I'm going to go see Hayao Miyazaki give an interview in a few weeks. Needless to say the man is a god. So I've been reading old interviews with him.
motherload of interview links
Midnight Eye Interview:
Is it true that your films are all made without a script?
That's true. I don't have the story finished and ready when we start work on a film. I usually don't have the time. So the story develops when I start drawing storyboards. The production starts very soon thereafter, while the storyboards are still developing. We never know where the story will go but we just keeping working on the film as it develops. It's a dangerous way to make an animation film and I would like it to be different, but unfortunately, that's the way I work and everyone else is kind of forced to subject themselves to it.
Do your films have one pivotal scene that is representative for the entire film?
Because I'm a person who starts work without clear knowledge of a storyline, every single scene is a pivotal scene. In the scene in which the parents are transformed into pigs, that's the pivotal scene of that moment in the film. But after that it's the next scene which is most important and so on. In the scene where Chihiro cries, I wanted the tears to be very big, like geysers. But I didn't succeed in visualising the scene exactly as I had imagined it. So there are no central scenes, because the creation of each scene brings its own problems which have their effect on the scenes that follow.
There is a rumour that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the US release of Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the post. Attached to the blade was a stark message: "No cuts."
The director chortles. "Actually, my producer did that. Although I did go to New York to meet this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with this aggressive attack, all these demands for cuts." He smiles. "I defeated him."
"Personally I am very pessimistic," Miyazaki says. "But when, for instance, one of my staff has a baby you can't help but bless them for a good future. Because I can't tell that child, 'Oh, you shouldn't have come into this life.' And yet I know the world is heading in a bad direction. So with those conflicting thoughts in mind, I think about what kind of films I should be making."
"Of course," he relents, "if, as artists, we try to tap into that soul level - if we say that life is worth living and the world is worth living in - then something good might come of it." He shrugs. "Maybe that's what these films are doing. They are my way of blessing the child"
Our story is one in which the natural strengths of the character are revealed by the situations she encounters. I wanted to show that people have these things in them that can be called on when they find themselves in extraordinary circumstances
I am not a big fan of evaluating a film based on its box office receipts. I believe a film should represent a very intimate personal encounter between what's on the screen and what's in an individual's heart. To try to reduce that to numbers on a page is not something I can be a fan of.
There is a fundamental difference in thinking about how to approach a 2-D versus a 3-D film. For example, Yubaba's head (large as it is) is not always the same size in every scene. Depending on my mood and her mood, the size of her head changes. This is an emotional relationship we develop through scale with the audience, one that we would have to abandon if we wholeheartedly embraced digital technology. I'm holding onto my pencil, thank you.
There seems to be this commonly accepted rule in filmmaking that at the end of the film, there always has to be a climax, preferably action-filled. What I've managed to achieve in this last film is with the very climax of the film, a little girl gets on the train. I'm inordinately proud of that.
ComicBox on Nausicaa
A comic book is a comic book. It's different from a movie.
I don't know if that's how one should think about it or not. I don't know what happened with Nausicaa's mother. I thought that maybe she had been forced to part from the man she loved, or she was forced marry the tribal chief. Something like that might have happened-and it might not have happened. I don't know.
She was kind, but she was wrapped in a cloak of despair-of course, such a person can also be kind. What kind of mother was she? I don't think that she was ever cruel to Nausicaa, or mistreated her. It was said that, deep down, she was a very gentle, kind person. The villagers were also kind to Nausicaa. But none of this was the same as love. In American culture, if there are any problems, it's always because 'you love me' or 'you don't love me', and that's all very nice and easy, but it's not that simple. It's different, right? I think so.
The division of the world into heroes and villains is a habit Mr. Miyazaki regards with suspicion. "The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it - I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it's rotten," he said. "This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics, it's hopeless." Like the natural world, which follows its own laws and rhythms - "it does what the hell it pleases," in Mr. Miyazaki's words - human nature is not something that can easily be explained or judged.
When my children were old enough to go to the movies, there was nothing we wanted to see. Neither as parents nor as film lovers; that is why I started. This film had no educative pretense. Panda! Go Panda! is just written to describe every day life, that sweetness that reminds us that life can be beautiful and luminous.
They watched it without moving. I was so happy that my intuition was validated by my two children! But the film wasn't successful this time either.
What can we tell children that will still be valid in 2004? Which type of films will they still want to see? Can we imagine these films? I think we must create films that will make people happy.
Miya: I gave up on making a happy ending in the true sense, a long time ago. I can go no further than (the ending in which the lead character) gets over one issue for the time being. Many things will happen after this, but this character will probably manage-- I think that's as far as I can go. From the standpoint of a movie maker, it would be easier if I could make a movie in which "everybody became happy because they defeated the evil villain."
Miya: Yes. When I think about making a male a lead, it gets really intricate. The problem isn't simple. I mean, if it's a story like, "everything will be fine once we defeat him," it's better to have a male as a lead. But, if we try to make an adventure story with a male lead, we have no choice other than doing Indiana Jones. With a Nazi, or someone else who is a villain in anyone's eyes.
Miya: Well, that's... -big laughs- But while making animation, I always feel that we are making big lies. For example, could we depict an affirmative character with a so-so looking girl? What we are doing is a show in a sense, after all.
