Dentsu staff won a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival!
Dentsu television commercial planner attracts attention as a film director on the world stage
To my amazement, a short film I directed called, And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool, was awarded the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Apparently, I am the first Japanese director to win this prize. I can hardly believe that such a fantastic thing has happened. I have dreamt of winning a film award since my student days, and now, since receiving the prize, I feel like I am actually in a dream.
Held in the U.S. state of Utah, the Sundance Film Festival showcases and judges ambitious and innovative films that push the boundaries of entertainment. It was founded by the famous actor and director Robert Redford, who starred in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as many others. Quentin Tarantino was discovered through the festival, and Damien Chazelle, who directed Whiplash and La La Land, also had a short film screened at the festival (although it did not win a Grand Jury Prize). I cannot believe my name will be among such great directors. I am really overwhelmed!
Makoto Nagahisa expressing his pleasure when receiving the prize
I didn’t make the film for a global audience—it’s just a little story that happened in Saitama
The film I directed is a drama based on an incident that actually happened in the city of Sayama in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, in 2012. About 400 goldfish had been released in the swimming pool of a junior high school, and a few days later, the culprits turned out to be four girls in the ninth grade. What were their motives? Had they just been overly mischievous? My film explores those questions as well as the relationship between the four girls, their family lives, and the kind of community they lived in. Saitama has a provincial character, so a lot of teenagers have a desire to escape from their towns there. That is what I focused on depicting in the film.
Scenes from ‘And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool’
A lady from Utah told me, ‘This is the story of my youth!’
Now I am receiving invitations to have the film screened at festivals around the world, including in the United States and Europe. When the film was shown at festivals, people of various ethnicities and ages told me how much they were impressed by it. But many people also said it was like “the story of my youth,” including an older woman from Utah, a 15-year old girl and a model from France. I was amazed every time I heard that, and I thought, “Really? You also felt the same thing?” I had intended to make a very domestic-oriented film, but those women were telling me that the theme was global. That opened my eyes. The lady from Utah had dreamt of going to Los Angeles, but never went. A French girl from Clermont-Ferrand never made it to Paris like she had hoped. In countless provincial towns all over the world, just like in Saitama, women felt the same desire to escape at some point in their lives.
Stories that come naturally to people living in Japan can reach a global audience
Together with other directors in the same program at the Sundance Film Festival
In Japan, if we do not travel outside the country, we may gradually forget that, yes, people around the world are the same as us. That is completely obvious, but I also realize it is an absolutely essential fact for us who are responsible for creating content in the future to remember. In other words, stories that come naturally to us in Japan really do have the potential to reach a global audience. The Japanese content business is narrowly focused on the domestic market, and while that may be good at times, as you would expect, it also has many drawbacks, which is a real shame. In my view, we need to have genuine confidence in stories created in Japan, and think about how to promote those stories internationally. That is really important, and all members of a production team should be aware of it, including the creators, producers and people in charge of the business side of things. By producing works with that approach, we can potentially increase earnings by multiple times. If we offer more content that is enjoyable for people around the world, wouldn’t that be fantastic?
What should I do next, and will it be in Japan or abroad?
A television commercial planner directing a film may seem a little odd, at first. Regardless of that, I work with a genuine desire to make interesting things. There is no rule that says I have to do the same thing. I want to direct films, as well as be involved in the character business, write song lyrics, and produce TV programs. Even an online drama would be okay. I would also like to be involved in games. Writing a manga comic series would be totally fantastic. Producing events is attractive, too. Making content for magazines and radio programs is also something I would like to do (but, of course, I do like film the most). Whether I do such things in Japan or abroad, either would be fine. I’m not intent on doing anything in particular, I just want to spend each day making content that people will enjoy, while always keeping an open mind and an open heart. Let me just mention a little bit about my work as a member of an advertising firm. Because priority goes to the product or service promoted in an ad, depending on the circumstances, the entertainment value of the ad sometimes gets left out. I am always very careful about that, and I try to create something that is entertaining.
Anyway, as I have said, I am really happy about the Grand Jury Prize, I intend to learn from it, and there are lots of things I would like to do next.
Makoto Nagahisa is a film director, television commercial planner and content planner2007 Joined Dentsu and assigned to marketing in the first year, then transferred to the Creative Planning Division 3 in the following year
Main works: “docomo dake” commercial for NTT Docomo, Inc.; “In Jelly” commercial for Morinaga & Company, Ltd.; promotional videos for recording artists T.M. Revolution and The Yellow Monkey; Elder Toguro Monster Strike game
2013 First Japanese to receive a medal in the Young Lions Film Competition at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity
2015 Received an award for best new copywriter from the Osaka Copywriters Club
2016 Received a Radio Gold award from the All Japan Radio & Television Commercial Confederation
2017 Awarded the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Creative Planning Division 3