Interview with Maverick Japanese Filmmaker Yuki Otsuka

How long have you been a filmmaker?

I’ve been a filmmaker for 25 years.

What was your first film?
Peach is about Abe working as a money collector, trapped in the world of loan sharks. He is bound to his job despite wanting to escape and meet Aya, a withdrawn woman. Abe visits a shrine daily, collects money from delinquent borrowers, and sometimes resorts to violence. Meanwhile, Aya distributes packets of tissues at the train station. For Abe, meeting Aya and discovering the secrets to her reclusive lifestyle is his ultimate goal and his chance to find a place in society.

You did yakuza films early in your career; why did you stop?

Because I can’t find an exciting project.
If there were an exciting script, I would like to make it again.

What has been your most successful film to date?

The Edge of Sin, “A father can’t accept this. His daughter committed suicide, falling from the ledge of a school building and dying.

Who are your influences?  

Woody Allen, George Miller, and many other great filmmakers.

Do you have a running theme throughout your films?

Enjoy the mundane and life because one day you will die.

What are you the most proud of with your career?

We are working with many talented people.

Have you ever had a film project fall through?

Many times.

Is it hard to raise money in Japan?

Raising money in Japan is challenging because the economy is not doing well.

What are your favorite movies and why?

Crimes and Misdemeanors. This film shows the absurdities of life and society funnily and scarily.
There Will Be Blood. The film portrays a protagonist with strong desires and anger without any hypocrisy.

How do you choose your talent for your projects?
We choose the right person for the role by audition.

How do you handle creative differences with talent?

We will discuss and resolve the issue. Sometimes, although it is rare, we will shoot another version after hearing the other party’s opinion.

How do you work with talent to create their best performance?

I will make sure that they have absolute confidence in their talents.

Have you ever had to fire someone from your production?

Yes, but rarely.

What is your current project, and what’s the story about?

The movie is called DOWNTOWN UTOPIA and will be released this November.

Naomi Kishi (24), who has a habit of self-harm, grew up with a mother with an abnormally strong desire for control and was profoundly ill. Naomi’s relationship with her mother became unbearable, and she fled her parents’ home. She goes to a downtown area where her mother is out of sight. She is caught when she enters an old-fashioned coffee shop, eats and drinks without paying. However, the coffee shop manager does not take her to task and even offers her a place to live. She begins living in a shared house in the downtown area, and gradually regains her true self through contact with unique people she has never met before in her life.

How did you come up with the idea?

The idea came from the people I met when I moved to downtown Tokyo a few years ago.

How long did it take you to write the script?

It took me three months to write a script quickly, but I spent more than six months researching.

Did you do any experimenting with directing or editing?

It was a black-and-white film shoot; we tested shooting styles before the shoot.
We also rehearsed the actors’ performances.

Did you stick entirely to the script?


Can you discuss how the creative process works with the cast and crew?

With the cinematographer, we discuss the shooting style from an early stage.
We try out various things with the actors after they understand their roles in the rehearsal stage.
This makes the shooting process very smooth.

When will the film be released and where?

The movie will be released in Tokyo in November.

Who would you like the most to work with and why?

Michael Convertino He is a composer of film music and composes excellent scores, and his arrangements are top-notch.
I would love to work with him if given the chance.

Do you have any other projects coming up?

Yes, there are two projects.

What tips would you give inspiring filmmakers?

Keep making movies.

Short Bio of Yuki Otsuka

He has been involved in the production of numerous international films and co-productions, including “Black Rain (1989).” His movie “Peach (1998)” received rave reviews at international film festivals in Los Angeles, Moscow, and Sochi and was invited to be screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

In 2009, “Girl’s Life (09),” a film about gal culture, was released. In recent years, he has worked on the human fantasy film “Soup: A Story of Reincarnation (12)” and the Japan-France co-production “FLARE (14)” for which he also served as director of photography. Action black comedy “RED COW (15)” “The Edge of Sin (15),” black comedy “JUNK (17)” International drama “LEQUIO ( 17),” “Lady in White (18)” and many other films in various genres.