Interview with “Good-bye” Director Aya Miyazaki at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020

The life of twenty-something woman Sakura (rising star Mayuko Fukuda) changes when she quits her office position and takes a job at a nursery. This impulsive decision puts her in the orbit of a girl named Ai whose father, Shindo (Kohei Ikeue), seems to be struggling to raise her without her mother around. Again listening to her inner impulses, Sakura gets involved with the two as she subconsciously works through various feelings related to her own fractured family. Little does she realize that this process will lead to the reconfiguriation of her relationship with her parents.

A minimalist psychological piece, Good-Bye is the third film from director Aya Miyazaki and it received its world premiere in the Indie Forum section of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020. One of the youngest directors at the festival, Miyazaki only started making films while studying at Waseda University where she learned under the supervision of Hirokazu Kore-eda and Tamaki Tsuchida. She currently works for a movie company but took time to appear at OAFF to introduce and discuss her latest film.

The interview was conducted with help from the interpreter Keiko Matsushita while the translation was made with the help of the interpreter Takako Pockington.

Thank you for doing interview. My first question is why did you want to become a film maker.

I hardly watched films before I went to university. However, I had a chance to take a course related to films at Waseda University. I became interested in films after that. The style of the film lectures was mainly to have discussions with directors and producers. I took more of an interest in films from the perspective of producing them. Then I went to a film school for six months during my second year and directed a short film of about seven minutes long at the school.

I merely had an interest or got absorbed in particular things but after this experience I wanted to keep making films. Then at my third year at Waseda, I took the video production course in which lectures are given by director Hirokazu Kore-eda and Tamaki Tsuchida. You would plan, produce and show films in this course. While showing our films in and outside the campus, I realized that I wanted to keep doing this more.

大学に入る前は映画をそれほど見ることもなかったのですが、早稲田大学の多様な講義の中で、映画に関するものを受講するようになって興味が湧きました。監督やプロデューサーをゲストに迎えた対談講義だったのですが、そこで作る側面としての映画に関心を持ち、二年生の時に半年間、社会人の映画学校に通って、初めての映像制作として7分程度の短編を監督しました。

私は普段、物事に興味を持ったり、入れ込んだりするタイプではないのですが、スクールを終えてもなお、映像制作をやってみたいと思いました。そこで大学三年生の一年間、是枝監督と土田環さんが教鞭を取られる「映像制作実習」という、映画を企画・制作し、上映するという通年の授業を取りました。そこで監督したものを学内外で上映するうちに、これを続けていきたいと思った次第です。

Could you talk about the biggest influence on you as a filmmaker?

As someone who was hardly interested in film, Shunji Iwai became the first big name that I recognized and I chose to watch his films. Then it was Hirokazu Kore-eda. I watched his films and, at the same time, learnt from them through his lectures. I think I was influenced directly and hugely by him.

映画に関心の無かった私が、監督の名前で映画を見始めたのは、岩井俊二監督が最初です。作品を見て、かつ授業を通して学んでいったのは是枝裕和監督です。直接的な影響は大きいと思います。

So you are mainly influenced by Japanese films?

Since I started watching films, I intensively watched Japanese films during my college days. I have some favorite foreign films and directors, especially Asian ones, but I think my film making is rooted in Japanese films.

映画を見るようになってからずっと、大学生の間は近代の日本映画ばかり見ていました。今は海外特にアジア圏の作品や監督で好きなものも多いですが、ルーツとなっているのは日本映画だと思っています。

Is this your second film?

Strictly speaking, this is the third one.

厳密に言うと、3本目ですね。

Your last one, yogoto, was screened at the 2017 Ca Foscari Short Film Festival. Did you attend the film festival? How was the experience?

