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An exclusive Interview with visionary Japanese Director-Film Maker Shin Saito

"The greatest appeal of film is that it reflects the "now" of a society and an era"


Shin Saito is a visionary Filmmaker who recently won an award by his latest film "Eternal" at Manhattanhenge Film Festival Foreign Feature Film Category



Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that film making was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?


東京に活動拠点を移した時

When I moved to Tokyo.



It is harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?


友達の俳優などと、映画を作る約束をすること。

Making a commitment to make a film with a friend.




What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film ?


小津、黒澤、溝口、市川準、侯孝賢、ヒッチコック、ベルイマン、アンゲロプロス、イーストウッド、トニー・スコット、ジョン・ウーを見るべきだ

You should see Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Jun Ichikawa, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Hitchcock, Bergman, Angelopoulos, Eastwood, Tony Scott and John Woo films.



What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?


映画は社会や時代の今を映し、そして社会や時代の未来をよりよいものに変えていくことが最大の魅力だ。映画をより良くする資質は、社会や政治や歴史をきちんと見ることで磨かれていく

The greatest appeal of film is that it reflects the "now" of a society and an era, and that it changes the future of a society and an era for the better. I believe that the qualities that make films better can be honed by looking properly at society, politics and history.





What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?


「ブレードランナー」(リドリー・スコット)は、純粋に「生きるか死ぬか」を命題にしていたことに、映画のあるべき姿を観た気がした

「病院で死ぬということ」(市川準)もまた、死を見つめることが命への最大の賛辞であることを示した。

「日の名残り」(ジェームズ・アイヴォリー)は、たとえ全てを失うことになろうとも自分の生き方に誇りを持つことを教えられた

「男たちの挽歌」(ジョン・ウー)も信念を貫くことがいかに難しいか、そしていかに美しいかを教えてくれた

"Blade Runner"(Ridley Scott) was purely a "live or die" proposition, and I felt like I saw what the movie should be about.

"Dying in the Hospital"(Jun Ichikawa) also showed that staring at death is the greatest tribute to life.

"The Remains of the Day"(James Ivory) taught me to be proud of my life, even if it means losing everything.

"A Better Tomorrow"(John Woo) also taught me how hard it is to keep the faith and how beautiful it is.




It is said that there are only six stories. Maybe twelve. It's all been done before. And we have seen it all. What do you do to keep it fresh? Is there anything that you can do to subvert the process to keep it original?



これまでに観た映画、読んだ本、聞いた音楽、はすべて私の血であり肉である。それらは意識するしないに関わらず、作品には現れる。知識がオリジナリティを疎外することを恐れてはいない。影響されたものへの敬意を忘れなければ、独自性は自然に発生するはずだ。

The movies I've seen, the books I've read, the music I've heard, are all my blood and flesh. They appear in my work, whether I'm aware of it or not. I'm not afraid of letting knowledge marginalize my originality. Originality should arise naturally, as long as we remember to respect our influences.



Films evolve through the creative process - sometimes most dramatically in the editing process. It's often really hard to reconcile the difference between what we desired and what we achieved. How have you encountered this and how do you move through it?


演技については入念にキャラクターを作りこみ、感情が自然に表現されるようになるまで、何度でもテストしたし、何度でもリテイクした。日本の映画の先駆者たちのやり方ではないかと思う。

As for the acting, we carefully built the characters and tested and retaken them as many times as we could until the emotions were expressed naturally. I think that's what the pioneers of Japanese cinema did.



What inspired you to create Your film, Eternal?    How did you get inspired to make Eternal?


映画を作るために私は妻と一緒に東京に出てきた。もし、ある日急に私がいなくなったら、妻はどういう人生を送るだろう。寂しい思いに押しつぶされはしないだろうか?と考えていた。

直接的なきっかけはの一つは「惑星ソラリス」(アンドレイ・タルコフスキー)を、映画館のオールナイトショーで観たときだ。亡くなったパートナーが本物と寸分変わらぬ姿で現れるのを観て、そのような映画を作りたいと思ったこと。

もう一つのきっかけは妻から聞いたつぶ貝の毒性の話を聴いたこと。

さらに別のきっかけは、フルトヴェングラーが指揮するベートーベンやブラームスの演奏を聴いたことである

I came to Tokyo with my wife to make a film. If I suddenly disappeared one day, what would she do with her life? Will she be overwhelmed with loneliness? I wondered how she would feel when I was gone.

One of the direct triggers was when I saw "Solaris" (Andrei Tarkovsky) in an all-night movie theater. I was inspired to make such a film when I saw my deceased partner appear, looking exactly the same as he did in the real thing.

Another inspiration was a story my wife had told me about the toxicity of Whelk shells.

Yet another impetus was hearing Beethoven and Brahms conducted by Furtwängler.




What kind of  challenges you faces before production and after production of "Eternal"? Was any there any difficult moment to continue production? What was biggest challenge for you?


