If you don’t make comedies seriously, they’re not funny at all

Topics on the appeal of monsters, Japanese politicians, the casting of two films, the collaboration with Mark Schilling, the Japanese film industry, and more

Satoshi Miki started out as a writer for popular TV variety shows, some of which are legendary in Japan. He then started directing stage plays and further expanded into TV series and films. His directing style has a good and suave sense of humor in which seemingly unnecessary plot and dialogue are developed and interwoven into a story, making them an integral part of the story by the way. His first film “In the Pool” (’05) and his second film “The Turtle Swim Fast” were released in 2005 consecutively. Two of his films are also in theaters in 2022, “What to Do With Dead Monsters” and his “Convenience Story” with Mark Schilling.

Over the two screenings of Fantasia, we chatted with him about the appeal of monster movies, Japanese politicians, the cast of both films, the collaboration with Mark Schilling, the Japanese film industry, and more.

Why do you think people still like to watch monster movies?

Usually in these films you see people fighting monsters, but in my films you see what happens when the monsters are defeated, which is why I think people are interested in my films.

“What about a dead monster?” shows that Japanese politicians only care about themselves and their careers. Is this your true opinion of them?

When I started making this film, it was actually after the Fukushima disaster, and recently we had the Covid crisis. I did apologize a little bit when I saw them on TV at the time, but I really had a stupid feeling like they hadn’t even tried. Do Greek politicians do the same?

Yes. (Laughter) I think most politicians are more or less the same.

The movie contains the love triangle between Arata, Yukino and Masahiko. Why did you choose to include such an element in a monster movie?

I thought it would be more interesting, I just recently read The Great Gatsby and it inspired me to incorporate it into my script.

Can you tell us more about the cast of Yamada Ryosuke in the movie?

The first reason I chose Ryosuke Yamada is because he doesn’t have a particularly strong or manly image, he’s facing a dire situation in this film, and we love that type of association with Japan. For example, if you had a really light-hearted situation and you let Bruce Willis handle it, you’d get a similar vibe, wouldn’t you? (laughter)

“What About Dead Monsters?” and “Convenience Store” are largely different films in scale, production, and style. Is it difficult to transition from one to the other?

Both have the same foundation, both comedy, but comedy is presented in a different way. I have no difficulty here, and no confusion. I did it separately, you know, the feature films have both comedy and plot, which makes them interesting, and I think Convenience Store does the same. To me, it’s all the same, there’s not much difference between them.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with Mark Schilling on the “Convenience Store” script?

As you know, Mark Schilling is American and he has a really unique perspective on Japanese convenience stores that the Japanese don’t see. When we look at it, we don’t see the same weirdness he does, and that’s what we’re trying to incorporate in the movie.

Was Narita Ryo’s character Kato in the movie inspired by someone in the industry you really knew?

He’s similar to me in some ways, and I also write the script, so I wanted to show some of the hard work through him.

What is your purpose in film vision?

I wanted it to have the visual style of old movies, I was especially inspired by 50s noir. For example, in the first scene, we see what might have been shot 60 years ago.

Do you think comedy is the ideal medium for social commentary in film?

Yes. If you don’t make comedies seriously, they’re not funny at all. What I really love about comedy is what you carry with you after you watch the movie.

Did you ever want to make a real drama?

Of course, that was my goal from the beginning, to make a very dramatic film.

Can you tell us more about the casting of Convenience Story?

At first, I was looking for someone who could take part in a movie with slices of life in ordinary situations. Regarding Atsuko Maeda, I chose her because I wanted someone who the audience would want to know about them, whether they were dead or alive. Atsuko Maeda is an idol, she has this attitude, she might die and you won’t know. Since you’re Greek, you’ll understand that I want someone who feels like hell.

To recap, since Moment Swamp is one of my favorite Japanese movies, can you tell us where this crazy movie idea came from?

When I was young, we often had to fill swamps in order to build buildings. Sometimes when we do this, huge fish appear. That’s where the idea came from (laughter).

How do you feel about the current Japanese film industry?

I’m sure that most ordinary people go to ordinary movies and get ordinary feelings, such as being moved. So all these ordinary movies make a lot of money, and I think it’s because of these ordinary movies that I can make such weird movies.

But what is the audience’s reaction to your films in general?

Half love and half hate, that’s what makes me happiest.

Are you currently working on any projects?

I do not. But when I get a novel inspiration, I’ll make another movie. Maybe if the Greeks start saying good things about my film, I’ll be able to make a new one (laughter)

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