TV TOKYO “Hagoku” Won the Grand Prix at Single Drama of the Tokyo Drama Awards 2017 “Behind the scenes of works that was created from a strategy between professional friends in their field of expertise”

The worst jailbreaks in history, who escaped prison four times, and the perfect jailer, who has watched him for seven years. Broadcast as a special project for the anniversary of TV Tokyo on April 12, 2017, “Hagoku”, for which IMAGICA provided technical cooperation and post-production, won the TV Movie Grand Prix at the Tokyo Drama Awards 2017.
This work had already won the MIPCOM Buyer’s Award at MIPCOM 2017, the world’s largest international television trade show, held in Cannes, France on October 17, as a work that could be sold to the world market.

We asked Judai Kato in shooting, Kenjiro Sou in lighting, and Yumeto Kitayama in grading (IMAGICA) who worked on this drama, which has been receiving critical acclaim both in Japan and abroad, about the joy of winning, as well as about the technical back story of this work.


Work created without any special awareness that it was a TV drama: the joy of acclaim

Kato
I was astonished when I heard that we had won. Although this was a major work, it was not particularly sensational, so the fact that it could receive such acclaim and win an award was extremely gratifying, and a very good thing, or so I think.

Sou
While it is a TV drama, everyone on staff works in film, and since we created it without any special awareness that this was for television, it felt the same as usual. I’m grateful that has received acclaim. Although we had some tough times during the filming of this work, including shooting on location in Abashiri in below freezing temperatures, I think our hard work paid off.

Kitayama
I was glad openly. Of course, I was delighted at winning, but more so that the work I did with these two turned out well and resulted in an award.

Elation at working on a project with the elite

Judai Kato

―The three of you have worked together as a team since the serial drama WOWOW “Drama-W Umi ni Furu “(’15 WOWOW), which was also highly acclaimed. What did you think when you heard the plan for “Hagoku”?

Kato
First of all, I thought it seemed interesting. The fact that the director would be Yoshihiro Fukagawa, who usually works in movies, was very appealing, and I felt that this could transcend the framework of a TV drama.

Sou
Toshihiko Tabuchi from TV Tokyo (producer) was very enthusiastic and said from the start that he wanted to create award-winning, quality work. When I heard Beat Takeshi would be playing in” Hagoku”, I knew that this would definitely be good.

Kitayama
I simply thought this would be a splendid work. Of course, grading needs to match the tone of the work, and so I participated thinking that I might be able to find some new challenges for myself in this.

Aiming for movie-like quality: the respective challenges of shooting, lighting, and grading

―As each of they have said, the quality of “Hagoku” is different from ordinary TV dramas, and is instead more movie-like. That quality came about naturally through the respective strengths of each member of staff.

Sou
I was not so much consciously trying to make it movie-like as much as it just came about naturally. My career has been in film, so I end up creating like a movie. I thought that we should ignore the fact that this is a TV drama and that we should just work on it in the way we usually do.

Kato
The director Fukagawa and the staff have all worked in movies, so perhaps we were seeking something different from a normal TV drama. Rather than aiming to create a movie-like work, I thought it would be good to make something different from a TV-like piece of work.

Sou
On the other hand, when it came to lighting, I made it so that the faces of the actors could be seen more clearly than in a film. Even so, it was said to be dark. If this had been a movie, I would have added more contrast to the shadow. For example, even if you can’t see half of the face, it comes across on the big screen. However, since this would be viewed on the TV screen, I tried not to make it too dark while still working some shadow in as I applied the lighting.

Kitayama
There were some parts that I wondered might be too dark, and for these. I increased the brightness through grading, but the lighting itself was truly amazing.

Sou
One of the themes of the story was about the changing of time and place, so I tried to express that with the lighting as well. Since the story starts during war time, I used the color of light bulbs for lighting, and put filters on the light bulb colors. I discussed this with Kato as well as I went along.

Kato
You started using fluorescent lighting midway through, right?

Sou
Depending on the era, I used light bulbs or fluorescent lighting, and I divided the colors depending on whether it was the Abashiri or Sapporo prison.

Kitayama
Even when watching the raw footage, something about it was very distinct, and gave off rather aggressive impression.

Location and set: As a large-scale work, the key to the sense of unity is a sense of the times

Kenjiro Sou

Kato
For sooting, I was aware of the connection between the location and the set. For the Abashiri Prison, the corridor scenes were shot on location, whereas the inside of the cells was shot on a set, so I was most concerned about the connection between them. The set was extremely large, and the artist Hirokazu Kanakatsu made such a fine set, so I think we were able to connect it well.

Sou
The set was amazing, wasn’t it? Since I had something so amazing to work with, I also couldn’t help but to lose to them too.

Kato
However, regarding shooting, I didn’t do anything particularly special. During the testing stage, I thought I might be able to get the camera through the window of the prison, and I tried over and over, but it really was narrow.

