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In New York, with Jason Fried (Producer) -----

The controversial documentary “Arakimentari”, about the celebrated and sometimes infamous Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki opened in February of 2005, and exposed America to the life of this complex artist whose work has influenced Japanese Culture. We met with Jason Fried, the producer of “Arakimentari” in a small Williamsburg café to get the scoop on the making of this film, and on his experience with working with Nobuyoshi Araki.

COOL: How did you meet with the director, Travis Klose?

JASON: Travis and I were roommates for seven months before the film started, and then for another year after. So Travis had the idea for the film, and that started the ball rolling.

C: About the making of “Arakimentari”, what was the process like?

J: It was really long. We went there the Summer of 2002. We shot for about a month and then we came back to NY and we edited the movie for almost a year and a half. It was interesting. We really didn’t have a defined story, and when we got there Araki said “Just follow me, watch what I do, and you’ll get it. You’ll understand and it will make sense”…So we did that. He was all over the place so it was really hard to follow him, but we did. Then we came back and we had a lot of footage of Araki, and interviews with all of these people around him, and Dido. We made a trailer, a really quick edit (about 3 minutes) for the website to try to raise money for it. That worked ok. Then we tried to figure out a structure for the film. That went on for a while, for a few months, just trying to figure it all out … and then the editing process…we went through 3 different editors, all Japanese, because the whole film is in Japanese. My Japanese consists of about 4 words. Travis is good at Japanese, but not good enough to edit this film. It went on, and went on…then we’d get it cut and we’d change it and move things around…It just went on for so long. Then we interviewed Bjork in New York and Richard Kern. Then Travis went back to Japan…and then once we had a rough cut, we interviewed DJ Crush who said he’d be interested in doing the soundtrack. So then we went back and forth with [DJ Crush] to do the soundtrack through email…We would email him an idea then he’d post the MP3 on a website and then we’d email him back and forth…So we created the entire track through email. We finished editing 4 days before the festival, and then we continued to edit after the festival. The “done, done” edit was finished on August 1st , 2004.

C: What did you think of Mr. Araki?

J: He treated us like his children in a way. Not over-the-top. When it was down to business, it was business. But he’s so generous in his nature. He would take us out to eat, he would take us to Karaoke. He really does have this Edo personality, where he just wants to like “Alright we’re done, let’s go spend our money, drink and be merry!” He’s very cool. There are very few people that I’ve met in my life that have that sort of mentality.

C: What is the main message of “Arakimentari”?

J: Well I think originally what we wanted to do was share our understanding or our experience of Araki, mainly with westerners. That was the original idea. To a Japanese audience, Araki is already known. Most of the stuff in the film a Japanese audience knows about. Someone who is Japanese would understand his pictures because of the context. Your Japanese, you might look at a bonded picture and think of Shibuya and make that correlation. But too a westerner they just see the picture, and they see a naked girl, and they see the lighting and that’s all they see. So our idea was to take his photographs and put them in context to a western audience so that they wouldn’t just see his pictures with a blind eye, but would actually understand the story and the emotion and everything that goes into these images that make them what they are. And I think it works. There’s a lot about Araki that we found people didn’t know about. When you look at his pictures again after seeing the film they take on a completely different light and it’s like putting life into them again. They are renewed…especially for a younger audience. For a younger audience, if they see the movie and then look at his pictures they are completely different than if you looked at them an hour before. Structurally we wanted to say “Here’s the dirty pornography” and then as the movie unfolds you start learning more about his personality and about why he is doing what he does, and that he actually has a sensitive side, and the story about his wife…All of a sudden he becomes this bigger, real person with emotions and you actually begin to have feeling for him. You get attached to his character. At the end you’ve seen the craziness and happiness, but you get a sense that there’s a part of him, inside of his center, that is sad and lonely.

In Tokyo, with Travis Klose (Director) -----

We met with Travis in Koenji, a district in Tokyo, where he established the base of activity for the production of “Arakimentari”. He showed up with Masa, the associate producer of the film. At first he greeted us with a smile, saying “How do you do?” in Japanese. He had a hangover and told us that he loves Japanese culture. The café they invite me to had an atmosphere like one found in New York’s East Village. Just before the film’s opening to the public on March 5th, they experienced daily interviews from all of the different media. He speaks a little Japanese. As far as he can answer, he had answered in Japanese.

COOL: Could you tell us what got you first interested in filmmaking and made you come up with the idea for making “Arakimentari”.

