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10 Lessons on Filmmaking from Takashi Miike

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Photo by Subtile Jagden, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND

Photo by Subtile Jagden, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND

Filmmaking Magazine‘s interview with director Takashi Miike (“few directors out of Japan are as controversial as Takashi Miike, a man who has been surprising audiences for years with anything from stomach-wrenching horror films to slick yakuza films to happy-go-lucky children’s films,” says FI) contains an interesting list of filmmaking advice, ranging from the common sense – “A movie is driven by its characters, not by its special effects” – to the personal – “Bruce Lee is king” – by way of the philosophical:

6. Each generation learns from what was missing in the one before.

Realistically speaking, I cannot fund a feature film. Even if I want to express something through cinema, I do need the help of investors to make that happen. And if I were a person who could finance my own films by myself, then I could probably have more say, or be able to say more, but I can’t. So I can’t make a condescending speech about that, because it’s not my money.

But there’s another issue when it comes to money: it’s how you use your money. We try to use money, but we tend to be used by money. And that’s of course true with Japan. There’s something interesting happening. Children today, who are 14, 15, are very different in terms of their value system than us. Japanese kids now, what they choose for their clothing, they’re not interested in name brands anymore. They find something very cute that can be made from very cheap fabric. And so there’s a gradual change. But they’re probably learning from what’s lacking in us, and I think that’s how the next generation learns and changes gradually.

He’s covering a lot of ground from the social to film funding to the more broadly commercial, and I’m left with the sense that by the time we’re making feature films, it’s inevitable that the people we’re making them for are no longer very much like us, culturally, and the films we make are a part of that process.  It affects not just funding, but how films communicate.  Every film, regardless of who its made for, is an act of trying to bridge a culture gap, a culture gap that it has helped cause.

That’s a bit meta for me, on less than three cups of coffee.

The full list, in brief:

  1. A movie is driven by its characters, not by its special effects.
  2. Pinpoint the images that will drive your story.
  3. Even bad guys should be relatable.
  4. Let your excitement shine through the screen.
  5. Don’t cry over missing funds and resources. Get creative.
  6. Each generation learns from what was missing in the one before.
  7. Find balance within your films.
  8. Respect the next coming of filmmakers.
  9. Bruce Lee is King.
  10. Find your story from within, no matter whose story you’re telling.

For the full discussion, click through to Filmmaker Magazine’s Ten Lessons on Filmmaking from Director Takashi Miike


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