Brown Bag Questions

I had a brown bag talk a few weeks ago where I showed some films (Giri Chit, Mother of the World, and Interruptus), and a bunch of my students attended. Since Q&A at a screening always leaves a lot to be desired, I invited my students to reflect and write questions afterwards that I will write about periodically.

How long did you sit there and watch that guy in Japan clean the floor?

Maybe an hour. I thought of going back and shooting more the next day. It was clear that this was pretty much what the guy did. But Tokyo is a big city, and I had more things to see. Luckily, driving around in circles provides a lot of redundant coverage that really helps in post-production.

How awkward was it really to shoot the Harajuku segment?

Not awkward at all. It was a very casual, relaxed place to be. The only tension seemed to be in the minds of the cosplayers checking to see who was looking at them, but even then, it was a very professional sort of tension, akin to being on stage.

In GIRI CHIT, I'm pretty sure there was some slowing of time, but did it speed up and slow down at different times?

Yes. Perception and presentation of time are central in GIRI CHIT. The rate at which time passes evolves and changes depending on the circumstance. In the "Ginza" section, Zamboni Man serves as the master of all space and time, and he controls the universe with every pass of his machine. In "Harajuku" the gaze of the cosplayer controls how quickly or slowly time passes. And in "Akasaka," the laborers work in a stilled space, which both precedes and is followed by echoes of their previous and succeeding motions.

"When you go out to shoot, do you have ideas in mind of what you want to capture? How do you determine what you want to focus on?"

I'm usually a hunter-gatherer type of shooter. Sometimes I have a general idea of what I want to film, but I'm almost always wrong, and I end up bringing back something else. I never have a list to check off, like "I need a shot of workers leaving a factory." I do have some rules of thumb that are always running, mostly as instinct. I'll try to describe some here.

There is a switch that I feel flip inside me when I am looking, and it says "THIS." That tells me to stop and shoot. When I collect source material, I work unconsciously (or maybe hyper-consciously. beyond conscious?) Most of the hours of material I have on tapes and drives in by studio were collected without really knowing why. Most of it will probably never see the light of day.

But that's not how I arrive at my decisions when I compose on the computer. My gut reactions are involved there as well, but in a different way. I almost never know how a show is going to turn out once I start, I just start looking at things and listening and thinking. Days and weeks pass and nothing happens. I'll pursue an image in my head that I'm trying to convey. Then, usually when doing something completely unrelated like taking a shower or a walk, a notion hits me that I realize serves as a framework to hang parts of the piece on. When that happens, the piece is done relatively soon thereafter.