TRAVIS: I first became interested in film about 7 or 8 years ago. Originally I wanted to make music. After studying music at college, I found that film was more interesting. It combined music, images, story, sound and other elements into a single work of art
I first learned of Araki when I saw the book “Tokyo Lucky Hall”. In it there were black and white photos of the sex world in Kabuki-cho (Tokyo). They were a little dark and seedy. I felt it was very curious. I couldn’t understand why it was considered art.
I hadn’t thought of making a documentary, but I decided I wanted to make a documentary in Japan using this Japanese photographer. I thought Araki’s subject matter would be interesting -- Sex in Tokyo. I wanted to understand for myself what art was, and I got a better understanding of art though making the documentary.
The film is more about who Araki is than a historical documentation of his life and work. I didn’t want to be like “in 19xx Araki made this”, etc…It’s more about Araki as a person and artist and his working method, etc.

C: What was your first impression of Tokyo?

T: Comfortable. I was really comfortable in Japan, not too fast-paced, very relaxing for me. Japan was comfortable, but also very stimulating.

C: Were you able to film whatever you wanted?

T: Yes. Originally Araki was a little nervous about letting us film because he had a bad experience with another foreign film crew. So we were only promised two days in order to film Araki. But finally I ended up having 10 days of time to film him. I got most of what I wanted and needed during those 10 days.
I had to come back though a year and a half after to film. We realized we wanted or needed to have a few things. But they were not of Araki. They were of other stuff in Tokyo.
I was allowed to shoot almost whatever I wanted. Naked models and so on were no problem. But we couldn’t film in Araki’s house. Araki’s private life is always off limits to people filming him.
Araki also wanted to help the crew once he trusted them. He tried to get things set up well before filming, so everything would be ready for them to shoot and things would go smoothly.

C: You made your directorial debut with “Arakimentari”. Making a film as a director, were there some different things from your previous experiences making films?

T: Before everything else, this was my first experience in making a documentary.
When I went to the film school in New York I had done some small film projects before. Making documentary was very different from what I had been used to.
Usually when making a film, you think in terms of narrative and story at first. To create the narrative and then think about how to film it, what you will need… With a documentary, you start with an idea and it expands outward. You film lots of stuff and end up with lots of footage have to take that and edit it together to make it into a story and narrative.

I enjoyed making the film but it was very difficult. I changed as a person and learned a lot from Araki.

C: Did you have trouble making “Arakimentari”?

T: Trouble? A lot. We had almost no money, so it was really hard to do what we wanted to do sometimes. At first I was planning to edit the movie myself.
I thought I had enough knowledge of Japanese to be able to figure out the main idea of what people were saying on film and be able to edit it together. But soon I realized my Japanese wasn’t good enough to edit things together in a way that still made sense, so I would need to find someone else to edit or help edit. But I didn’t have any money to pay someone.
The three main people making the film were all sharing one “Gaijin House” room. Two of them on the bed and one (me) on the futon on the floor. The other two guys liked the room to be cool, so they often had the window open…. I was very cold at night.

C: What did Araki think about “Arakimentari”?

T: He liked it. He said he was very lucky.

C: What will your next project be?

T: “Yakuzamentari”. I’m trying to talk to Shiina Ringo about making a film. It will be similar to “Pink Floyd The Wall” which is filmed about one rock and roll music band. But I’m thinking about making a film about Shiina Ringo and her music, which will be a fictional story about a documentary crew who comes to Japan to make a documentary about Yakuza. It will be fictional, but using documentary techniques, so it will look like it is actually a documentary.

C: Besides filmmaking, what kind of things do you want to try in the future?

T: For me, filmmaking is not really a job. I enjoy having a life where I am making things, making art and like as an artistic process. I really like taking pictures too. But I don’t think I could be a photographer. But I want a life filled with making artistic products film, music, photos, etc.

Travis Klose graduated at New York University Tisch School of The Arts with a major in Film & Television. He has played an active part in the making of the films "Spider-Man" (02/Director: Sam Raimi) and Uma Thurman's “Hysterical Blindness” (02/Director: Mira Nair) as a cameraman and a location assistant.

Jason Fried has been a pioneer in the world of an interactive computer design. He participated as a producer and soundman for “Arakimentari”. Looking to make his debut as a film director, he is planning to make a documentary film called "Mass Incarceration" in the United States now.

text by Sayako MAEDA(Jason), Mieko SAI(Travis)
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