Present at the festival with her new film The Pinkie, was Japanese director Lisa Takeba. She is a filmmaker and writer. She wrote the screenplay for a Nintendo DS video game and writes novels that are suitable for mobile phones. Her films have been screened at major festivals throughout the world. I sit down with Lisa to talk about her directing career and the new film. Read below for the new Q&A…
First of all, for those who haven’t seen the film yet, could you give a short introduction in your own words?
The story of a girl and her unrequited love since age five. As they grew up she almost became his stalker. At some point she somehow comes in possession of his pinkie, and uses it to make a clone. Then she starts living together with his clone, but the original boy finds out that they are living together and claims the clone for himself. It’s a comedy sci-fi love story, with a bit of splatter.
Could you tell us how your directing career started?
I work at an advertising company, and about five or six years ago I went to the Yubari Film Festival. It’s a Fantastic Film Festival in Hokkaido, the best one in Japan. I was really astonished by the crazy movies shown there. Heads being cut off, and little boys watching these movies. I wanted to get involved with that festival more, so I starting helping a director there with advertising. The next year in 2008 I made my first short film. Since then I have made five short films, and The Pinkie is my first feature film. My main job is still advertising, so sometimes I’m shooting a commercial, sometimes a music video, and I am also involved with a theatrical play.
I saw your short ‘Wandering Alien Detective Robin’ last year, it was extremely funny and creative, where did you get the ideas to make that short?
A friend of mine is an independent producer, gathering sci-fi short films in Tokyo. He gave me one month to write a script, prepare, shoot, edit, and do post-production. It was crazy, almost impossible. From the start I was most worried about making special effects, I couldn’t even start thinking about the story yet. But I asked another friend who is involved in doing special effects and make-up for films, and he got me the alien mask, and based on this mask I wrote the story about Robin.
Did you get a lot of positive responses?
Yes, I visited multiple film festivals with it such as the IFFR, Yubari, Asian-Pacific and more, and it was pretty successful.
And now you’re back already with The Pinkie, how did that idea get started?
About 20 years ago there was a boom in cloning, with Dolly the sheep for instance. At this time I was in elementary school and this stuck with me. When I came to this film festival last year I was told that I could come back next year if I made a feature film. Thinking about a script I suddenly remembered this cloning thing. I started thinking about people being able to clone freely and what body parts could be used for this. The pinkie seemed like a nice idea because it is a meaningful body part to Japanese. Yakuza cut off pinkies, we make pinkie-swears, and in the Edo geisha also sometimes cut off their pinkies and gave them to their one true love.
There is a nice mix of both Western and Japanese pop culture in your works. For example I noticed references from Terminator to Sushi Typhoon splatter films. What would you say were your main inspirations for Pinkie?
A whole lot of films influenced me. Too many to name actually. Some of my favorite films of all time are ‘Luna Papa’ (1999) and the Japanese ‘Kamikaze Taxi’ (1995). One thing I love in films is sudden action. In Kamikaze Taxi nothing happens for a long time and then suddenly there is a burst of action. As if you’re just walking and suddenly get punched in the face. Totally unexpected, and therefore it is almost impossible to predict what will happen next, so that might have inspired the structure.
What’s in store for the future, are there any projects you are currently working on?
This year I am directing a short animation film based on a horror picture book. Also I am working on a music video for a violinist, and working on the planning for a theater production.
I see, a lot of different kinds of projects, but are you also planning to make more feature films?
Yes, definitely. Due to time constraints The Pinkie actually only turned out 65 minutes, even though I had a script for a 90 minute movie. So next time I want to shoot more than 90 minutes.
Is there anyone in particular you would really like to work with some day?
There are a lot of people, especially visual artists. Kyoko Heya is a major one (production designer ‘Battle Royale’, Art Director for ‘Maboroshi’, among other things). If I could get a very big budget I want to work with her. Also Yohei Tanada (Production Designer ‘Man of Tai Chi’, ‘Air Doll’, ‘Kill Bill Vol.1 and more).
Lastly, do you have any tips for aspiring young directors?
Oh no no, I have only just started myself and am still developing, it’s too early to give advice to other people.