On Saturday, April 27 I attened a seminar given by Keishi Otomo, director of 'Ruroni Kenshi' and 'Platina Data'. When I went to see the latter in the cinema last month, I was surprised by how many high school girls were in attendance. The draw for that demographic was Kazunari Ninomiya of boy band 'Arashi' in the cast. The same phenomenon seemed to be at work yesterday, with only a handful of men in the 300-strong audience, and only one Western face...
The director is as entertaining as he is informative, and he has a wickedly infectious laugh. Lots of his comments struck a chord. He pointed out that while Ninomiya's idol status draws in certain audience members, it also repels other demographics who do not take the actor seriously because of his 'idol' label. Otomo seems keenly aware of the need to balance the pull an idol can give to his film with the need for an individual like Ninomiya to work harder to be taken seriously because of the way he is marketed. I must admit to feeling the need to be more convinced when someone from SMAP, Arashi or V6 is cast. The director's explantion of Ninomiya's methodical process has me re-thinking my own biases.
The comment that stuck with me most was how the best actors are often those who have known pain. I agree, and in fact would suggest the comment applies to directors and writers, too. The trick is how to utilize that background in a performance, and Otomo's astute comments on that aspect of a shoot were educational.
Lots of audience members wanted to ask questions, and in that situation the fact that as a gaijin you stick out like a sore thumb has its advantages. I squeezed in a question at the end, curious to know if, after two huge hits from script adaptations, he had an interest in pursuing original screenplays. He answered yes, and even gave an indication of genre and budget range that could work. I'll be following up!