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10/19 (Sat) Japanese Cinema Splash: “Walking with a Friend” Q&A Session: Notes & Quotes

Walking with a Friend

©2013 TIFF

Q&A session was held for the Japanese Cinema Splash section, “Walking with a Friend” as follows:
Time & Location
October 19th (Saturday), from 12:59 @TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills Screen 6
Akira Ogata (Director/Producer)

A week prior to the first day of filming, the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan. We asked Director Ogata about his film, “Walking with a Friend” which took three years to wrap up.

Akira Ogata: This film is like a bowl of simple noodles without any garnish—only noodles and plain soup. The soup is the screenplay, and the actors are the noodles. What I wanted to do was to bring out the simple, yet full and rich flavor of the story and the acting.
It all started three years ago at a bar with Kenji Aoki, the screenplay, Ogata recalls. “We decided to shoot an independent film. So I used my savings, which I’d wanted to spend on a new guitar, for the production costs and asked friends to help out.” This explains the long list of names that appear at the beginning of the movie. In fact, Ogata was serious about looking for people to fund his film. “When Aoki-san asked me if he was going to get paid for the job, I told him that he wasn’t and that I’d appreciate his contribution as well. The logic was that if he was going to write what he wanted to, he’d have to pay to do so!” chuckled Ogata. Ogata even asked his actor friends, Koichi Ueda (Tomio) and Yohichiro Saito (Togashi) to just spare a couple of days for the shooting because he couldn’t afford to pay them for longer. Laughter arose as Ogata confessed that “well, in the end, I had them for three years!”
Walking with a Friend

©2013 TIFF

Ogata’s initial intention was to make a short movie, and had proceeded with the filming when the earthquake hit. He waited for a year to resume his filmmaking, when together with Kenji Aoki, agreed that they wanted to continue the story. “Aoki-san wrote up three more parts, while I recruited my wealthy friends at my high school reunion to help with the funding.”
As the movie title conveys, there are a lot of walking scenes in the film. “I’ve always liked roads, especially junctions of three roads. There’re such junctions in every movie I’ve made.” The poster for Walking with a Friend is shot at a three-road junction as well. Ogata described this choice of road as “an interesting idea for a film in terms of choosing which way to go when at crossroads.”
“Focusing on roads wasn’t an easy task. For instance, the scene where the actor tumbles down a bank was shot on three different streets; where the actor tumbles down, where the rolling stopped, and the street after getting up.” Ogata explained that most of the roads were scouted using a bicycle but that it took a while to find a good bank to tumble down. “There were fences in all places and banks that were paved with cement.”
The music is another unique feature of this film. Ogata composed the pieces used in the opening scenes and where the actor is climbing a cliff. “I played the guitar and friends played the piano and base lines. I took the recording to Music Director, Mr. coba who did the mixing. My intention was to bring out a sort of East European flare by blending the acoustic guitar, accordion, and the pianica.”
Ogata also shared his thoughts on what he expects of actors. “What I look for most in acting is whether the actor can express the character realistically. That is, to be able to feel the character’s past and future life. Most Japanese movies and TV dramas don’t invest much time in rehearsals so you practically see actors’ act for the first time at the shooting site. No matter how poorly funded this film was, I allocated a generous amount of time to rehearsals and discussions with my cast.” Ogata admits that the script is dark and serious, but that he wanted to give it a light touch. “Mr. Ueda and Mr. Takahashi have a lot of experience as actors, so I feel very privileged that this film captures the amazing exchanges between two great actors.”

Japanese Cinema Splash
Walking with a Friend
©Walking with a friend” Project”
Akira Ogata
Koichi Ueda, Choei Takahashi, Yohichiro Saito, Satoshi Matsuo, Kinuo Yamada, Shinngo Mizusawa

KEIRIN.JPThe 25th Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
25th Tokyo International Film Festival(2012)