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Knowledge Co-Creation - Profiles of researchers

Engaging in a new kind of filmmaker education at Waseda, the birthplace of many filmmakers.


Kohei Ando
Professor at the Graduate School of Global Information and Telecommunication Studies, Waseda University

The Demise of the System Known as Film Studios

In 2004, Professor Ando put a period on more than 30 years of work as an employee of TBS and as a film director in order to take the post of professor at his alma mater, Waseda University. Professor Ando, along with the highly experienced director Masahiro Shinoda, has played a leading role in creating authentic filmmaker education at Waseda University.

Actually, Waseda University is the preeminent school in Japan for producing a large number of filmmakers. There are currently more than 500 members in the Directors Guild of Japan, and about 180 of these members attended Waseda. However, this of course includes students who dropped out of university early! As for master filmmakers who have attended Waseda, there is Masaki Kobayashi, Shohei Imamura, Masahiro Shinoda, Kohei Oguri, Hirokazu Koreeda..the list goes on and on. Also, when it comes to screenwriters, Waseda boasts an even higher percentage.

In the past, filmmakers did not receive a specialized education in movies. Rather, they were forged and trained solely at the film studios of movie companies. However, the rich movie industry of the past declined with the advance of the television generation, causing the film studio system to break down to the point where it barely functions today. When the question arose of where the next generation of filmmakers would be developed, momentum grew among filmmakers themselves that "If Waseda doesn't do it, who will?"

In 2001, the Honjo R&D Support Center for Telecommunications (Telecommunications Advancement Organization of Japan) was established in the Honjo campus in response to the advance of the digital age and the recommendation of interested parties such as director Masahiro Shinoda, who emphasized the necessity for a base of film and media creation using the most advanced technology. The Honjo R&D Support Center for Telecommunications was a precursor to the current Waseda University Art and Science Center. A number of movies shown in theaters were created at the Honjo R&D Support Center for Telecommunications, including director Shinoda's Spy Sorge, and director Shinji Higuchi's Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean and Japan Sinks.

Using these facilities, a unique program for the development of filmmakers was soon constructed that is unrivaled by the programs of other universities. This program includes practical training in which film production sites of professionals are brought into Waseda University, and the presence of renowned filmmakers as speakers during lectures.

Filming of Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean at the Honjo Art and Science Center

Scene of Japan Sinks being filmed at the Honjo Campus

A Reserve Consisting of 50,000 Waseda Students

For the new program, an independent school or department with a name such as "School of Movies and Media" was not created. Rather, a form was selected that would broadly provide the program(*) to students throughout the entire university. Out of 10,000 people, perhaps only 1 person may be able to become a movie director. For this reason, rather than creating a movie major with at most 200 students, it is better to target all of the 50,000 students at Waseda and discover hidden talents from within this large pool of students.
(*Official Name: "Movie & Media" theme study based on "New Education System for the Development of Movie and Media Creators")

Waseda's Open Education Center provides a theme study system. This system allows students with any academic major from any school to enroll in a theme study as an academic minor. If a student becomes genuinely interested in media as a result of this theme study, then that student can seek employment at a television station or movie company, or can proceed to graduate school for a more in-depth study of movies. Providing this freedom of opportunity is representative of the Waseda way.

In the "All about Movies: Masters of Cinema" program, prominent filmmakers such as Masahiro Shinoda and Yoji Yamada are invited as speakers to discuss the behind-the-scenes work of a professional filmmaker. This program is extremely popular. Participation by students with a groupie-like attitude such as "Hey, I hear that some famous director is coming to the lecture!" and "I heard we can watch movies every class!" is welcomed, for an important objective of this course is increase the number of people who truly understand movies and the number of high quality movie fans.

The "Kyoto's Uzumasa Studio and Japanese Film" program features a 5 day camp at the Uzumasa Studio. Students are able to talk with craftsmen from traditional film studios and to study onsite know-how and the subtleties of creating a movie. It is absolutely necessary for traditional techniques to be passed on to the next generation, or at the very least, for young generations to be aware of the existence and spirit of these techniques. In other words, in order to study digital, it is necessary to understand analog.

Joe Hisaishi speaks at the Masters of Cinema program.

Training during the Kyoto's Uzumasa Studio and Japanese Film program.

Leading the Way for the Fusion of Electronic Imaging and Movies

I believe that the profession of movie director is something that a person begins to seriously consider after a significant amount of thinking, hesitation, and deviation into other areas. Personally, I was interested in literature when I was a high school student. Following a great deal of indecision, I enrolled in the School of Science and Engineering at Waseda. Upon entering university, I continued to watch theater and movies, and after a lot of coming and going, I finally decided in my 4th year as an undergraduate that creating movies seemed like an interesting profession.

