since they wanted to work primarily in Japanese TV and film. The crew though all spoke English because they were interested in international film production.
Chris added though, "Yumi Endo has been taking English lessons and has reached an advanced level, so she's writing me a long letter in English now…I can't wait to read it!"
I then asked Chris about what it was like directing a film with a cast that spoke a different language. Though there was very little on-screen dialogue, his producer/translator Megumi Kano was incredibly sensitive, patient, and thorough, he said. "We rehearsed the dialogue scenes just like any other film, but I find that the actor's eyes are the most important thing anyway." Despite the differences in language, Chris was able to communicate by giving specific notes and understanding the intonations and subtleties. "Amazingly, it seemed to work."
Most of the time they exchanged gentle smiles in between the translator's pauses and then Chris would give them a word of encouragement. "Even though I couldn't speak to them (the cast) in Japanese, I can tell what kind of people they are and how to encourage them in the right direction for the different scenes," Chris said.
|>> "We rehearsed the dialogue scenes just like any other film, but I find that the actor's eyes are the most important thing..."
> FILMING ON LOCATION
The on location filming took about ten days with a few extra days with Chris going around with one crew member to get city-shots and cut-aways. The budget was about $5,000, including plane tickets, housing, food, etc.
A typical day involved waking up around 6am and walking ten minutes to the train station carrying three heavy bags of film equipment and a boom microphone. Chris would then meet up with the mostly college-aged volunteer crew at the Shinjuku Starbucks and then spent the next eight hours filming. Filming included walking around getting guerilla shots or riding the trains while waiting for the right timing.
Since it was mostly exteriors, the film crew was usually done when the sun went down and they would eat some rice balls and pack it up for the night. Then the key crew and him would go over the footage and prepare for the next day until about midnight.
The famous Shibuya crossing
Chris commented, "It sounds grueling and monotonous, but several of the crew members cried when the shoot was over because they'd grown to love working with each other."
Specifically for the train scenes, eight people would buy the cheapest ticket and then ride the Keio-Inokashira line all day, back and forth without exiting the stations. Since the camera was small, they hid it under a jacket each time the train stopped. When the train was moving, they kept the camera low and "naturally" blocked-off a corner of the train car so that real passengers wouldn't want to sit there.
Since it wasn't too crowded between 9am and 4pm they would crowd the frame with extras and crew to make it appear packed. At the end of the day, they would exit the station but since their tickets had expired, they ran into problems. Sometimes Chris played the "dumb foreigner" and the ticket-taker would usually let them go. To help the process, Chris added, "Sometimes the Japanese crew even pretended not to speak Japanese."
Sae Takenaka on the JR
Besides ticket problems, the hardest scene to shoot also involved a train. This takes place in the long version of DOKI DOKI and occurs when Yumi has to desperately run to the train station. They shot about 20 takes of her running full speed up to a train tracks crossing-guard so that the wooden arms close right in front of her. "By about the fifth take she wasn't acting exhausted – she was," said Chris. "But she never complained, as she's a complete professional and believed in the project."
There were other train settings in the film. The opening scenes were shot at Shindaita station platform on the Keio-Inokashira line, which runs between Shibuya and Kichijoji. Most of the inside train scenes were shot on the Keio line, which travels between Hachioji and Shinjuku. For the rush hour scene, Chris posed as a tourist using a small consumer camera to film real crowds on the Yamanote line.
The long version of the film had a night scene at a monorail station on the way to Hakkei-jima Sea Paradise amusement park. "There was a fireworks display outside that was so loud the entire building shook and made the actor's flinch, so I had to edit around those takes," Chris said.
In addition to train scenes, many areas of Tokyo were also filmed in the movie. The famous busy intersection was shot at Shibuya crossing. "Most daytime 'chasing' scenes were shot in Shinjuku with the nighttime 'chasing' scenes done in Nakano, where I lived," Chris said. "Yosuke has lunch in Inokashira park, and his cell-phone job is in Kanazawa-bunko."
Two memorable scenes were filmed near Yokohama bay. "The amusement park on Yokohama bay with the giant Ferris wheel is called Yokohama Cosmo World, or Kanazawa-hakkei," Chris mentioned. "The firework dream sequence was shot during a ten-minute nightly summer display at Hakkei-jima (Hakkei Island) Sea Paradise."
|>> It is the turning point about making connections in life that gives us hope.
I asked Chris how making DOKI DOKI affected his view on 20 somethings in Japan. "It didn't really change my opinions much," he said. "Obviously, I have a huge respect for and interest in this generation of Japanese, and I wanted to make the film to show characters that are curious, compassionate, vibrant, and, ultimately resilient — just like the many friends I made while traveling in Japan the previous year."
Indeed DOKI DOKI is a film that incorporates these feelings. In fact much of Chris's own personality went into DOKI DOKI. "It's only worth the incredible difficulty of making independent films if you can express part of who you are," he said.
For those who experienced the universality of isolation and disconnection in the modern metropolis, we can all find a bit of ourselves in DOKI DOKI. It is the turning point about making connections in life that gives us hope. The hope that reality is best found by being true to yourself. And by realizing that the best way to break out of your shell is sometimes just a kind gesture away.
Note: To find out more about DOKI DOKI and to purchase a copy of the DVD please visit: http://www.chriseska.com
Additional info: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/dokidoki/
Special Thanks: To Chris Eska for interviewing with 'The Central Plaza'.