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“From All Corners” – Report from SXSW –

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©Ryusuke Okajima
SXSW Festival takes place every March in Austin, Texas This year, too, projects from Japanese creators were entered to compete in the world’s most prominent film festival. What was it like to attend SXSW as an entrant?
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©2018 pictures dept. All Rights Reserved.
“From All Corners”
Will be screened in theaters (domestic) in 2018
Starring: Yukio SHIMAZU (CARTON)
Director: Ryusuke OKAJIMA
Produced & Distribution: pictures dept.
Go to the Official Website: Click here

SXSW Nomination Announcement

A first for Japan

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©Ryusuke Okajima
“From All Corners” (93 min. “Tabisuru danbo-ru”), a documentary film that took cardboard picker & artist Fuyuki SHIMAZU two and a half years to produce, was officially entered in America’s top-class film festival, “South by Southwest (SXSW) 2018” in the Documentary Spotlight category. The Spotlight category highlights new documentary features from around the world and shines a light on particular documentaries.
Yuko SHIOMAKI of pictures dept. is the producer of the film, the executive producer behind “SAKE-BOMB” (2013) starring Gaku HAMADA, which was entered in SXSW, and is no newcomer to the SXSW scene. This is the second film of hers to be nominated for an award, and it is a first for a Japanese producer. Even during filming, she was the driving force behind the production team and a tireless advocate.

What is up cycling?

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©2018 pictures dept. All Rights Reserved.
The main idea behind this project is that SHIMAZU traveled through 27 countries picking up discarded cardboard, bringing together utility and design to create wallets to promote a new genre: “upcycling.” Taking something destined for the trash and giving it new life is a new social category that is garnering the world’s attention.
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©2018 pictures dept. All Rights Reserved.
In the movie, as part of the “Homecoming Project”, the artist takes a cardboard box that he found, which had Tokunoshima potatoes in it, transforms it into a wallet, and gifts that wallet to a potato farmer and the person who designed the box. On his journey, he meets all kinds of people who have something to do with the cardboard he finds. Why is he doing this? Why cardboard? What were the reactions of the people who received the wallets? Why are people around the world interested in his project? These are some questions addressed in the movie, a record of laughter and tears.

Using the EOS 5D Mark II as the main camera

I was the sole director, camera operator, editor, and grader for “From All Corners”. As a documentary, mobility was my focus, and during shooting, I kept my equipment to the absolute minimum. The soft and warm qualities of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II appealed to me, and was appropriate for this project, so that became my main camera. If I were to shoot the whole thing using a handheld, I knew the quality would suffer, so I went back and forth between tripod and handheld.

Offers from buyers all over the world

The SXSW is well-known as the first rung on the ladder for up-and-coming directors, and of the 136 projects entered, 49 were by first-time directors. As soon as the nominations were announced on the official website, Ms. Shiomaki and I were flooded with messages from buyers and other film festivals wanting to buy the rights to this movie. If an inexperienced director responds to these offers foolishly without any market know-how, they can get burned. It seems the battle between the producers and the buyers begins here.

Prior to departure

Tickets and lodging

The first thing we needed to do prior to departure was get our plane tickets and find a place to stay. All the hotels had inflated pricing. With our families and crew members numbering 7, we chose an Airbnb lodging that was close to the festival where everyone could stay.
The movie poster was created by Mr. Shimazu himself, who is also a designer. We were to enter the poster in a design competition, so Mr. Shimazu and Ms. Shiomaki spent the next few days discussing the design right until the day of departure. We needed to register ahead of time for our filmmaker passes that we’d be using during the festival, arrange our shooting schedule, fill out the questionnaire, and complete all the paperwork before we left.

The day before SXSW

Arrival in Austin

We finally arrived in Austin from Tokyo. There were no direct flights, so it took a whole day to get there. We picked up our rental car and arrived at our lodgings. We had rented a short-stay house. There was a trampoline, hammock, a piano and a guitar. Maybe it was the jet-lag or overexcitement, but no one could sleep that night and we had a lot of fun.

