Where the directors find their personal, creative origins
Please tell us about the intentions and background behind the anthology film projects Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond directed by famous creators in Japan. Also, what in particular do you want the viewers to look for in each short film?
TANAKA Eiko: There were two reasons behind creating those two anthology films. First of all, we thought that nurturing creators’ originality by having them face questions such as “what I can express?”, “is it interesting for me?”, and “how can I entertain the audience?” is the most important thing in making the Japanese animation industry more interesting in face of world competition.
The second reason was at that time, the number of creators who had their own originality grew more and more, and I really wanted to see their original works. If the audience, through watching the film, becomes conscious of the personal, creative origins of the directors, they will surely discover something new.
As a producer, it was very fun and interesting to work with the directors of each short film, discussing what would be interesting for the directors as artists and what part of the films can be interesting in the eyes of the audience.
Your studio has released a number of works including Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond which brought out new talents and experimented with new things, and at the same time the studio has been successful in maintaining its popularity. What do you keep in mind when balancing experimentality and business?
TANAKA Eiko: People don’t invest easily into experimental works, so I’m always marketing to everyone my dream: “We will give the world a wonderful work with these amazing visuals!” Additionally, since a work of animation can stand the test of time, I have shared with investors our vision that the work would eventually be successful, even if it takes years, explaining that the work will earn money worldwide while people find more and more value in the film without being forgotten in 5 or 10 years. Ultimately, we work hard to create something that will never let people down.
Besides, I think that the more experimental and challenging the work is, the more value that can be gained by finding new approaches to the audiences. For example, by using the word ‘Genius’ in the film titles, we thought the directors who took on the projects became a ‘Genius’, and we could approach the audience saying that the amazing visuals in their films were the results of a ‘Genius’. In addition, the ‘Party’ in the film titles combines the meaning of a ‘Party’ where everyone enjoys watching together (like at a festival), and as in: “a party of creators that will storm these creative challenges.” Actually, I think I am pretty good at naming!
Please tell us who are the key creators supporting the creation of the works for your studio, and about seizing opportunities to meet them, the actions you took to meet them, and how to identify individualities and talents.
TANAKA Eiko: It’s not that I don’t consciously discern talents, because good creators will eventually be known in the industry. Like MORIMOTO Koji, SATO Yoshiharu, KATABUCHI Sunao, KAWASAKI Hirotsugu, KUBOOKA Toshiyuki, and NAKAMURA Takashi, they had already been outstanding in the industry. NISHIMI Shojiro already had the reputation as a genius in the industry as well. Also, it may be too much for us to say that he is a key person for STUDIO4°C, but OTOMO Katsuhiro’s presence is significant to us. Other than that, the directors of Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond are all key people for us. Actually, many creators have supported us.
I would like to introduce a few episodes of how we met the key creators of our works:
With YUASA Masaaki, our beginning was when Noiseman Sound Insect was created with an interesting team formation where Mr. Yuasa and MORIMOTO Koji were both in charge of directing and animation directing, and this led to Mr. Yuasa directing Mind Game as his debut feature film.
We got to know Michael ARIAS who was in charge of directing Tekkonkinkreet: he joined the project as a producer and interpreter when we worked with Joel SILVER, Lana WACHOWSKI, and Lilly WACHOWSKI on The Animatrix.
ANDO Hiroaki, who was the layout/animation director of Tekkonkinkreet, was a salesman at a sales company when the studio bought a computer called the Macintosh Quadra 950 decades ago to produce amazing visuals ahead of its time. It turns out that there was no one in the studio who could operate the Macintosh, so Mr. Ando said “I understand” and quit the company to join STUDIO4°C (laugh).
KIMURA Shinji, who has been an art director for many of our works, one day came to us to give a presentation, showing the works that he can create. We were surprised to find such a wonderful talent in a place like that.
Are you interested in collaborating with overseas creators and studios?
TANAKA Eiko: Yes. We have staff from various countries, and since we’ve been aiming to reach the world since the beginning, we are often asked from overseas and so we have many occasions to collaborate with foreign creators on international projects. In addition to films and series, we have been involved in works that have gained international attention such as ISHII Ken’s music video, EXTRA, and a shoe commercial in Hong Kong that won the Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. We have been enjoying creating animation with challenges, going beyond language barriers and differences in culture and customs with various countries such as Nordic countries, Belgium, Germany, France, United Kingdom, China, Singapore, Russia, Hong Kong, and the United States, just to name a few.
Are you interested in overseas markets?
TANAKA Eiko: When we started the Children of the Sea project, we anticipated that we wouldn’t get enough money just from Japan, so 3-4 years ago we decided to participate in many major film markets such as the Cannes Film Market and MIFA. For two years overseas we’ve studied: where the market demands are, what kind of demands there are, and what kind of investors there were; we were marketing the work steadily even before the production was completed. As a result, Children of the Sea was funded by foreign investors: as soon as the film was completed we were able to make solid contracts in about 20 countries. I will continue to be very interested and have high expectations in the overseas market.
“We believe that we can make much more beautiful flowers to bloom than before and I would like for them to bloom all over the world”
Please tell us about the vision and future outlook of the studio, both in Japan and overseas, and the personnel and challenges you are seeking.
TANAKA Eiko: I had no doubt that we could make fine works just by physically gathering staff into the studio, up until now. Due to the spread of COVID-19, two thirds of the staff have started working remotely, and I found that we are actually able to create works more properly than I had expected. Therefore, I feel that the time has come where we can collaborate with creators around the world, regardless of region, time, and distance.
Our challenges towards that future are the differences in language, life customs and culture. However, we believe that we can make much more beautiful flowers to bloom than before and I would like for them to bloom all over the world by working with talent such as directors, animation directors, CGI directors, editors, color designers, and art directors from all over the world, sharing our experiences of working with overseas creators and overcoming the challenges in creating works of animation smoothly.
[Interview Date: 12th May, 2020 ]