by Mara Norman
Cinema Adrift: There’s been a five year gap since your last film, how much of that was spent on Close-Knit?
Naoko Ogigami: I gave birth to twins. After that I tried, but it was really hard to write a script. It was very stressful.
CA: You had to get working again?
NO: Nobody helped, or gave me money.
CA: So you were raising your twins and then trying to write?
NO: Well raising a kid was another part. I wrote five scripts in these five years, but nothing happened. They didn’t work.
CA: The budgets are small but that allows you to write the films you want to write.
NO: Very much so.
CA: We’re a big fan of your film Toilet, would you ever work in English again?
CA: I watched an interview where you talked about seeing the process of knitting, was that where the first idea [for Close-Knit] grew?
NO: Not really. Well, that’s the second part and then the first part was I read an article in the newspaper about a transgender woman when she was 14 years old. She told her mother that she wanted to have boobs and her mother accepted him and what he is so she made fake boobs for him and that’s the inspiration. And then I saw that gay couple knitting together in the photos.
CA: So is that how the seed grew? Out of five scripts you wrote was this the most recent?
CA: How are audiences responding to the film in Japan.
NO: In the city I got a very good reaction but in the countryside not so many people went out to the theater.
CA: Do you live out in the city?
NO: It’s still treated as a topic that doesn’t exists, transgender, in the countryside in Japan. They just kind of ignore it.
CA: So this is kind of bringing it to light hopefully.
CA: Are you taking the film to other places around the United States? Other festivals?
NO: Yeah, we went to Berlin and Udine Far East festival. And Israel.
CA: As a woman has it been difficult in Japan to be a director?
NO: Not really. But I feel really uncomfortable when journalists categorize me as a female filmmaker. It feels very uncomfortable [the labeling].
CA: How did you know you wanted to do film?
NO: Originally in Japan I studied still photos. But then I went to USC to study film. In the beginning I had no idea about becoming a director. But in the mandatory writing classes I didn’t think it was imaginable for me to write a script but I happen to have a really good professor who guided me really well. Once I was able to write that’s where I found I wanted to direct.
CA: I’m sure it’s fulfilling to have your own idea and then as you’re writing knowing how you might direct it. Do you usually plan out all your shots?
CA: As that’s happening do you get more insight or does the story stay the same for the most part?
NO: Usually stick to the script.
CA: Do you have a favorite film of yours?
NO: This one, of course.
CA: How long was the process from finishing the script to the completed film?
NO: Once I finished the script the producer tried to get the money together and that takes a long time. And when we started preparing it was November and when we started shooting it was March. We finished everything up in July, so one and a half years.
CA: Do you work closely with the editor?
NO: Very much. We all work together, always. So I always know what he’s doing. We trust each other.
CA: Do you usually work with the same editor?
NO: What’s your favorite filmmaker?
CA: I like Cassavetes of course. And I like Paul Thomas Anderson.
NO: Me too! I like his work.
CA: Inherent Vice, that last one was very good.
NO: I haven’t seen it.
CA: I recommend it.
NO: Who was in it?
CA: Joaquin Phoenix.
NO: I see.
CA: We have a hard time getting Japanese films in America sometimes. That’s why they started the film festival in Denver, it just seems harder to get distribution in America. Do you have these problems with distribution?
NO: Yes very much. Well I thought American, not everybody, they don’t want to read subtitles. That’s what I heard. Is it true?
CA: I don’t think so. I work in a movie theater and we show a lot of foreign films, I think people want that. I think it’s a myth. That’s just my opinion, I don’t know. I think people want to experience art in whatever way they can.
NO: In America it’s fine but in Europe it’s more accepting of Asian cinema. Ten years ago I went to the Sundance Film Festival but it’s totally an American film festival and I felt like an outsider.
CA: How about you, who are your favorite directors? Your biggest influences.
NO: I like the Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. He’s my favorite. I watched Jarmusch new film.
CA: Paterson, that was one of my favorites last year.
NO: I’m a big fan of him.
NO: Some people told me my films were like…The Darjeeling Limited director
CA: Wes Anderson?}
CA: Who I like but I think your films have more feeling. Everyone wants to box things in sometimes rather than just experiencing it.
NO: Well I really Jarmusch, more like an independent filmmaker. I don’t watch Hollywood films that much.
CA: I do a little but not a lot.
NO: In the 90s when I was in USC when there were so many independent films from New York, I feel like now not as much independent film is coming from the states. It’s sad isn’t it?
CA: I think it’s the same thing with the money.
NO: Right and more TV shows. Maybe.
CA: That’s what I don’t understand because you would think with cameras there would be better movies being made but do you shoot always on film?
NO: I used to shoot on film but not now. If I can I would want to shoot on film but nobody allows that.
Thanks to Emma Griffiths for coordinating the interviews.