The first day of SXSW

Preparations

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©Ryusuke Okajima
Off to the convention center to pick up our filmmaker passes. It was like an information desk and served as the location for the tradeshow and speeches by famous presenters. The column in the hall was set up for participants to put up their flyers advertising their movies. We stuck our flyers for “From All Corners” on a pole.
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We got our badges from the large room where they were handing out all the badges. The film badges were blue, the music ones green, and the interactive ones orange. Going around town, you immediately knew which category people were in just by looking at their badges.

Distinguished persons and valuable opportunities

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Ms. Shiomaki and I put on our blue badges and headed off to the official filmmakers lunch to which we’d been invited. It was held at Troublemaker Studios, owned by director Robert Rodriguez. Climbing a low hill just outside the city, we came across the huge studio. We were fortunate enough to hear speeches by Rodriguez himself and other SXSW directors. There were many filmmakers at the lunch, so we spent some time exchanging information and promoting our movie. We were seated at the same table as the director T.G. Herrington and his wife, who is a producer. Herrington started out as an editor and has worked with David Fincher and Michel Gondry. Thanks to our team, we were grateful to have been able to participate in the same festival as some of the world’s most distinguished filmmakers.

Photo Session at Getty

After lunch, we met up with our crew, and the four of us went to the Getty Images Portrait Studio. We’re usually on the other side of the camera, so it was strange to be in front of the lens. The idea behind this is that when you become famous, you can look back on these and remember how they were cheering you on. Knowing this, I swore to myself “One day, I’ll take on a huge project!” You can buy the pictures for roughly USD315. I swore to be worthy of the price I paid.

The second day of SXSW

The excitement mounts

Even though it was March, the morning temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius. The mood of relaxation we had yesterday changed dramatically, and we were all anxious. This day, too, Ms. Shiomaki and I attended an official filmmakers brunch. There were some groups having their first screening today, and there were some who’d already had theirs. We were all in the same position, everyone a little excited and nervous, and it felt a little like just before your first big job interview. Once we’d finished eating and headed out to the screening, people wished us good luck, and knowing it was all about to begin, I started feeling nervous.

First day of screening

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Our film would be shown three times during the film festival. The first screening was at the ALAMO LAMAR theater, which was a bit outside the city center. There was already a crowd of people lined up, waiting for the movie. Finally it was time for the screening. Our film had been introduced in the “Filmmaker In Focus” section on the SXSW website a few weeks prior to the screening. That could have been why there were a lot of people who came to see the film. I sat at the very back of the theater, appreciating the audience’s reactions to the film. I can still remember vividly how everyone laughed and cried and showed so much emotion in response to the film.

Halfway through SXSW

Dealing with publicity

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After viewing “The Dawn Wall”, which was in the same Documentary Spotlight category as ours, we moved on to the Intercontinental Hotel PR room to conduct the interviews. It was a publicity deluge. Sylvia, who was in charge of our publicity, had handled PR for Sofia Coppola and Michel Gondry in the past, so it was very reassuring.
The interviews lasted approximately 15-20 minutes each. Our producer received many interview requests and requests for meetings with buyers. After the second screening, there were even more requests for interviews. Most likely it was a result of the combination of advance screenings and word-of-mouth reviews from people who’d seen the documentary.
Just before the end of the film festival and before the awards ceremony, there was a party exclusively for the filmmakers. There was a comedian hosting the event, and the hall was filled with laughter. The winners were all excited, and you could feel the weight of all the trophies.
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The final day of SXSW

Interest in the future of VR

Because we were participants in the festival, I didn’t get to watch most of the movies, but I did get to attend Ethan Hawke’s conference and participate in Terrence Malick’s VR “Together”, and in that short time, I had many wonderful experiences that will impact my film career.

Nearly a full house

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This day was our third screening. The final screening was at a large theater, the Alamo Ritz, in the middle of the city. We had a large audience this time as well, and most of the seats were filled. The audience response was positive, and when the movie ended, they said, “Thank you for coming to Austin.” The SXSW was full of firsts. I was inspired by the experience, and there’s no doubting it’s a major milestone in my filmmaking career.
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©Ryusuke Okajima