Interview with On the Edge of Their Seats Director Hideo Jojo [OAFF 2020] (Japanese and English Text)

Some cursory research into the career of Hideo Jojo will turn up a whole slew of movies that ranging from pink films to V-Cinema. Jojo got his start in filmmaking by producing 8mm movies while studying at Musashino Art University before he entered the industry as assistant director on pink films. His directorial debut, Married Women Who Want a Taste (2003), won the Bronze Prize and New Director Award at the 2003 Pink Grand Prix. To date, he has written and directed over 100 works and won awards and fans in Japan and internationally. His career is as varied as it gets and recent titles include the screenplay for Neko Zamurai (2014), directing the horror movie Corpse Prison (2017) and even a Gachi-ban movie (2008). With such variety, it stands to reason that he would be able to direct a charming youth drama based on a stage play.

On the Edge of their Seats is based on an award-winning stage play created by a theater group from a high school in Hyogo Prefecture. It takes place during a hot summer’s day at a baseball match between high school teams in a tournament that leads to a final played at Koshien Stadium. Being able to play at Koshien in the final is a big dream for all high school baseball players in Japan and it often comes up in films. However, it’s not so much the drama happening on the field of dreams that is the concern of the film but what is going on with five characters in the stands as they work out some dramas that have occurred in their final year of high school. As they interact, they reveal some of their feelings and help each other learn to look at life more positively. The film is a real charmer built around some lovely characters and brought to life by a charismatic cast who are perfectly guided by Jojo’s sharp direction.

Hideo Jojo participated in an interview at the Osaka Asian Film Festival where the film received its world premiere. 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 the interview. Why did you become a filmmaker?

 

I always liked films. I watched all sort of films including Roman Porno and pink films when I was at high school. Around that time, I thought that being a film director would be cool. However, I didn’t know how to become a director so I thought, I like pink movies, I can enter from there, so I walked into a pink film production company and asked them to let me work.

僕は元々映画が好きで、高校生の時に色んな映画を観てる中で、ロマンポルノやピンク映画に出会って、何となくそっち方向から、映画監督という職業に憧れていたというのが一番ですね。ただどうやってなれるのかがわからなくて、ピンク映画が好きだったのでそっちから入ろうと思って飛び込みでやらせて下さいって。

You have a background in pink films and V-Cinema, why did you choose to work on this project?

No, not just pink films… I was introduced to this work by a producer named Takatoshi Naoi. We have known each other for twenty years, ever since I first worked as an assistant director on pink films, and he liked my first film so much. Ever since then he kept suggesting to me that we should work together but we never made it happen. He suggested it again for this project and this time showed me a video of the high school play is based on. Actually, before seeing it I thought we wouldn’t make it this time, either. I was very impressed with the movie he showed and enthusiastically agreed with him that we should do this.

ピンク映画だけではないんですけど…20年来の知り合いの直井さんというプロデューサーが、僕がピンク映画の助監督しているときからの知り合いなんですけど、僕のデビュー作を凄く気に入ってくれて、いつかやろうって話しをしていて、今までも何本も企画があったんですが、なかなか実現しなくって、今回また会って、またいつもの調子でダメになるかなと思ったのですが、見せた貰った高校演劇がとても良くて、いつもみたいにうやむやにしないでちゃんとやりましょうって、積極的に僕からやって成立したって感じです。

How was the play’s script adapted into a film script?

It was originally a high-school play, then it was made into a commercial play. The initial project was to connect with the play. There were some changes that had been made in the commercial play from the original high school one. There were only four people in the stands in the original play, the teacher was added as a character and the scenes in the corridor were also inserted. We decided to add the brass band parts in the film version. I roughly discussed the storyline with the scriptwriter and, in the end, sorted out the script by myself. There are three different scripts and the script for the film is the third one. The characters were hugely changed and the storyline was also massively broadened, but I decided to make a border that the film shouldn’t be broadened beyond.

もとの商業演劇があって、それと映画を連動させるというのが当初の企画でした。その商業演劇の段階で、オリジナルの高校演劇にアレンジが加えられていて、最初はスタンドの4人だけだったのが、商業演劇になった段階で先生が出てきて、場所としても廊下が出てきて、映画はそれプラス吹奏楽をやろうってそういう流れだけ決めて、脚本家と相談しながらやって行ったという感じです。最終的に映画の脚本は、僕の方で整えてやったという言う感じです。3本本があって、それの最後のやつって感じなので、最初のとは随分キャラクターも変わりました。世界もどんどん広がっていって、ただこれ以上広げないでおこうっていうラインは決めてやりました。

Stage plays can be very static, even when they are adapted into film. This one is very dynamic because of camera movements. Was there a lot of storyboarding?

舞台劇を映画の形態に変える場合、舞台は映画に比べてとても静的だという印象を受けるのですが、この映画はカメラワークの効果もあって、映画自体にとても動きがあるように感じられました。どう言った演出を施されたのでしょうか?絵コンテをたくさん作られたのでしょうか?

