Ryuugo Nakamura ● Born in 1996 in Okinawa Prefecture. He begun his film career around the 3rd grade, making movies on a home video camcorder, and also trying his hand at scriptwriting and film screenings. During junior high school, he submitted his own self-written script, "GOAT-WALKING," to the Okinawa Tourism Drama Competition 2009 and it was selected to be turned into a feature short film with the help of professional filmmakers. That feature created quite a buzz when it was nominated for the 2010 Short Shorts Film Festival. The sequel, "The Catcher on the Shore," Nakamura's first full length movie and what he considers his first professional film, was screened the same year in theaters across Japan. In high school, he won the Takeshi Prize in a Japanese TV show, "WORLD GREAT TV" video contest. Afterwords, he continued on to study at Keio University's SFC Campus. Disturbed and shocked by the reactions of those around him regarding Okinawa, he decided to create his most recent work, "Girl of the Sea.” It is currently scheduled for public release during February of 2016.
I Started Making Movies Just Messing and Playing Around. I Couldn't Pass Up a Chance to Work With Professionals
My story is not that of a movie obsessed childhood filled exclusively with films. When I was in my 3rd year of elementary school, my younger self, half in jest, began filming with the kids in my neighborhood with a camcorder lying around at home. Still, this is what first set me on the path of a film director. I started out just filming dog chases and pranks but soon graduated to using a script and started editing as well. Every weekend, I'd shoot a work lasting five to 10 minutes or so.
The recordings I made were only meant to be viewed by ourselves or maybe our families, but eventually we rented out a community center and had film screenings. These screenings were free but we prepared a collection box for donations. At best, maybe 100 people came out to view my films. I don't remember the specifics of how much money we collected but I do recall it being a fairly good amount, which we then put back into making my next work. That being said, I do have a feeling I was still just playing around at that point. I didn't feel like I was actually "making film.”
Even after entering junior high school, I was still able to continue recording and making films. One day, someone involved in the Okinawa film industry approached me and proposed, "Why don't you try submitting to the Okinawa Tourism Drama Competition?" Since elementary school, I had often gone to observe professional film makers who had film sites in Okinawa. Plus, I'd borrow cameras and equipment from TV studios and production companies so I guess those involved in Okinawa's film scene slowly began to recognize my face.
The gist of the competition was that at first, people would submit their scripts and only the winner would have their work made into a movie with the help of professionals. This was not to say that I planned on becoming a film director, but I felt it would be cool to just once try making a movie with professionals so I figured, "This is my chance!" and wrote a script in 30 minutes. I won without a problem and what I made at that time was a short film of 10 minutes or so called "GOAT-WALKING."
While writing the script, I was thinking that if I get the chance to work with the professionals, I'd like to do something I definitely couldn't accomplish by myself. From that the thought popped into my head, "That's it- let's use an animal!" I thought that filming an animal who could act was part of a film professional's repertoire. Actually, this goat movie star didn't exist yet so we had to go around to goat sheds all over Okinawa and hold auditions for goats…(laughs).
When I was making movies with my friends, almost everything always proceeded according to my opinions as the director, but that time I was working with industry professionals. In fact, in the very beginning I was pretty timid. However, I figured this was a once in a lifetime chance to make a movie with professionals so in order to not kick myself later, I made an effort to clearly express my vision. For example, there were times when the cameraman argued, "Usually we don't film with this sort of composition," but I entreated him, "Please give it a try first." It resulted in a good recording so they adopted my composition.
"GOAT-WALKING" was later nominated for the Short Shorts Film Festival, where it caught the eye of a famous professional producer and led to me making a feature length sequel. That sequel is "The Catcher on the Shore." It wasn't made with a contest in mind- from the start it was meant for commercial purpose. But typical me, my only reaction was the excitement of, "Yes! I get to make another movie!,” "It's a full length feature this time!" without the faintest inkling that I was being promoted to becoming a professional director. Of course, there were all sorts of difficulties. But, above all, I was just overjoyed that lots of people would be viewing my work.
The producer was someone who took both business and education seriously and I also was of the opinion that I could make the movie without neglecting my studies. So my life at that time consisted of attending meetings, doing interviews and filming after my classes were finished on weekdays, then from 10 at night to about two in the morning getting individual tutoring at cram school, going home, and getting up the same morning to attend school the next day. I'm really thankful for my parents who never once objected to my film-making and all the support I received from the people around me.
This production was screened not only within the prefecture, but all over Japan and even created a stir around Asian countries such as China and South Korea. Therefore, I was exposed to all sorts of "voices" regarding my film.
"Was this seriously made by a junior high school student?" "It must have really been filmed by an adult." These sorts of voices had a strong presence amongst the accolades. It got to the point that I couldn't bear the situation any longer and after entering high school, I lost my drive to make films.
I Want to Express How I Feel! That's When I Realized- I'm a Filmmaker After All
I thought I should expand my horizons outside of Okinawa when it was time to go to university and I chose the Faculty of Environment and Information at Keio University's Shonan Fujisawa Campus. One of the major reasons I chose it was that the campus is near the sea.
