Genkina Hito Interviews the Director of Sake-Bomb

While I was at the Raindance Independent Film Festival 2013 I got the chance to interview two directors. The first one I interviewed was Junya Sakino, director of Sake-Bomb which I reviewed yesterday. Here’s the trailer:

With the help of Israel from Korea Affinity I got a ten-minute interview recorded on camera but decided to type the interview out. This was the first time I had conducted an interview with a director but Junya was a gracious interviewee and Israel gave me excellent support an advice. Thanks go out to Adam Torel of Third Window Film for arranging the interview and Junya for being a really great guy. Here’s the interview:

Genki Jason: My name’s Jason, also known as Genkinahito and I’m here with Junya, director of Sake-Bomb, thank you for agreeing to do this video.

Junya Sakino: Thank you for inviting me.

GJ: So Sake-Bomb, where did you get the idea from because I have seen very few films that deal with the clash between the experiences of Asians and Asian-Americans.

JS: When I was a long way from Japan and I moved to the States to live alone, one day I went into a sushi restaurant and there I witnessed people mixing sake and beer and having a great time. I was puzzled about this. I think I know Japanese culture but I had never seen something like that before so I thought they were some really disgusting foreigners [laughs] but it was also interesting to see a new Japanese culture being born in the States and I thought this could be a great concept for a film. I thought about it some more and it became an Asian West meets Asian East story and that’s how Sake-Bomb came about.

GJ: You don’t really see films about the Asian-American experience on screen.

JS: We tried to put all of these counter-stereotype characters in there.

GJ: The film is quite funny but I Sake-Bomb Sebastian and Naotofound the protagonist Sebastian is very hard to like because of his anger. Where did his anger come from?

JS: His anger comes from everything. He hates being Asian and he hates anything he deals with in life so we see a mix of constant feelings he’s had since he has grown up.

GJ: How did you find the actor for Sebastian?

JS: We had an open audition and a lot of actors came to me but we were very lucky to have Eugene Kim, the first time he came he nailed it and we had a couple of auditions after that.

GJ: He’s very charismatic so even though he’s angry he’s still funny.

JS: That was the thing. I tried to keep the balance between an unlikeable character who is funny and makes sense. People don’t usually say these things but he does which is what makes his character so interesting.

GJ: Gaku Hamada is a famous actor in Japan and I tend to associate him with innocence. Did you need him to counterbalance Sebastian.

JS: Absolutely. If you have a really obnoxious angry character you’ve got to have a nice sweet character. That was the whole point of having the balance between these two characters and cultures.

Sake-Bomb Drinking

GJ: How did you get him involved in the project.

JS: I didn’t know about Gaku Hamada until my producer told me and I watched a couple of his films so I asked my producer if there was any way of talking to him so we got the script translated into Japanese and sent it to his agency and he read the script and liked it. Last winter we had a Skype meeting and we had an exchange where we talked about the characters and he agreed to do it.

GJ: It must have been a major development to get Gaku Hamada on board.

JS: Yeah, absolutely.

GJ: I also noticed you had Denden.Sake-Bomb Naoto and his Boss

JS: Yeah, yeah, yeah [laughs]

GJ: How did he get involved?

JS: I’m a fan of Cold Fish, it’s a great film and I wanted to work with him. When we were shooting the scene in Japan we didn’t know whether he was going to be able to make it or not but he was available that day and he was there for five hours.

GJ: He still makes an impression.

JS: Oh yeah, he does because it’s a funny scene.

GJ: And the American actors, did you go through auditions?

JS: We had a casting director and we had a series of auditions and a lot of people came to read but we managed to get the cast.

GJ: You mention that you had moved to America early in your life so were your experiences reflected in the script particularly through Gaku Hamada’s character?

JS: Let’s just say that I moved to the states and Jeff Mizushima, our co-writer is Japanese-American so we collaborated our ideas so the characters can be seen as part of us.

GJ: It’s a movie about a culture clash so how do different audiences react to it? How does a Japanese audience and western

JS: I haven’t released the film in Japan yet. I’ve been going around the festival circuit right now and the response has been pretty amazing. It’s not just about the comedy, it’s also a social commentary and I have been enjoying the responses.

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