I don’t usually plan the cuts precisely, which means, I don’t write a storyboard. I wrote rough line cut notes on the script but improvised most of the time whilst watching the actors acting and directing like, “Okay, can you move like this next?”

As for the last cut of the final scene, I aimed to shoot that way beforehand, but regarding the rest of the film, I let the actors perform whilst discussing it with the cinematographer. I am the sort of director who improvises at the location. I didn’t tightly set up shots. I did plan briefly with the film crew beforehand though.

僕はあまり事前にカットはびしっとなくて、当然絵コンテはなくて、ラインコンテもざっくりとした物しかやらずに、後はやりながらお芝居を見て、「じゃ次はこう動きましょうか」って言うやり方が多かったです。そんなにダイナミック…たとえばラストのワンカットはもう狙いとして事前にありますけど、他はお芝居をやらせてみて、カメラマンと相談しながら割と現場でどんどん変えて行くタイプなので、あまり前もって決めないでやったって感じです。多少事前に打ち合わせはありましたけど…

How long did it take to shoot?

撮影期間はどのくらいだったのですか?

I shot the film in five days, but we cancelled a half day because of a typhoon and did another day, so, all together it was about six days. We shot the film only during the daytime and we shot it in a very short time.

撮影期間は5日。一日台風で午前中しかできなくてもう1日やったので、まあ5−6日。
でもそれも全部昼だけの時間なので相当短い。

Lots of people are shown in the audience in the film. How did you direct them?

たくさんの人が観客として登場されてましたが、皆さんの演技づけはどうされたのですか?

There weren’t as many people as you think you see on the screen. If you watch carefully, you can see the same faces in different cuts. I explained to them about what the scene is going to be about, something like “a batter strikes the ball and has safely reached the second base”. I hung a ball at the tip of a pole and made them look in the direction the ball was moving.

画面で見える程は多くないんですけど、カメラが変わったら、よくよく見たら同じ人が色んな所にいる、と。そのカットの説明をして「じゃ今打って二塁打です」みたいな感じで、竿の先にボールをつけて、みんながそっちを見るようにするとか。

How did you cast the film?

This film followed the play. It comes from a project where the aim was to make both a film and commercial play based on the original high school play. The film is a part of the play. The original high school play was performed by actual high school pupils, but the commercial one was performed by professional actors. We cast the same actors. So the casting was already arranged. A male actor was replaced by a different person though.

これは演劇の流れなんです。映画と演劇を一緒にやろうと。同じ原作を元にして映画と商業演劇の両方を作ろうと。最初の高校演劇は高校生なんだけど、商業演劇の方は演劇やってる人なんで、その人たちをそのまま映画にもってこようと、きました。だからキャスティングは最初から決まってた。ちょっと色々あって、一人だけ男の子がかわったんだけど。

There’s lots of metaphors connected to baseball. Do you think will the film still translate well to cultures where baseball isn’t so important or isn’t played?

野球と関連した隠喩が幾つも出てきますね。野球が普及してない、或いはそんなに人気のスポーツでないという文化圏で、この映画のそういったニュアンスがうまく伝わると思われますか?
(翻訳者補足:例えば、英国ではラグビーとサッカーは国民的スポーツですが、野球に関してはどういうスポーツかさえ知らない人がいます)

I myself am not so keen on either high school baseball or the professional league, but I used to play baseball when I was in a little league in elementary school. If anything, I was more likely to be at the corner of the stand like the characters in the film, so I put my empathy for the characters into the direction of the film. Apparently, the writer of the story is a high school teacher called Mr. Yabu and he wrote this despite being unfamiliar with baseball.

I think that there are lots of nuances that could be difficult for people in other countries to understand because high school baseball and Koshien are unique to Japan’s culture. I made this film mainly for Japanese audience. I didn’t particularly consider promoting it abroad. However, this story is about the people cheering in the stand not about the baseball game, so I think audiences [abroad] will be able to empathize with the characters.

僕自身そんなに高校野球もプロ野球も見ないんですけど、ただ野球は小学生の時にリトルリーグに入ってやってました。僕もどちらかというと、観客席の端にいるような人間だったので、同じタイプである今回の登場人物たちには、そういった自分の思いを込めて演出しました。ちなみに原作者の高校教師の藪さんという方は、それほど野球に詳しくないままこれを書いたと聞いています。
高校野球、甲子園は日本独自の文化ですから海外の方には伝わらないニュアンスは多いと思います。海外展開を特に意識せずに日本の観客に向けて作った映画なので。とはいえ、試合シーンがあるわけではないので、応援席の彼ら気持ちは何となく伝わるかとも思うのですが、どうなんでしょうね?
僕もわかりません。

On the Edge of Their Seats was shown at the Osaka Asian Film Festival on March 8 and 9.

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