Please tell us about your background. What made you fall in love with cinema and television? How did you become interested in filmmaking and what did you work on before making The Six Cases?
I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. Either Beverly Hills Cop or Home Alone made me fall in love with cinema. I watched them over and over again when I was a kid and I learned that entertainment has the power to be able to change people’s perspectives. Axel Foley, the character played by Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, was my childhood hero. Since then, I have liked Eddie Murphy. Time passes, and I became a college student. One day, I happened to watch Inside the Actors Studio and Eddie Murphy was the guest. While I was watching him talking on the show, I had an epiphany and decided to move to the United States to become an actor. Also, at that time, once I was hanging out with my friends from college at a karaoke bar in Tokyo and I was really drunk. Then, I accidentally fell asleep in the bathroom exposing my penis, then I got kicked out of the bar and got banned from the bar. I thought, "there is no freedom in this country.” So, this is another reason that I decided to move to the United States. I heard it’s a free country. Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles in 2011 and started to go to an acting school called Baron Brown Studio there in 2012. After graduating in 2014, I moved to New York to start my acting career. Currently, I’m living in Japan for some reason. As I mentioned, I am primarily an actor, but I have always wanted to make my original stuff. Before making The Six Cases, I worked on Outrage Coda, directed by world famous Takeshi Kitano, as an actor and I made a few short films. They are all comedies, by the way.
Which filmmakers influenced you and your filmmaking? Which films or shows have affected you the most?
I guess I have been influenced by a lot of filmmakers subconsciously, but I would say Spike Lee, Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, Takeshi Kitano, Edgar Wright and Woody Allen. And she may not be considered as a filmmaker, but Tina Fey influenced me as well. That still sounds like a lot, but it is really hard to narrow it all down to a few filmmakers. And especially Ritchie, Tarantino and Wright influenced my filmmaking. I admire their humorous cinematic styles in general. I like the kinds of music Tarantino and Richie use and how they use the music in their films. And, I enjoy the way Edgar Wright makes transitions between the scenes. It is like magic that makes boring parts interesting and fun.
What are the themes/issues you try to reflect in your works?
I don’t know. Actually, I would love people who watched my works to tell me what they are.
Where did the idea for The Six Cases come from? Why did you decide to make it into a web-series instead of a film?
I became friends with a talented musician, actor and filmmaker, Spookey Ruben a few years ago. And I watched his TV series, Dizzy Playground. That really inspired me because it is funny, hip, fun and made me feel exhilarated. After that, I started looking for a story like that. I ended up making a story of a crime comedy with a private detective which is totally different from Spookey Ruben’s Dizzy Playground, but I tried to make The Six Cases funny, hip, fun and something that people can feel exhilarated after they watch it. Well, at least I tried. And I decided to make it into a series because I thought the production could grow on the audience and there is a possibility that they would get attached to the characters every time they saw a new episode. And I hope those will lead to more meaningful connections and deeper stories for the audience.
Please tell us about the production and your experiences of making The Six Cases. What are some of the challenges and difficulties you faced?
It was super fun to work with all the talented actors and my wife for the production of The Six Cases. My wife was the cinematographer for the show, by the way. I literally couldn't have done this without the support of them. Since I currently live in Tokyo, and two of the lead actors in the series, Charles Ramsey and Jason Elliot, live in Indiana, I had to ask them to film their scenes by themselves. They must have had a hard time acting and filming without the director around. Besides, they are actually musicians, not actors. And, it was difficult for me to direct remotely, too, but we discussed how to film the scenes through video chats and messages several times before the filming. They did a great job after all. Also, for the episode 4, we actually shot a few scenes in Los Angeles, and I casted a friend from acting school and terrific actor, Jim Patneaude. His performance was really great as always and he let us use his place for the filming. There are also other cast members who let us use their places, too. I really cannot thank them enough. And, shooting fight scenes was another challenge for us. Because none of us knew how to do a fight scene, I thought we’d better make it comedic. Then, I came up with three patterns of defeating villains, which are by pulling a wig off, hitting the villain in the nuts so many times and farting in the villain’s face. I think they worked fine.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of independent filmmaking and working with smaller budgets? Does it liberate the filmmaker or limit his or her freedom?
I’ve never made a film with a big budget, so it is hard to tell. I think one of the advantages is nobody tells you what to do, but what you can do with small budgets is limited in most cases. So, I think it both liberates the filmmakers and limits their freedoms. Well, it really depends on what you want to make, and how, though.
Tell us about your festival run. Have film festivals provided you with the experience and exposure you needed?
Fortunately, The Six Cases has been selected at several film festivals and won 5 awards so far. I feel honored and grateful to those who chose our work. And I’m glad that our work has been seen by many people globally which I needed.
What was the reaction of those who watched your film? Was the feedback what you hoped for?
The feedback has been great. I have received a lot of positive comments from those who watched the series. I am truly happy that many of them enjoyed The Six Cases.
Please tell us about your future project(s). What are you working on?
I recently started writing an art comedy/drama series, Outlandish which is based on exaggerated version of my real life. Also, I am planning on making a short film, which is a collection of four vignettes about four different people in four different neighborhoods in Tokyo.