Tokyo Neon ‘Shokunin’ talks about his passion for the art
5th May 2019 by Will Stewart
Wicked use of colour in this short collaboration between PEN Magazine and Poweredby.Tokyo, one of a series of films about Japanese ‘shokunin’. This one is a fun piece about a Tokyo neon sign artisan in Tokyo. Loving the cheeky interview quotes from a man who clearly loves his work, and slightly left-field artistic approach. Definitely going to check out the others in the series soon.
Director Artem Skiy was kind enough to answer a few questions about his film, Urban Glow. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please give me some background on yourself as a film maker, and how you got into the industry. Your vimeo page says Tokyo/Vancouver- those places are a long way from each other, both physically and culturally! What’s brought you to these two cities?
I was born in Russia and immigrated to Canada when I was 16. I was always interested in film but never thought of it as a serious career choice, but to be fair I didn’t really think of any career much at all. In my early 20s I moved to Tokyo for a year with a Working Holiday visa and I fell in love with the place, so even after my visa ran out I kept coming back there as much as I could. At 27 I finally tried to figure out some kind of career, film director was a risky business, so I chose to become a visual effects artist. On the side I kept shooting my own little videos for fun. In Tokyo I got in touch with some creative people and managed to get a couple of paid video projects, it wasn’t much at all but it was enough to get me excited at the prospect that someday I could potentially make a living as film maker. I quit VFX, moved to Tokyo and started hustling to get any film jobs I could. Few years later and I’m still here 🙂
MadeGood – Urban Glow is visually stunning portrait of a Tokyo Neon shokunin, but also the artisan being interviewed is a real character- how did you find him? Did you interview him yourself, or work with a translator?
These 4 shokunin films are a project by a blog/production house – poweredby.Tokyo. We had a producer and a creative director to help with the process of picking the right people to feature. Our producer/translator was interviewing while I was shooting. Later I got the full translated transcript of the interview and we picked the interesting moments to assemble a little story in the edit.
MadeGood – Your credited as under Director, DOP, Editor, Colourist and Visual Effects- that’s quite a lot! Please tell me a bit about your process for making this film in particular. Obviously the shokunin’s workshop must have been a visual treat, but you really made the most of it. How did you go about that?
The shokunin’s workshop is already pretty cool but we tried to think what else we could add to the film to make it pop more. What would Tokyo’s neon signs represent in the world? It’s nightlife, alcohol, girls, dirty streets, dark alleys etc. That was the thought process there. We got a beautiful girl, found some dark alley and put some coloured gels on battery lights and pretended that it was Tokyo neon. I wanted to find some gangsta music for this as well, and this track in particular has a super dope female rap break in the middle, it was just too perfect! As for visual effects, I actually had some bigger plans than what we could actually make with that super tiny budget. I’ll send you the picture of how we did that floating over the city shot, it’ll make you laugh.
MadeGood – There’s a lot of brand and fashion films on your vimeo account, and this is a little more documentary. What kind of work do you prefer to make, and why?
As much as I love documentaries for consumption, it’s not really my thing as a filmmaker. I get bored quite easily, so shorter format is much more appealing to me.
MadeGood – What are you working next?
I’ve got so many personal projects on my hard drives from years ago that I’m finally finding time to get around to. Also there are few commercial projects that are in various stages or pre and post production. But to be honest my main goal is to try not to burn myself out too much. I don’t want this film making thing to turn into another job, I want to keep being excited about it 🙂
MadeGood – Nice one Artem! Good luck getting your projects finished, and don’t lose that enthusiasm.