Even after that, my desire to make films continued to lay dormant and I thought it would be nice to just enjoy a normal university life. However, a single day turned my feelings on its head. It was the 23rd of June during my freshman year. That day was Okinawa Memorial Day, the day the war in Okinawa came to an end. This is a public holiday in Okinawa where the schools are closed and special features about peace are aired on TV. It is a day where everyone comes together to consider the concept of peace. But in the Kanto region, it's a weekday- school is in session, everyone goes about their business as usual. There are many people who don't even know it's Okinawa Memorial Day to begin with.
After I came to Kanto, I've had friends say to me, "I don't really understand the problem with [American military] bases in Okinawa" and once again I've been shocked, thinking, "Wow, so these people don't know." It doesn't mean I was saddened or angry or anything. I was just simply taken aback at suddenly experiencing this difference in perception, this gap in culture.
Even though it happened in the same country, outside of Okinawa, there are many people who don't know the real state of things here. I thought that if that's the case, why not let them know myself? But once I considered how to go about it, I realized the only tool I have in my arsenal is, well, movies.
It was on that day that I decided to make a new film. I then quickly contacted other classmates who had come to the Kanto region from Okinawa. Just like me, everyone else had experienced this "gap" and felt as shocked as I had, so they provided great cooperation in making this film. The current movie deals with the theme of military base relocation in Okinawa, but I didn't want to convey a simple opinion of "For" or “Against." For Okinawan youth, the military bases all around them are a matter of course. There are many things to consider- it's not something from which an easy conclusion can be drawn. Therefore, in my current film, "Girl of the Sea," I'd like to take a stab at displaying the state of today's Okinawa just as it is. That, and to urge everyone to come together in worrying about this state. I believed that making the film with only university students from Okinawa was significant to achieving that goal.
We've currently finished shooting and editing, and trying different ways of promoting the film through trial and error. Due to the delicate nature of the base relocation theme, securing sponsors from companies has been difficult, so we've also been collecting funds via crowd funding ※. Creating posters and tickets, making the rounds with cold calls, negotiations with theaters- we've done all of it in-house. Through all of this work unrelated to my job as “the director,” I've been able to see that there are still all sorts of new and enjoyable things out there I've yet to discover. So instead of rigidly adhering to my role as director, I think I'd like to be able to send out my feelers and find whatever's out there to enjoy. ※ A method to connect innovators and inventors who have an idea for a product or work with the funding they need for its creation. Ideas are displayed publicly through the internet, pitched, and funds are provided by the people who see it and are interested in funding it.
- Q1. What are your hobbies outside of film?
- - Music. I especially like reggae- I took a trip to Jamaica right after I was admitted to university.
- Q2. What do you look for in the opposite sex?
- - The type of person who will stand beside me, cheering me on.
- Q3. What is your treasure?
- - All the experiences I've had up until now with filmmaking, including the various short works I shot with my friends.
- Q4. What is your favorite phrase?
- - "Don't Worry, Be Happy” ♪. I've been in the habit of saying it since forever ago. I think it's thanks to this very phrase that I was able to see this latest production to the end.
- Q5. How do you relax?
- - I go to the beach. Whenever I have writer's block with a scenario or something bad has happened, I go look out at the sea.
- Q6. What is something you've recently started doing?
- - I haven't really checked out the works of other film-makers until now, but recently I've been making a habit of watching one movie every week.
- Q7. What is one unique thing about your personality?
- - Maybe the fact that I'm strong-willed and stick to my guns? I could never even see eye-to-eye with school regulations, and just accepting things blindly is difficult for me (laughs).
- Q8. What Okinawan cuisine do you recommend?
- - It's a drink, not a food but I recommend "root beer.” Beer is in the name, but it's actually a non-alcoholic, carbonated beverage. It has this medicinal herb-y taste you feel like you've had somewhere before and a quirky flavor. I've even enjoyed having it sent to my movie set a few times.
- Q9. What is something you never fail to do for your own self-care?
- - I clean my room once every two days. I want to keep my surroundings tidy. Plus, whenever I clean, it's a way to clear and reset my mind so I can come out feeling refreshed.
- Q10. What would you like to try doing once in your life?
- - I'd like to try to come across a dugong in the wild. Then, you see, I would want film it myself.
- - Wake up. Answer interview request and publicity staff emails.
- - Hang the laundry up to dry, get dressed, and eat breakfast.
- - Go to school on my motorbike.
- - Attend my morning classes.
- - Eat a boxed lunch I buy at the university.
- - Go back home after my afternoon classes are done. After bringing in the laundry, take a train into the city.
- - Hold a planning session with the publicity staff. If there is no planning session, do an interview.
- - Have dinner with the publicity staff at a family diner in the city.
- - Go home and take a bath.
- - Write for my serial column and prep materials.
- - Go to sleep.
- - Wake up. On sunny days I throw open all the windows and bathe in the breeze.
- - Make and eat breakfast at home.
- - Do all the cleaning that can only be done on days off, like airing the futons.
- - Take the train into the city. Brainstorm about PR and promotion plans with the publicity staff while eating lunch.
- - Go home and ride my motorbike to my part time job.
- - Work part time at a restaurant serving Okinawan cuisine in Fujisawa City.
- - Get out of work and eat dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant.
- - Go home. Take a bath and answer emails for as long as it takes for the laundry to be done.
- - Hang the laundry to dry, and go to bed.