was to achieve a similar style to shooting on film.

-Students from three different countries (Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore) joined this workshop, what were your impressions of them?

Yanagijima: I felt that the students from Malaysia has more room to, and needs to improve on their skills. Language may play a part in it, but Japanese students were somewhat close minded. On the other hand, students from Malaysia and Singapore were more open minded and were open to wide range of ideas.

-Mr. Urata, you currently teach in Singapore. What was your impression of this collaboration of students from three nations?

Urata: Any student will have something that’s unsatisfying at their own schools, but I don’t think we’ve had many workshops where students from different countries coming together to achieve a single, common goal. I think it will be a great step forward if we can have more workshops like this often while bettering the curriculum. Filmmaking has gained momentum in Thailand and Indonesia, but the film industry hasn’t grown as well in Malaysia and Singapore. But there were high-quality Malaysian films made in the 60’s and 70’s, and once we can lay out better production environment with great support, where we can go beyond our borders, I believe we will have high-quality films once again.

– We plan to continue our support to workshop such as this as a Japanese company. What are your thoughts?

Urata: It’s very encouraging to me as someone who teaches in Singapore. I think there’s a great potential there not only for business but for education and raising young filmmakers as well, where both countries can deepen the relationship as we work together. Malaysia has many interesting filming locations and of course this studio, so from a Singaporean production point of view, I wish we could utilize this opportunity more.

Yanagijima: I think it works to the student’s’ advantage to be able to work with other students from Asia, who has a closer thought process. It’s also very helpful to have a Japanese company working locally to set up the environment, where many of the Japanese staff are not familiar with the local customs. I hope more people will use the studio in Malaysia. Accommodation may become an issue, but I firmly believe great scenes can be shot here for any film.


Ryuji Miyajima, Editor, Part-time Lecturer at Tokyo University of the Arts

Mr. Ryuji Miyajima

Mr. Ryuji Miyajima

Born in 1967. From Kanagawa prefecture. Received the Best Editing Awards of the Japanese Academy for Swing Girls, Always – Sunset on Third Street, and The Eternal Zero. Notable works include Water Boys, Always – Sunset on Third Street trilogy, Sway, Kaasan: Mom’s Life, Doraemon: Stand by Me, Pieta in the Toilet, Too Young to Die!, Long Excuses, and Survival Family.


-This was your first workshop in Malaysia. What was your impression of the students?

Miyajima: Before arriving, I was uncertain about being able to relay the subtle editing nuances to the students, not only coming from a different country but with different language. But I realized film editing is a common language as the questions I received were similar to those I receive from Japanese students.

-It is likely that Japanese film industry will continue to grow its connection with Southeast Asia; what are your thoughts on this?

Miyajima: I think the possibility is there in many ways, especially when Malaysia is so much easier to travel from Japan (much closer than traveling to Europe or U.S.). It’s very encouraging to have someone like IMAGICA that we know well to put together a facility abroad and to understand the difference between the Japanese ways of doing things. I want our younger staff to train or even just take a tour here.


Toshihiro Isomi, Art Director, Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts

Prof. Toshihiro Isomi

Prof. Toshihiro Isomi

After graduating from university, he worked in various professions and began to work on stage art and direction. Later, he became involved in numerous movies as a set designer. His works include Hirokazu Koreeda’s After Life, Nobody Knows, Hana yorimo naho, and Even If You Walk and Walk. Sogo Ishii’s Labyrinth of Dreams and Gojoe: Spirit War Chronicle, Yoichi Sai’s Doing Time and Blood and Bones, Kazuo Kuroki’s A Boy’s Summer in 1945, Kinji and Kenta Fukasaku’s Battle Royale II, Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest, Satoshi Miki’s ADRIFT IN TOKYO, and Ryosuke Hashiguchi’s GURURI no koto.


-How do you compare this year’s workshop to last year?

Isomi: I didn’t stay long for my last visit. I remember well that the food was very good and the same can be said for this time as well (laughing). It was very interesting to have students participate from three different countries (Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore). Students from MMU who were art department really gave everything, even bringing props from their homes. Seeing each team talking with their directors and working together as a group gave me a similar feeling I get from any other film production.

-It is likely that Japanese film industry will continue to grow its connection with Southeast Asia; what are your thoughts on this?

Isomi: I think it gave the Japanese students a new motivation to see the Malaysian and Singaporean students being very engaging; typically Japanese students tend to shy away from actively communicating until they feel comfortable. It feels there is a chance for something interesting to emerge when there is an attempt to overcome the language barrier. It was another case where international co-production can bring creative results.


Kenichi Fujimoto, Sound Recordist, Workshop Instructor

Mr. Kenichi Fujimoto

Mr. Kenichi Fujimoto

Born in 1967. From Saitama-Prefecture. Midnight Sun was his first film as a sound recordist after graduating Japan Institute of the Moving Image. Notable work includes Accuracy of Death, A Pierrot, Shinjuku Incident, Key of Life, Ken & Mary: The Asian Truck Express, Cape Nostalgia, Solomon’s Perjury, Too Young to Die!. Received the Best Sound Recording Awards of the Japan Academy for Rebirth and The Eternal Zero.


Hiroyuki Ishizaka, Sound Designer, Workshop Instructor (Imagica SEA)

Hiroyuki Ishizaka

Hiroyuki Ishizaka

After graduating from Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, BA(Hons) Sound Technology, he has worked in music production and recording in England, France, Germany, and Tokyo; becoming a freelancer in 2010 after working at a film sound studio. Recent work includes Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends, Chihayafuru Part I and Part II, The Liar and His Lover, and a Malaysian feature animation, Boboiboy the Movie. Member of Imagica South East Asia’s management.


-This was your first workshop in Malaysia. What was your impression of the students?

Fujimoto: I’m not sure if it’s the tropic atmosphere that helps, but everyone was very friendly. I wanted the students to learn how to communicate with one another in order to achieve something together for this particular workshop. I wanted to make sure technicality could be gained later for this workshop. I think every student showed their national characters well.

-What stood out to you during this workshop with students being mixed from three countries; from someone involved in Southeast Asia’s filmmaking scene.

fujimoto-ishizaka_640-350Fujimoto: I think every country has its own way of communication and way of doing things; for example, Japanese sound recordist will learn practically how to communicate and specify detailed mic movements on set. It’s very difficult to understand each other even with an interpreter because of technical terms involved in filmmaking. So in the end, no matter where I go, we don’t have interpreters. That being said, it would be a great for Japanese staff like us to have someone locally who can speak Japanese to communicate better.
There were students in this workshop who could speak Japanese and it would be wonderful for us to have more staff like them.

Ishizaka: Of course, understanding English is important, but I do feel I can share more of the practical knowledge and the know‒hows if I could communicate in Japanese within Southeast Asia. I hope we have more workshops similar to this between Japan and Southeast Asia so that we have more opportunities to share our knowledge.

Fujimoto: I think it’s a great opportunity to have a company like IMAGICA branching out in Malaysia. We can extend our communication capabilities and it’s an opportunity for Japanese staff to re-establish the importance of utilizing English.


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