Sou
I guess the real one must be even narrower.

Kato
But while I was working, I decided not to take physically impossible, fake-looking cuts. While in some places, I just ignored space behind the camera and went for what I wanted, for example, I did not have a camera on the ground dive down underground or anything like that. I think that with the power of actors as well, there was no need for trick cinematography.

Kitayama
What I was aware of in the grading process was the sense of time as well. I wondered whether it was better to put it out there, or whether it would be better as a film to not make it clear. I gave the colors of the original footage a more mixed feeling, and you can see how many different patterns there were when we were making the trailer.

Kato
I think there must have been about six patterns, right?

Kitayama
That sounds about right. As a premise we assumed it would be a little dark and moody, we thought about how would we go about creating?

Kato
I think we have said at first when grading is ordered, “Don’t correct colors by taking them out, correct them by putting them in.”

Kitayama
Yes, that’s right. When I say I mixed the colors, it might be a little difficult to understand, but I break the color balance a little to produce texture.

Shooting and lighting to support a final great performance

Yumeto Kitayama

―The great performances of the actors amid a mood created through shooting, lighting, and art. The highlight of this work, a scene overflowing with quiet heat, is the final interaction between Urata (Beat Takeshi) and Sakuma (Takayuki Yamada) in the police van. The scene is surrounded by the wooden bars of the moving police van, with the only light being the light pouring in through the bars. Was it difficult shooting under such conditions?

Sou
It was shooted on set in a stopped car and made to look as though it were moving, and when shooting in this way, if the light does not move, the car appears not to be moving as well. Moreover, since it was a police van surrounded by bars with the light pouring in, setting up was quite difficult. Other sets were built in the same studio, so there was no space behind the camera, so we were not sure how to set the lighting.

Kato
That was probably the toughest thing in lighting, wasn’t it?

Sou
It was difficult. Parts of it would be shown in the drama. So we devised some things that I think worked well. First, we put the order to Kanakatsu (in the art department) to put a gap in the bars so light could pour through. The difficult thing was figuring out the spacing of the gaps and the placement of the angles. Some things you have to try out to understand, so we had to decide the spacing of the gaps as we were making it. We had them adjusted on the spot.

Kato
This was a scene where lighting played a big role. Shooting was not quite so tough, but inside the police van was shaking (*shaken to make it look as though it were moving), but it was hard to push the camera car along at a constant speed. That’s where the special equipment department came in.

Looking back on this highly acclaimed work

Sou
The actors’ performances were wonderful, and “Hagoku” itself is a very good story, so I suppose that is why it was so highly acclaimed. There was Beat Takeshi, who has such presence, and Takayuki Yamada, who worked stoically, and we had fun, too, since we were highly motivated in taking on this project.

Kato
Viewers also said it was great, which I suppose means they could enjoy it as entertainment for two hours without getting bored. My father-in-law, who often watches recorded programs, told me, “Right now, I’m watching a really interesting drama,” and it turned out to be “Hagoku“. It seemed he had just happened to be watching it, getting hooked from the first up of Takeshi’s face. He praised it, unaware that we had been involved in its making.

Kitayama
I think the important thing is that the professionals did their respective professional work.

Kato
I did not think at all that it was my own work that was being acclaimed. If the winner had been decided by shooting, lighting, and grading alone, I think it probably would have been somewhat different.

Sou
Yes, it was a result of the total work. In that sense, perhaps our work was recognized, but in the end, everyone did a really good job. I’m happy to have had been a part of it.

Winning the award as a team and beyond

Sou
I’ve known Kato for a long time since we worked as assistants. We became main members of staff at around the same time, so he’s the easiest member to work with.

Kato
I talk often and so we know each other’s likes, which makes conveying to each other what we want to do on the shoot smoother with Sou.
With Kitayama, we often talk about what was good about this movie, or what we want to try from that movie, on a daily basis. Grading is difficult to explain in words, but since we communicate a lot, it makes working easier.
In general, I always call on IMAGICA. IMAGICA does not only films but commercials as well, and since commercials have to compete within 15 or 30 seconds, they must be fairly eye-catching or special in some way. Since they work not only on movies but with a wider range of ideas and methods than movies as well, they are easy for me to work with. I’ve had IMAGICA coordinate all of the shooting equipment this year as well, and their wonderful facilities are very appealing, too.

Sou
It feels like you can talk with the senses rather than with logic with IMAGICA.

Kitayama
I would like to make something good with these two again.


Information

“Hagoku”(http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/hagoku/)
Original: Akira Yoshimura(Shinchosha Bunko)
Director: Yoshihiro Fukagawa(“Byakuyakou”,”Kamisama no Karte”,”Giso no Fufu”)
Cast: Beat Takeshi

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