This week we ask 5 questions to Sol Friedman, director of this week’s short film, Junko’s Shamisen
1. How did you come up with the concept for this short?
In 2008 I was in Tokyo and watched a portion of a Kabuki performance at the big Kabuki-za theatre. The sensibility, the pacing and the minute detailing of the whole production was so different and engaging to me, but what really got me excited was the transparency of the stagehands as they made the set changes. The stage-hands are dressed in black and if you aren’t paying attention, you would just catch glimpses of their faces as they float by. It added to the whimsy of the performance and as a result became a creative focal point for me as I was writing. The scenes with the stage-hands, remain for me one of the most exciting features of my project, even though they are relatively inconsequential to the overall story of Junko’s Shamisen.
2. Any challenges or setbacks during the production?
For this project, casting was one of the first challenges and one of the most complicated challenges. Though I don’t read or understand very much Japanese, I had initially wanted the film to feature an all-Japanese cast, performing in Japanese. I have no doubt that there would have been complications in working through a Japanese-English language barrier but ultimately we were only able to draw a handful of Japanese actors to audition for the lead, and since most of them were in their early twenties (whereas the role that they were reading for was supposed to be eight years old), it was pretty clear that we would have to change direction a little bit.
3. Any funny stories from the making of this film?
Off the top of my head, there was one situation, also with regards to casting… With my heart set on a young Japanese girl as the lead, I spent considerable time and effort trying to hunt down my lead. We took out ads in a local japanese newspaper, spoke with representatives from cultural organizations as well as Japanese community centers, and when these approaches failed to yield results, I made a sign with poorly translated Japanese and stood outside of a Japanese language school soliciting young girls to audition for my film. The few parents who did stop to read my sign, quickly turned and left. I quickly abandoned these efforts.
4. Where has your film played? Festivals or other places around the world?
Junko’s Shamisen premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2010 and has since played at about 60 international film festivals worldwide, including, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, South by SouthWest, and Hawaii International Film Festival among many others.
Based on the broad range of techniques and styles used in the film, we were quite fortunate in that the film was able to be screened in a bunch of different programs, ranging from narrative to animation to experimental. In a single week, the film played at a Children’s film festival, a Feminist film festival and even a Horror film festival. So, it has been a pretty eclectic mix.
5. What’s been going on with you, filmmaking wise since the completion of this short? What are you working on next?
I have a couple of feature projects in very early stages of development, but in the interim, I have been keeping myself busy working on some exciting short films. I recently completed a short robot love story entitled Love Songs from an Android
), which is set to have its world premiere in the coming months. And over the summer me and my team will be working on a new project featuring conveyor belt sushi, some weird beasts and Naturist David Attenborough.