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“By not dividing work during the process of making an animation, we can value our judgement on-site rather than by having a blueprint, thus it becomes easier to pursue the best by looking for the greatest points of making a high-quality work.”

What are the features, strengths and preferences of TECARAT?

YASHIRO Takeshi: To me, what differentiates TECARAT is the fact that we do not have specializations within work. Although there are greater or fewer members depending on each project, we work as a small team of less than 10 people, from puppet manufacturing and set production to shooting phases. Depending on their own strengths and weaknesses, they are assigned to a certain task. However, there are no clear divisions such as the cinematography division or directing division, and there are no borders that separate what you should or should not be doing. As a director, I create a rough story, and then work with members to fill in the details. I think our current work can be made possible because of this organization style.

Sketches of the puppet’s structural alignments. Left: Gon; Right: Hyoju. Both from “GON, THE LITTLE FOX”.

Driftwood was used to make the beams of the house. They had to arrange the structure of the house to incorporate the natural curves of the material.

For example, the set-making division can build a house that looks very good on camera, however the cinematography division cannot shoot a scene because the camera is blocked by a wall of the house. If there is a strict border between the set-making division and the cinematography division, the camera crew would have to ask the person who is in charge of sets whether they can cut out the wall of the house to allow entry. If the member who makes the sets and the one who shoots are the same person, you do not have to hold back or make discussions to cut it. And because they know how to create sets, they can take an aggressive attitude that enables them to cut the wall to the very ends, where they can put it back to an original state after the shooting of the scene.

Also, if an animator and a lighting technician are separately assigned members, the light is applied where an animator would prepare enough space to possibly place the next tool and come into operation. If the animator and the lighting technician are the same person, it is possible for them to think, “this time, I rather have the lights be more beautiful than making animating easier and I will put the lights as closely as possible to find the best lighting effect, no matter how small the working space could be.”

YASHIRO values on-site judgement rather than shooting strictly from the storyboard.

As usual, a story or a storyboard is regarded as the blueprint, and set production and shooting are means to an end. However, at TECARAT, we may change a part of the story if we come across any interesting points in the set that were already made to show much more. By not dividing work during the process of making an animation, we can value our judgement on-site rather than by having a blueprint, thus it becomes easier to pursue the best by looking for the greatest points of making a high-quality work.

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.

YASHIRO Takeshi: As a professional business, we have to sell our work substantially to make a profit. Although currently the films lasting less than 30 minutes are our main focus, we also want to make feature films that make it easy to access the mass film market. Even so, I would not like to change my stance and approach in creating films.

Regarding the efficiency and speed of production, our current working style of having a small team size without dividing labor is a bottleneck. For example, if we have to spend many years making a feature film, simply through consideration it would take us three times as much work as a short film; we would lose the freshness in our mind during the production. We find it possible to keep the motivation in making the same film for 3 or 4 years, but we cannot do that for 10 years; that is not acceptable. So I think the challenge is to create a system that would allow us to save much more working time while maintaining the quality and the good points of our work.

In terms of human resources, I don’t think the number of creators will increase significantly for the time being. Having said that, I think we would need someone like a production assistant who can manage the production workflow, as the scale of the projects has grown bigger recently and most of our staff are creators who use knives to carve wood to make puppets and sets, move the puppets and press the shutters of their cameras, and manage the schedules of an entire project, all by themselves.

OIKAWA Masaaki: One of the challenges of the studio is that the amount of content we’ve made already is small. Moreover, I think TECARAT and YASHIRO Takeshi are still not well-known both in Japan and overseas. Since TECARAT is a department of TAIYO KIKAKU, we will be working on both advertising videos and original content, but we would like to make a breakthrough somewhere and connect it to branding. TECARAT has provided not only works for entertainment such as GON, THE LITTLE FOX and Norman the Snowman, but also original content such as kanjigram that can be used in education. So, we would like to try focusing on the education field as well.

kanjigram, by HIROKI Ayako, is an original educational content for TAIYO KIKAKU.

[Interview Date: 8th May, 2020]