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2009, 57m, drama, romance
During the winter season in Tokyo, two disillusioned models fall in love. When their stay extends, the relationship combusts. An atmospheric tale cast with real models, shot on luscious 16mm.
Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Japan's Pia Film Festival.
Cinematography/production by Sean Walker. Sound by Rin Takada. Focus by Gen Ito. With a soundtrack featuring Steve Roach, College, DVAS, Cassian and Beaufort.
Produced by: James McFay, Sean Walker
Cast: Rachel Blais, James McFay, Pierre Olivier-Beaudoin, Rebecca Victoria, Rory Stewart and Beata Vildzeviciute
10 questions with Tiger director, James McFay at the half-way mark.
Thursday, February 25th, 2016
1The details of this modeling world felt very real. Are/were you a model? I was, for brief periods. But I sort of re-enrolled in modelling to make the film, because I knew being at an agency meant I could meet models at castings who we could use as cast. Happily, a couple of commercials I did straight after provided a budget for the film to be processed. Then I quit modelling again.
2Why did you decide to make this film take place in Tokyo? Many story-related reasons - practically speaking, however, Sean was living there and knew enough crew that we could get a high enough level of help and Rachel could live there rent-free on an agency contract. The film was only a reality because the three of us could be there together at that time. I also had a lot of questions about the feelings I'd had while living there in the past.
3Did you find it difficult to act and direct at the same time? What was the most difficult aspect of the shoot? Directing at the same time made it difficult to gauge my own performance and so I was forced to err on the side of underacting to be safe, but it wasn't the main issue. Technically, there were a couple of one-shot scenes that ended up unusable from sound/camera shake/film running out. A whole 30 minute sub-plot was cut from the film because of those two or three shots. But really, the hardest thing was loneliness - it was taking so much out of me - the scriptwriting, too - and because Sean and Rachel were also putting everything they had into it we were all sort of emotionally unavailable to each other.
4How big was your cast/crew and how did you find them? I approached models at my agency and one or two in the waiting hallways of castings. We met Maya Murofushi, who played a Japanese love interest in the sadly excised sub-plot, by Googling "English-speaking actress in Tokyo". The crew were friends of Sean with whom he'd just worked together on Gaspar Noe's 'Enter the Void'. I think all up there were about fifteen cast and crew combined. Generally it was just Sean, Rachel, me, Rin Takada on sound and Gen Ito pulling focus.
5What's the strangest thing you ate in Japan? Horse meat sashimi.
6Can you share any other memorable experience from Japan? I was shooting some pickup shots in Omotesando that we were going to use in the credits when a couple of dudes approached us asking whether we could shoot their concert the next night. I didn't know who they were, but one of them, Tyga, I think seems like a big deal these days. We couldn't do it cause of our schedule - plus they wanted us to shoot it on the 16mm camera! They were very nice, but quite naive about the practicalities of filming/video. We also left an entire exposed film mag on the train one night, but it was handed in the next day. That was a night of extreme brow perspiration, followed by weeping gratitude at Japanese honesty.
7Super 16 mm is my favorite format. Why did you decide to shoot on super 16mm film instead of digital? At our budget, which was about $10kAUD, Super 16mm was the cheapest way to get a picture of good enough quality to make the enterprise worth it. There were only a few Red camera packages in Tokyo at the time and they were prohibitively expensive. The next step down just looked like home video. Plus we'd had experience shooting some music videos on 35mm shortends and knew the development processes and costs could scale cheaply. Eizo Service, a camera rental place, made it possible by renting us an old, rarely-used camera for cheap and throwing in some lenses that hadn't been used. Also, Robert Rodriguez inspired those sort of calculations with his book 'Rebel Without A Crew'.
8What scene turned out way better than you imagined? I just asked Sean - he says the likes the scene where Jack's looking through Renee's portfolio at these gorgeous modelling shots and she wakes up and we pull focus to her. She's sanguine, but Jack's going through a crisis.
Personally, the footage with the tiger in the cage at Ueno Zoo was a nice surprise - I shot that with the video function on an outdated stills camera on a day off and it ended up cutting nicely.
9I think many guys can relate to that uncomfortable feeling of a relationship that has expired but you're still going through the motions. Why did you want to portray that in a film? I didn't want to portray a feeling, I wanted to understand a feeling. I had questions about it. Why do we put ourselves in those situations, for instance. Perhaps it's not the best reason to make a film, in fact you might say "Why not just go to therapy?" But it actually was a sort of group therapy for Sean and Rachel and I. Dangerous territory for a piece of art intended to be viewed by others, also partly why many first films, like this one, run the risk of feeling self-indulgent or navel-gazing. However, in my experience and from some of the feedback we've had, watching other people's group therapy can sometimes be illuminating.
10What's next? Sean and I are currently in Japan developing a mini-series which will be a Beaufort co-production with a local company. Also, development is progressing on a Beaufort video game for mobile that will hopefully be out in the next year.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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