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Publicity & behind-the-scenes photographer on a movie: two weeks in Myanmar | Photographer in Tokyo, Japan
Shooting behind the scenes on Japanese movie in Myanmar
Shooting behind the scenes on Japanese movie in Myanmar

Publicity & behind-the-scenes photographer on a movie: two weeks in Myanmar

Now the movie triptych I worked on two parts of has premiered, I can post some of the shots I took working as the publicity and behind-the-scenes photographer. This article covers the second movie in the series, titled ‘Hekishu’, directed by Daishi Matsunaga and starring Hiroki Hasegawa.

When the lights went up in Screen 7 of the Toho Cinema in Roppongi Hills a few weeks ago, after the premiere of the 2018 Tokyo International Film Festival’s “Asian Three-Fold Mirror” movie triptych, I had to jolt myself back from the sights and sounds of Yangon into the reality of an October night in Tokyo. It’s one thing to go and watch a movie as a customer, a movie that immerses thoroughly you in its world. Another to be transported back to the world you lived for two weeks as crew and be taken inside the story you’d previously seen only from the outside.

Asian Three-Fold Mirror is the first proper feature-film I’ve worked on. In the past I’ve worked as stills photographer on various small-scale productions, commercials and corporate films. But never a theatrical feature. Seeing the production process, being part of it, then seeing the final film on the big screen has been a truly inspirational and life-changing experience. By the time the premiere had ended, I’d seen my name roll past twice in the credits. Which was a bit trippy, to be honest. Up until then, I’d never had my name in the end credits of any movie. To hit two home-runs in one night felt pretty amazing.

It began back on a snowy February morning in Tokyo. I’d be engaged by a producer friend of mine to shoot stills on a short film being made in the city by an Indonesian director. Halfway through that first day, I was introduced to the senior producer of that movie and found out it was part of a triptych, with Part3 still yet to be filmed. By the end of the three-day shoot, I was asked if (providing everything could be worked out) I’d like to go to Myanmar the following month to shoot on the last movie in the series.

See a trailer for the 2018 ‘Asian Three Fold Mirror “Journey” here….

I was on my way to Myanmar…

Everything did work out and on the 18th March I boarded a flight from Tokyo to Yangon, via Bangkok, to join the crew on location there.

It was my first trip to Myanmar. Quite a few of the Japanese crew I knew, some I didn’t. On arriving in Yangon, the truly international nature of the crew became clear: Japanese and Myanmar production team, Chinese camera crew, local riggers, local lighting crew, Japanese sound team and me.

Our cast was a Japanese and local affair, with Hiroki Hasegawa (of Shin Godzilla fame) heading up the bill as ‘Suzuki-san’, a Japanese transport development professional living in Myanmar and charged with upgrading the railways.

Director, Daishi Matsunaga, I’d sort of heard of before. Hasegawa-san of course I’d heard of and seen in various dramas. My youngest son, Charlie, is a massive fan of Shin Godzilla. Hasegawa-san was an almost nightly feature in our living-room as Charlie had learned how to use the hard-disk video recorder we have by recording Shin Godzilla. And he played it almost every day.

This is the first of a few articles I intend to write and illustrate with photos, about the trip to Myanmar and my work on the other movie in Tokyo. It’s not intended to be a sprawling, in-depth novel about the movie. The words here are just a little context for the photos I want to show you.

…and I shot a lot of photos. Just over 2800 in the seven days of the B-roll shooting and main production, which was a five day shoot.

Shooting, sorting & how the pics were used

When I returned from Myanmar, I gave the staff at Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) a set of all the JPEGs. They chose specific stills for use in the publicity of the movie, design of the poster and flyers for the movie. 90% of the ones they chose are what I have posted in the galleries below. These are their favourites. Some of them are favourites of mine too. But I have many more of my own personal favourites. Pictures featuring the cast and crew have to be cleared by a team of people and the actors’ agents. Some of my personal faves I am getting cleared and I’ll show you those here sometime in the near future.

Shooting stills on a movie is a lot of fun. But, as with a lot of the crew and the cast, there is a lot of time spent waiting around for something to happen or something to be set up. Then, when things roll into action, it all happens fast and often you don’t get too many chances to get the shot. So you have to shoot at any and every opportunity: the rehearsal takes, the real takes, during downtime when you see something interesting, in the moments off-camera, when you have a member of the cast to take to one side and shoot.

The movie poster for this year’s production is on the right. The top and last photos were shot by me.

A little about the shooting…

Shooting when there is sound being recorded is obviously a challenge and something I used to do in the music recording studio (during my time in the music business) with a blimp (a soundproof housing for the camera). These days, mirrorless cameras have made shooting on set a lot easier as they are to all intents and purposes silent.

On this assignment, for the production stills, behind-the-scenes and the publicity stills, I took a variety of cameras: my Nikon D800e, Hasselblad H4D, a Fuji X100S and a Hasselblad X1D-50c, which was very graciously loaned to me by Hasselblad Japan.

Here, then, are a few behind-the-scenes shots and some of the publicity stills of the cast that were used in the promotion of the movie. Future posts will concentrate more on each of the locations we shot in and my use of the Hasselblad X1D camera.