When I was a student, I studied abroad in a university in Paris as a UNESCO foreign exchange student. I spent most of my time in Paris watching theater and movies. Upon returning to Japan, I began helping with productions of the Tenjo Sajiki, a theatrical group run by former Waseda student Shuji Terayama. The Tenjo Sajiki was the core of Japan's underground theater and was very stimulating, and it is not an overstatement to say that my encounter with Mr. Terayama shaped who I am today.

Although I entered TBS after graduating from university, I took a long-term vacation of 3 months from the apprenticeship period during my 1st year of employment in order to accompany Tenjo Sajiki's European tour. I was sure that I would be fired for taking this vacation, but it seems that TBS thought "it might be good to keep a strange person like this around". Next thing I knew, I had worked at TBS until I was 60 years old, and thinking about it now, TBS is a truly magnanimous company.

Around this time, I began filming images with a 16 mm camera at the recommendation of Mr. Terayama. My work of Oh! My Mother, filmed in 1969, won an award at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in Germany. This was perhaps the first film in Japan to use electronic imaging, and is the origin of what is currently known as digital images. After this, several films that I had made received awards at international film festivals, and I was able to be active as a creator of images.

At the time, creative producers and directors such as Haruhiko Hagimoto and Teruhiko Kuze were employees of TBS, and everyone acted very freely. Within this group, even I engaged in projects that had no relation with my work at TBS, making my own movies and directing many commercial films. It was a time when that kind of freedom was available, and the experience was like a school of image creation and a place of expression for us.

Eventually, high-definition images came along and I filmed many works using this technology. Shortly afterwards, I begin handling a lot of digital images. These days, it is common practice to include digital images in films, and we are reaching an age in which films cannot be created without digital technology.

Einstein Came from the Other Side of the Evening Twilight by director Kohei Ando (Silver Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival, etc.)

Whispering of Vermeer by director Kohei Ando (Montreux International Film Festival Grand Prix, etc.)

Challenging Hollywood through a Business-Academic Alliance

Recently, young people are prone to cutting filming short, getting a certain amount of filming done onsite and then finishing the processing using digital technology. However, onsite staff with a lot of experience will keep pushing for more filming to be done. The reason for this is found in the hard fact that there are expressions of image and sound which can only be achieved certainly through analog. Director Shinji Higuchi made full use of the Honjo Art and Science Center in order to synthesize images for his new film, The Last Princess. However, he correctly inserts extremely analog-like images in all of the important parts of the film. If a director doesn't have this kind of sense, then the film will be no good regardless of the level of expertise in digital technology.

Ultimately, when it comes to competition using only digital technology, Japanese films don't quite have what it takes to compete with foreign films. When comparing Hollywood's budget for making a film with Japan's budget for making a film, the difference is a great as 1 or 2 digits. This discrepancy in budgets is in the background for the establishment of an image creation center through a business-academic alliance, such as the Art and Science Center. In order to overcome differences in market size and budget conditions in the goal to make world-class films, the Japanese movie industry has no other option than to join together, use limited resources as efficiently as possible, and act concertedly as a whole.

Currently, the Art and Science Center has created a digital line network with Toho film studio, computer graphic creation companies, film development centers, and production. For example, film shot today at a film studio can be sent to the Art and Science Center the same night. The next day, staff will check the film, and if there are no problems then digital processing will begin. If a problem is found in the film, then the film studio is contacted and the film can be quickly reshot. These kinds of coordinated operations are delegated while making proper adjustments in facilities and time available to staff. If Japan can only spend $1 million dollars where Hollywood spends $50 million dollars, then we must have the determination to give that $1 million dollars a value of $20 million dollars by utilizing technology, networking, and alliances.

I'm so busy nowadays that I don't have the time to film my own works! I would like to continue making films and I would like to write a book. While it is not a book of my own, I plan to do a Japanese translation this year of the book Screenplay, which was written by screenwriter Syd Field. This book is like a bible for the creation of screenplays.

Kohei Ando
Professor at the Graduate School of Global Information and Telecommunication Studies, Waseda University

Graduated from Waseda University Faculty of Science and Engineering in 1968. Entered TBS in the same year and was promoted to a number of positions including Assistant Director of the Media Promotion Department before leaving the company in 2004. Board member of the Directors Guild of Japan. Member of the theatrical group Tenjo Sajiki and active as a creator of images since his time as a university student. In 1970, won an award at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen for the film Oh! My Mother, which was also added to collections at museums such America's J. Paul Getty Museum and the Yokohama Museum of Art. In 1994, received the special Silver Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival and the Astrolabium Award at the International Electronic Cinema Festival for Einstein Came from the Other Side of the Evening Twilight, which was filmed in high-vision in place of 35 mm film. Has made numerous films and received numerous awards. Internationally renowned as an image creator who pioneered the use of high-vision. The Kohei Ando Retrospective was held in Paris in 2001.

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