I didn’t attend the festival for the competition. I shot the film as a part of academic project during my third year, then I had a chance to go there as the university had already submitted an entry for the festival. My film was introduced as a work by a Japanese university student and was one of the four feature films shot by the students at Waseda shown at the festival. To begin with, everything was arranged beforehand, so I attended the film festival as if I was going on holiday. I was simply excited to have my film shown for the first time in public. However, once I got there, I realized that the primary purpose of attending the film festival is to communicate with the local staff or audience and also I should have prepared well for promoting my film. I reflected a lot after that.

その映画祭に行くきっかけは、コンペに応募したからではなく、大学三年生の時に授業で撮った作品で大学にアテンドがあったからでした。その映画祭の中で日本の大学生の作品として特集を組んでもらい、4本上映されたうちの1本でした。そもそも用意されていた環境だったこともあって、ある意味旅行で行くような、初めて外で上映されるということに、単純に楽しみだなぁくらいの気持ちで行きました。
実際行ってみると、現地のスタッフや観客の方と交流することに、映画祭に参加する一番の意味があることだとか、自分の作品をもっと売り込んでいく、広めてもらう課題を感じました。初めての事で、正直参加した後に色々反省がありました。

What sort of things did you learn from that festival?

This is Good-bye’s first screening. I haven’t arranged any screenings after this festival or submitted it to film festivals anywhere else yet, so  I will perhaps submit it to film festivals within this country and try to make new connections for my next project. I think what I experience in film festivals would be the same either at home or abroad, so I will try hard with this for the year.

今回が初上映で、実は今後の上映もまだ決まってない、映画祭にも出品を一切していない状況です。まずできることは国内上映になると思うのですが、出品して上映して、上映からまた新しい出会いを築き次の作品につなげることは海外も日本も一緒だと思っていて、そうすべくこの一年は努めようと思っています。

For your third film, you made it at Waseda university and you studied with Hirokazu Kore-eda. Could you talk a little about that experiences?

There were about thirty students in the course. Each student had to bring up his or her project plan and give a presentation in front of the lecturers and other students. During the presentation, you would be asked questions and given comments by lecturers and the students. You do this practice several times. Your project is finally selected in a competition in the course, then you write the script and film and show it.

At first, you learn the way of getting ideas for a project, for example, ideas from news or a motif. You have to think about where you get ideas from. Once you have presented the project, you receive comments about the project, then, film it and show the rushes to the lecturers. You receive comments again like “It could have been better to put the camera here in this set layout.”

You learn step by step. As for the teaching style of director Kore-eda, I was given a lot of comments during the script writing process. He does not like using “by chance”. He says you shouldn’t make the characters move for your own convenience. He does not encourage the use of dialogue either. For example, a protagonist has something in his/her mind, how would you express his/her thought? Students tend to use dialogue to make the characters to express what they are thinking because students are not used to writing itself, but the director would say,” Do you really need the dialogue there? If you do that, it will turn into an explanation of his feeling. If I were you, I would express it with his actions”. You would get comments about these kind of things, so you gain the most at this writing process.

授業の内容としては、生徒が30人ほどいるのですが、まず一人一つオリジナルの映画の企画を持ってきて、教員を含めた全員の前でプレゼンをする。プレゼンをして、その場で教師なり生徒なりから質問や批評をされる。それを繰り返して、最終的にコンペ形式で企画が選ばれ、脚本を書き、撮影し、上映する、そういう流れで行われます。
まず教わることとしては、企画の着想です。たとえば実際に起こったニュースだったり、モチーフだったり、企画をどういったところから持ってくるか考えることになります。実際に企画を出すと、それに批評もされますし、自分たちで撮影してきてラッシュを見せると、この現場の図面ならカメラをここに置いた方が良かったねなど指摘されます。

そういった企画~撮影と段階を踏んでいくのですけど、是枝さんからは脚本の段階で言及されることが一番多くて…。本を書く段階で「たまたま」とかを嫌うんです。こちらの都合の良いように登場人物を動かしてはいけない、と。セリフに関しても、すべて口に出して言ってしまうことを咎めます。主人公に思ったことがあったとして、それを生徒たちは脚本を書き慣れないのもあって、すべて口に出してつぶやかせがちになる。それを果たして言葉に出してつぶやくか。完全にセリフが心情の説明になっているんじゃないか、って。じゃあこの心情はこういう動作で表した方がいいんじゃない?とかって、そういったことをすごく指摘されるので、どの段階で一番学ぶことが多いかというと、脚本の段階かなと私は思います。

Why did you want to make this particular film?