一番苦労したのは、製作費の捻出である。日本は賃金が低く、物価が高い。日本での映画制作においては、製作費はプロアマ問わず常に一番の課題である。クラウドファンディングによって制作費の一部を賄うことはできたが、精神的なゆとりはなかった。

また、ほとんどすべてのクルー、キャストが映画以外の仕事を持っているため、撮影日程の調整にも苦労した。

The most difficult part was raising the production costs. In Japan, where wages are low and the cost of living is high, production costs are always the most important issue for film production, regardless of whether you are a pro or amateur. We were able to cover part of the production costs through crowdfunding, but we were always on the edge of our financial situation, so we didn't have the mental space to do so.

We also had a hard time coordinating the shooting schedule because almost every crew member and cast member had a job outside of the film.



Can you tell about your Eternal Production? Budget, scripting, casting and location?


予算:100万円(約1万ドル)

脚本:執筆期間は約10ヶ月。13回の書き直しをした。

キャスティング:古本恭一(as 来栖)は、インディーズ映画監督のコミュニティで出会った友達で、彼自身も多くの映画を監督・制作しており、また俳優でもある。きむらまさみ(as 晴海)は松本という日本の小さな都市で舞台女優をしており、3回目のコラボレーションとなる。神戸カナ(as 麗美)も松本の舞台女優で、2回目のコラボレーションとなる。山城まこと(as るる子)は東京で活動する撮影当時19才の新人女優で、元気がよくチャーミングで努力を惜しまぬ役者だ。

ロケ地:日本で撮影。松本市での撮影が全体の4割程度。東京での撮影が4割。そのほか横浜に近い三浦半島などで撮影を行った。

Budget: 1 million yen (about $10,000)Screenplay: Written in 10 months and rewritten 13 times. Casting: Kyoichi Komoto (as Kurusu) is a friend I met in the indie filmmaking community, who has directed and produced many films himself, as well as being an actor. Kimura Masami (as Harumi) is a stage actress in the small Japanese city of Matsumoto, and this will be their third collaboration.  Kana Godo (as Remi) is also a stage actress in Matsumoto and this will be their second collaboration.  Makoto Yamashiro (as Ruruko) is a 19-year-old rookie actress in Tokyo at the time of filming, and is an energetic, charming and hard-working actor. Location: Shot on location in Japan. About 40% of the film was shot in Matsumoto City. And 40% in Tokyo. The film was also shot in the Miura Peninsula near Yokohama.


Film, perhaps more so than any other popular art form, is the compromise between art and commerce. How has your art been shaped by both the money you have had or not had? Do you create with budget limitations in mind? 予算の制限は常に頭にあり、予算の問題で妥協したこともある。 その一つは照明であり、照明技師を雇える予算がなかったため、照明についてはスタッフが苦労と工夫を重ねた。 Budgetary limitations were always on our minds and there were some compromises we had to make on budgetary issues. One of these was lighting, and since there was no budget to hire a lighting technician, the staff had to work hard and be creative with the lighting. If there is one more thing you think would make the film industry better, what would it be? 必要なのは、映画制作支援の公的な補助金制度がもっと使いやすくなり、充実することだ。 ただし最近の日本では、政府の意に沿わない作品には補助が打ち切られたり、減額されたりすることも多く、上映機会そのものを奪う動きもある。国の財政が厳しくて補助ができないのなら仕方がないが、せめて制作や発表の妨害はしないでほしい。 What is needed is a better and more user-friendly public subsidy system to support film production. However, in Japan these days, subsidies are often cut off or reduced for films that do not meet the government's wishes, and there are moves to deprive filmmakers of the opportunity to show their films themselves. If the government's finances are too tight to subsidize films, there's nothing we can do about it, but at least we hope that they won't interfere with the production and presentation of these films.




Who is Shin Saito?

Born in 1972. He entered Yamagata University in 1992. While conducting research on detection devices for X-rays radiating from black holes, he directed 20 short films as a member of the film society in his six years there, including graduate school. Completing his graduate studies at Yamagata University in 1998, he began making independent films in 2001 while based in Shiojiri, Nagano. He has continued making films while based in Saitama since 2014.


His distinctive style blends character conflict, social messages, and humor. Rejecting the notion of making independent films as a step toward commercial filmmaking, he seeks a message and production process unique to independent film, regarding it as a different medium of expression to commercial film. With a directing style that involves making character outlines and refining the emotion through repeated rehearsals with actors, in principle he wants even very competent actors to build up their performances from scratch. This lengthens the production period, but he keeps on refining until satisfied, considering not being bound by deadlines a strength of independent filmmaking.

Filmography 2005~ “How many bytes is your trouble”(2005), “Cats hunter”(2006), “Soulmate”(2008), “Seba-su-chan”(2010), “Crime, Punishment and Freedom”(2012), “tick-tack-less”(2013), “The Only and Everything”(2016), “imperfect world”(2019) Co-director with Kyoichi Komoto (Directed the second episode of the three-part series).




Please share this article to support Director Shin Saito and many filmmakers like him.


We wish best of luck Director Shin Saito on his journey.

Manhattanhenge Film Team, 2020


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