An Interview with Maeda Shinjiro (Director)
An Accidental and Inevitable Composition
Q: Tell me about the time restraints for the filming.
MS: First, I got the idea of filming just one cut per day and assembling the shots in order, and since I’m doing it anyway, I thought it might be interesting to continue for an entire year. In the beginning I wasn’t thinking of varying the length of the cuts each day. I had in mind a simple structure with 366 cuts, all with the same number of seconds . . . 366 cuts, since 2004 was a leap year. I’d previously done automated editing on the computer, so I was familiar with the texture of linking together cuts of exactly the same length. Initially I calculated ten seconds per cut, which makes a total of 3,660 seconds, or about sixty minutes. It was appealing to put one year into one hour, but I tried assembling several ten-second cuts and found the tempo was faster than I’d imagined, and it would be difficult to watch for an hour. I edited it together at fifteen seconds, and it had a nice feel. Fifteen seconds brings to mind the length of a television commercial, but in fact, in terms of cultural background it seemed like maybe this is a length that feels comfortable. The total length exceeded ninety minutes, and I briefly pondered it as a monumental feature-length work. But I was drawn to the silly coincidental fun that 366 commercials strung together make a feature-length film. So maybe it’s also good if you watch the piece and compare it with the ninety minutes of a typical feature-length film.
Q: Why did you use the cycle of the moon?
MS: I’d thought it would indeed be tough to stay focused for an entire year of filming in the midst of my everyday activities, but maybe it could be done if I fixed the filming time and just had to focus then. So my idea was to make some rule like that. Rather than filming every morning at eight, I thought it would be more interesting if the time changed. So I decided to fix it with the waxing and waning of the moon. When the moon was full, I filmed at midnight. For the next half-moon I filmed at six in the morning, and noon for the new moon, and that’s how I picked the filming time each day. So it was like today I’ll shoot between four and five. By basing it on the movement of the moon,I thought it would be interesting to show the birth of thirteen cycles of morning, afternoon, and evening through a year’s worth of images. Around that time I was reading books about the Mayan calendar and the lunar calendar, and I was also interested in living by a rhythm other than the Western calendar.
Q: How was it to film using a laptop?
MS: When I considered editing together fifteen seconds everyday, it seemed like it would be tough to transfer the images each day from the video camera to the computer. So I decided to also try filming with a laptop that has a camera attached. The idea was to carry it around with me everyday, and when the time came I would film and edit right there. I was using a laptop for mobility, but there were lots of limitations when I actually tried it out, like not being able to shoot dark places, lacking a zoom function, etc. Basically, you can’t shoot right away, because the computer takes time to start up. After a few days I considered switching to a digital video camera, but I decided to enjoy using an unfamiliar tool. In the end, I’m glad I was able to shoot with a fresh approach. Although in June it broke down once, so sometimes I shot with a digital video camera, and other times with the laptop.
Q: The length of the cuts have a fixed rhythm, but for some reason it didn’t feel that way.
MS: Even with the same fifteen-second length, sometimes it feels short, and other times long. I think it has something to do with immersion in visual experience. Probably it’s different depending on the person watching, but I think that to some extent it’s something we share in common. As I filmed, looked at the relationship of the cuts and judged things like the amount of information in the cut, or the level of impact. Usually feature films are made in order to immerse viewers, but in this piece I’m exploring whether you can compose how people get immersed and then come to their senses. Maybe it’s possible to create something close to a meditative experience. I’m aiming for a work that’s like a device that beckons the viewers’ recollections, like entering someplace deep through becoming aware of yourself watching.
(Compiled by Moriyama Seiya)
Interviewers: Moriyama Seiya, Kato Ema
Photography: Murayama Hideaki / Video: Murayama Hideaki / 2005-10-10