Responses by Darren Wood, head of brand and creative, British Film Institute
Background: Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood opened the first British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival in 1957, and since then, the BFI has played a vital role in bringing Japanese cinema to UK audiences. For this project, BFI JAPAN 2020, we wanted to bring the broadest range of films to the broadest possible audience. Although we aimed to provide rarities for cinephiles, we also included lots of entry points for film lovers who may be less familiar with Japanese cinema. Exploring over 100 years of that film history, we presented epic Samurai tales, domestic dramas, cult classics, anime and yakuza action on a range of platforms including our VOD service BFI Player, on BFI DVD and Blu-ray, and in cinemas UK-wide once they are able to reopen.
Reasoning: Inspired by the Japanese traditions of woodblock triptychs, anime and manga spine art, we were keen to take an illustrative rather than photographic approach to the creation of the main artwork. We wanted it to feel cool and contemporary. Focusing on iconic stills from Japanese movies like Hara-Kiri, Tokyo Story, Godzilla, Outrage and Audition, we wrote a creative brief to produce original illustrations to represent the breadth of a program spanning over 100 years.
Challenges: We knew we wanted a trailer that was not a traditional collection of film clips, which is why we worked with creatives who were able to create the illustrations and then bring them to life through movement. Animation is incredibly time-consuming and expensive, but we put together an engaging animated trailer on time and within a modest budget.
Favorite details: We wanted the solution to have an authenticity to it that was not possible without engaging Japanese creatives. We therefore worked with the agency Centre Creative, and agency head Nariaki Kanazawa was central to bringing an essential Japanese sensibility to the artwork. Centre Creative also helped us to engage the Tokyo-based studio Zyla to create the illustrations and turn them into a spectacular animated trailer.
Specific demands: It was quite challenging to get buy-in for a creative solution for a film project that didn’t use photographic film images. The answer was to create the illustrations using images from films that were iconic, so that they would be recognized as film and not as generic Japanese archetypes.
Alternative approach: I would have started the conversations about rights clearances much earlier!