Miya: It's difficult. They immediately become the subjects of rorikon gokko (play toy for Lolita Complex guys). In a sense, if we want to depict someone who is affirmative to us, we have no choice but to make them as lovely as possible. But now, there are too many people who shamelessly depict (such heroines) as if they just want (such girls) as pets, and things are escalating more and more. While we are talking about the human rights for women, why they can do this, I don't want to analyze much, but...
on nausicaa again
To tell you the truth, this was the work I kept wondering if I could finish since the time I started. I could say that I was able to write without thinking ahead because I decided that I could stop anytime. I was working like "it turned out this way," not "I want things to go this way."
Y: Is that so? Since it's a story world with such a big plot, which can be called an epic drama, we thought you had a detailed story plan from the beginning to the end, and you've been writing it up patiently, taking your time.
M: No, no, I don't have such a planning capability. I wrote something because I was facing a deadline, and I realized the meaning of it much later. I had such experiences many times.
I mean, I didn't start Nausicaa to write a story about the ecology for the sake of environmental protection. At first, I intended to write a story which took place in a desert, but it wasn't interesting when I put it into drawings, so I changed it to the forest. Then, it became that kind of story.
In that sense too, I didn't have any big plot. The writing process was such that "it looks that way, so let's go that way." I faced a writer's block, so I wanted to have something huge, so, the sleeping God Warrior... This one too, I just wrote it into the story saying such thing as "what's gonna happen? I'm in trouble." I continued working, telling myself such lies as "it'll work out eventually. The magazine will go out of business before that..." -laughs-
A movie has to both open the story up and close it. Some may say "no, opening up is enough," but I'm a person who makes entertainment movies, so I think about the boundary I can close the story in.
Anyway, "we are right, and we beat the enemy and the peace will come" is a lie. At least, I can definitely say that's a lie. There are good and bad things. You can do good things. But, a person who does good things is not necessarily a good person. It just means he/she "did good things." In the next moment, he/she can do bad things. That is a human. Unless we think that way, we misjudge everything, including political decisions, and oneself.
"Is it meaningless if the child die?" No, it isn't. Maybe, what those children felt at that time is everything. But, the moment I put these kind of things into words, it will be grossly misunderstood somewhere. It's difficult. If we try to judge by results, many things become difficult. If I say "this moment is important," someone might take it as that we just have to care only about this moment. It's difficult. It's really difficult to put into words.
But, as I said before, to tell the truth, I made movies partly because I wanted to escape from Nausicaa. I didn't intend to do the light stuff because I was doing the heavy stuff here, but if I hadn't been writing Nausicaa, I think I would have struggled trying to put a bit heavier stuff into the movies.
Snow Queen proved how much love could be put into a work of animation, and how much the movement of the pictures can sublimate to acting. It proved that when you draw a simple and strong emotion earnestly and purely, animation can strike people's hearts as much as the best works of other media can. I think that Hakujaden also had it despite its weakness in the story.
Hence, I think that a popular movie has to be full of true emotion, even if it's frivolous. The entrance should be low and wide so that anyone can be invited in, but the exit should be high and purified. It shouldn't be something that admits, emphasizes, or enlarges the lowness. I don't like Disney movies. The entrance and the exit are lined up at the same low height and width. I can't help but feel that it looks down on the audience.
On Creating Ghibli
Well, that was the situation. However, if everyone just brings his/her own ideas in, there will be no consistency, so the main staff have to have tight control. If we just expand a scene freely, thinking it'll be enough if this scene looks great, there will be no consistency throughout the film. That was one of the reasons for Disney's decline. So, the director's control is also important.
But it's difficult to tear the division of labor down once it got created. A system is supposed to be changed along with the people who are in it. Otherwise, its arteries get hardened.
Money can't buy creativity
In my movies for children, I want to express before anything else the themes: "The world is profound, manifold and beautiful," and "You children are fortunate to have been born into this world... Although the world's beset with lots of seemingly intractable problems, such as population explosion and environmental disruptions, making it difficult to entertain hope, it's nevertheless a wonderful thing to live." This is more easily said than done. It's adults rather than children that are seeing their hopes dashed. So making movies also amounts to struggling with myself.
Of course, we could make cartoons while still taking our vacations, but that would be reflected in their quality. Works of art are created by those who are prepared to go the limit. We're not interested in anything else.
The kind of films I really want to make are ones where I can freely create action sequences. I have all sorts of ideas which I think can yield comedies and stupid war films.
But I don't have any decisive idea on how to make the first half of the movie. There is talk about skipping that part and going straight to the action, but I must not do that.
The most difficult part in making such a film is anticipating that point where all the audience wants to see are airplanes being shot down. If, after all that effort results in a convincing story, then the remaining action sequences will be satisfying.
ON: There is a theme of ecological concern in all of your movies. Are you concerned about the state of nature and do you use your stories to give the audience a message?
HM: I do not make films to send out messages about ecology. But because I feel ecology is important, because it is part of my personal values, the problem comes up in my films.
ON: When you are working on a new project: What comes first, the images or the story?
HM: Of course the images comes first. We make the story work to make that imagery (laughs) But there are some moments when I find out that I wanted to use this image. But then I realise, the story does not work this way and I end up with nothing.
One thing that characterizes a Miyazaki film as opposed to a mainstream American animated film is the sense of slowness, as if he has all the time in the world to spend.
"I take it for granted," he says. "Sometimes the filmmaker falls into the old trap that they're very much afraid that the audience will become bored. You should not be defeated by that threat. That's why the American films are too much in the face, rather than keeping space. We do not have to speed up the tempo to make the audience involved in the film. As long as you really tap into the children's feelings and try to get the real essence, you will never lose their patience."