I am often asked a question like what I want to convey in the film, but to be honest, I don’t make films because I have a particular aim or message to convey. I simply enjoy the whole process of making a film – getting inspiration from our daily life and picking it up to frame it, then writing a script and shooting it.

例えば、よくこれを作って伝えたいことは?と聞かれることが多いのですが、正直私は、こういう趣旨を持ってこういうメッセージを伝えたいからカメラを取ってこれを撮ったんだってことはなくて、普通に生活していて、日常でなにか面白い事象にあったとか、生きてて何気ないことで、ここを切り取ったら面白いなあと、単純に私の関心が向くことをピックアップして、それを本にする、そして映画を撮るのが楽しくて撮っています。

I was quite interested in how you filmed the nursery scenes with the children. It reminded me of Etre et avoir, the French film.

If you thought the nursery scenes were like a documentary…Those children were not brought there from agencies for the film, they actually go to that nursery which I visited for the location hunting. I gathered the children to introduce Fukuda-san and Igeta-san, saying “you will have these teachers during this spring holiday” on the day of shooting. I actually shot the scenes during their spring holiday, so they had their usual nursery routine with the new teachers while I was shooting. That’s why you thought the scenes were like a documentary.

もしドキュメンタリー調に見えたとしたら、あの現場にいた子供たちは、子役事務所などから集めてきた子たちではなくて、今回のロケ地でお邪魔した幼稚園に実際に通っているお子さんたちだからかもしれません。なので撮影の日に、主演の福田さんと先生役の井桁さんの前で園児たちを集めて、二人ともこの(撮影をしていた)春休み期間だけ来る先生ですよと説明しました。本当にその期間、あたらしい先生がやって来て、一緒に色々遊ぶっていうのを通じながら撮ったので、それでドキュメンタリー調に見えたんだと思います。

Is that little girl an actress?

Ai-chan belongs to an agency. I took her to the nursery and asked her to play with the other children. She was a bit tense at first but she soon settled in smoothly. Children can easily adjust in that environment.

彩衣(あい)役のあいちゃんは事務所の子なのですが、あの子も実際に幼稚園に連れて来て、園児のみんなと一緒に遊んでもらって慣れてもらいました。最初はちょっと緊張してましたけど。子供ってすぐ慣れるんで。

Could you talk about casting Mayuko Fukuda?

Fukuda-san has been acting since she was little. I hardly watched films or TV dramas before I went to university, but despite this I always thought her presence and acting talent is noticeable. After having got an idea and starting writing, I got a vague image for the main character Sakura. Fukada-san came into my head immediately and connected to my impression from her performances in the past. She simply matched closely with my image of the character, someone who can pick up skills easily but doesn’t focus on anything or someone who is in between the state of a child and adult. I was writing the script whilst thinking about how Fukuda-san would be just perfect as the main character including her age. By the time I finished writing the script, it seemed like I had written it for her because only her face was in my head during while writing.

福田さんは子役からずっと長いことお仕事されていて、私は大学にあがるまでの間であまり映画やドラマを見てきた方ではないのですが、それでもこれまでの生活で触れてきた作品の中で印象深かった方なんですね。それで今回自分で企画を立てて脚本を書いている途中で、さくら役をイメージをしてみた時に、福田さんが浮かんだ。それは今までの出演作とかを見ていて…。なにかこういう、器用だけど熱が上がらないとか、子供と大人の間みたいな、ちょうど年齢も含めて、自分が思うものに合うなあと思いながら書いていたら、最終的に福田さんの顔しか浮かばなくなったので、書きあがった時にはもう福田さんに当てて書いた状態になっていました。

I was wondering that it might be tricky to offer that role to a popular actor?

Yes, I thought it would be difficult to ask her, because this film is an independent film and the film crew are young. However, I wrote this for the actor and thought I couldn’t help but to offer it to her. So, I sent the script and my previous films to her to consider. I feel like my dream has come true.

そうですね。今回私達、完全なる自主映画だし、クリューも若かったので、正直最初から難しいだろなあとは思っていたのですが、まず自分が当てて書いた以上はオファーしないっていう選択肢はなかったですし、あとは本を読んでもらって判断してもらうしかないと思ったので、脚本と過去作を送って見ていただき、願いが叶いました。

Could you talk more about the creation of the story and preparing Fukuda for her role?

I had a chance to chat with Fukuda-san after she read the script. She said “I can’t see the emotional flow of the protagonist clearly, maybe the audience might feel the same as me, because she has very little dialogue. She seems apathetic but suddenly behaves daringly. It is hard to understand her abruptness, isn’t it?”

Then, I precisely explained it to her as follows, “Please imagine that if the father, whom she hasn’t seen for ages, has unconsciously been present in her mind, then Shindo came up in her new circumstance. His scent or, words or demeanor accumulate in her and that gradually remind her of her father, then her feelings for her father increase. You might think that her behavior in the last scene was daring but that is because her emotion is steadily developed.

本を読んでいただいた後、結構お話をする時間があったのですが、福田さんが「自分自身としても、おそらく見てくださった皆さんにも、なかなかこの主人公が、台詞も少ない中で感情の動きが見えづらい。割と低い温度でいて、急に振り切った行動をする、その突飛な感じを理解するのが難しいよね」という話をされたんです。そこを私が細かに、「会っていない父親が潜在意識下にずっといたとして、新しい環境で新藤という男が現れる。彼の匂いであったり、言葉や所作であったりが積み重ねになって、徐々に父を思い出し、父への意識が高まっていく。ラストの行動が大胆に見えても、そこまでに気持ちの積み重ねが着実に行われている」という説明をして理解いただきました。

Could you talk more about any directorial techniques you used in the film?

Half of the film was the scenes with children. I considered how to insert those children, who were totally oblivious to acting or filming, into the scenario. For example, there was a scene with children having a nap. They are not toddlers, they are at a pre-school age, so they don’t usually have a nap at the nursery. I didn’t have a nap when I was at nursery, so I do understand them not being able to understand what it is like having a nap with friends at nursery. I thought they wouldn’t understand it well even if I explained about what the nap time is like. Some of the staff used to go to nursery for toddlers and explained to me what it was like. Then I thought about it from the perspective of a child who has never had a nap with friends at nursery. “Let’s play a game”. I divided them into two groups and asked them to put mattresses on the floor, then to lie down and pretend to sleep. If your group managed to do all of these tasks quickly, your group is the winner. They really enjoyed the game. I tried to make myself think from the perspective of the children and that helped us to shoot the nursery scenes.

今回は、子供の撮影が半分くらいあったのですが、いかに演技をしていない、ただ日常を過ごしている子供達が、映画っていう台本の中にどう入るかって。例えばお昼寝をするシーンがあるんですが、あの子たちは保育園児ではなく、幼児園生なのでお昼寝という文化がないんです、普段は。お昼寝をこの子たちはしたことがないなあと思って。私自身は幼稚園生だったので、お昼寝したことないっていう感覚がわかるんです。普通に「お昼寝」を説明しても、すんなりと受け入れてはもらえないだろうと。スタッフの中には保育園出身者もいたので、保育園でのお昼寝がどんな感じだったのか教えてもらいました。

そこから、お昼寝をしたことない子供たちをどうするか、じゃあゲームをしよう。幼稚園にマットレスがあったので、園児を2班に分け、マットレスを準備して、早くマットを敷こうと。じゃ今度はそこに寝転がる、で静かに寝たふりした方が勝ちになります。ってゲーム形式にすると子供は喜んでやったりするので、その場に居て一緒に遊んだり、自分が目線を低くして交わることで、幼稚園のシーンは成立していましたね。

How did you interact with the more mature members of the cast?

I just communicated with them naturally. I am young and don’t have much life experience. I tried not to be intimidated by them, but if there was anything I didn’t know, I just honestly said I don’t know…I approached them in an honest manner.

子供以外の皆さんに対するリアクションとかはあまり変化なくて、まだ私も経験も浅いし、だから年齢の上の方で(人生)経験が多くてっていう方に萎縮しなくもないところを強い気持ちをもってやってたくらいですかね。自分が思ったことをそのまま伝えてますし、わからないことはわからないと正直なアプローチをするってことは大切にしてました。

I was quite interested in the theme of behavior. How it’s imprinted on children by adults. Could you elaborate more about what you wanted to say about it. Children learning behavior from adults, so was Sakura affected by copied behavior from her parents?

You mean, putting lipstick on or fussing about with Ai’s hair? The children were all extras except the girl in the film, but I picked some children to focus on and named them as characters in the script—such as So-kun whom Ai likes or Sara-chan. Girls tend to be mature for their age and even at that age, they try to copy adult’s behavior. This story tells how Sakura becomes a mature woman while coming to terms with her father. I wanted to depict that in both her appearance and inner self. I also hoped to depict that her story connects to the children’s copied behavior from adults.

口紅をつけたりとか、髪の毛とか、ですか? 一人の子を除いて、子供はみんなエキストラで、脚本の段階ではもうちょっとつまんで、子供の名前で書いてた部分があって、それが彩衣ちゃんが好きなソウくんとか、サラちゃんとかだったりするのですが、女の子ってませてて、あのくらいの年齢でも大人がすることを真似たりする。今回は主人公のさくらが、段階を経て父親にたどり着く前の途中で、女性としてもなんとなく開花していく、ビジュアル面も内面も開花していくというグラデーションを作っていたので、それと子供が大人に憧れてすることを、リンクして描けたらいいなあと思って。

Do you think it’s possible Sakura and her mother could have remained in their situation if Sakura had not taken the job?

Yes, because the place, the nursery and the person, Shindo, were the trigger for Sakura because they reminded her of her childhood and father and that made Sakura gradually change both in appearance and mentality. Her mother who was watching Sakura’s change also decided to stop clinging to her daughter, husband and the house that contained these people and let them go. These changes cause a separation. The protagonist of the story is Sakura, but as I had a theme of depicting “a new form of family”, I also tried to quietly depict the emotional change of the mother who had been beside Sakura and watched over her.

そうですね。保育園という場所が、新藤という人間が、さくらの幼少期や実の父親のことを想起するきっかけになって、それによって変化していくさくらを隣で眺める母もまた、ずっと抱えている、娘や夫、それを内包する家に対して執着することをやめる、手放すという選択をしています。

この物語の主人公はさくらですが、「新しい家族の形」を描くことをテーマに持っていたので、傍にいてさくらを見守る母親の変化に関しても、静かに表現できるよう意識していました。

Good-bye was shown at the Osaka Asian Film Festival on March 9 and 14.

My interview with Aya Miyazaki was first published on V-Cinema on May 04th.

It is always interesting finding out the background to a film and filmmaker, their motivations and education and loves and hobbies and beliefs etc. The information Miyazaki provided about her Waseda university days with Hirokazu Kore-eda was just as fascinating. There is a Japanese-language article published by Waseda which goes into some detail which can be found here.

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