Being the film geek of my school I’m always asked, “What’s your favorite movie?” or “What are your top ten movies?”, and my response is always “I’ll get back to you on that”. I’ve honestly been meaning to but it’s really hard to create a list of my favorite films when I’m constantly remembering more and more films that stuck out to me. However the most interesting question I’ve been asked is “What films inspire you?”. This is a question I’d really like to answer so I think I’ll try to.
If I were referring to standard western films I’d say the films of Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Francis Ford Coppola, Sophia Coppola, David Fincher, William Wyler and Quentin Tarantino. Sure other films have inspired me but these are the two people who I feel like eventuate the kind of filmmaking I hope to eventually do. However neither of them have had the impact on me that Japanese filmmaking does. So if you don’t mind let’s start our journey off by talking about a film everyone on this website should at least know about, “Godzilla”.
It’s easy to say that Godzilla is just the beginning of a long series of movies that consist entirely of giant monsters fighting and in one sense that’s true however in my eyes Godzilla is much, much more than that. I watched Godzilla (1954) when I was fairly young. I was in lower school and my younger brother and I had already watched a few of the other films later in the series like Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, etc. But 1954 Godzilla was different. Whereas the other films were “cool” and “awesome” this one was kind of “scary”. I remember being really nervous when the camera did the follow shots of the patients in the hospital. I wondered why I was seeing this and not seeing Godzilla destroy Tokyo, but it didn’t bore me. I was intrigued and I wanted to watch the movie over and over and learn all about Godzilla and what he was capable of. I wanted to learn about the people who were studying him and know what they knew. That on it’s own was enough to excite and inspire me. However it was upon my later viewing of it that I learned what the movie represented. It was a reference and a warning to the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons, of course! In that realization Godzilla taught me instantly that every movie, no matter its genre, must serve a purpose. A movie isn’t enough if it just tells a story, that story must also have a reason for being told. If a film lacks in a purpose, then so does its creation.
While Godzilla taught me the most basic of fundamentals in a story it was anime that truly inspired me and confirmed my love for the craft of filmmaking. To start this section off, I’d just like to state that I love animated films. So much so that I am more excited for Big Hero Six than I am for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. My love for animation is based almost entirely on the concept of scale. There will never be a live action movie that can have a scale as large as an animated film and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a fundamental of the craft. I love that animation can be as big as the creator wants it to be. Animation is bound by nothing except the talent of the team working on it. Watch any Looney Tunes episode and you will see the fundamentals of physics be ignored for the sake of gag and in my opinion that’s brilliant. However I’d like to condense this discussion about animation strictly to a discussion about anime. When I say anime I am referring to the westernized definition of it meaning, films or shows created in Japan, instead of the Japanese definition in which anime refers to anything and everything animated. Secondly I understand the stereotypes and “troubles” that come with the genre and I will not addressing any of them.
My appreciation for anime has only just developed; it started with the show Attack on Titan, a show I would have never watched if not for the countless recommendations given to me by people. So I began to watch Attack on Titan, and what I originally saw as a mindless action film became a brilliant social commentary on mankind and the line between good and evil. It was with Attack on Titan that I learned to broaden my filmmaking horizons from traditional western films, to well, virtually anything so long as some one tells me about it.
After Attack on Titan, I got into an anime known as Initial D, a show about street racing and Japanese cars (something I also have a strong affection for).
Initial D taught me two things the first involved the creation of a picture. Initial D’s first season uses hand drawn water color styled images for the character scenes and all of the race scenes are done with CGI. At the time of its creation computer assisted animation just wasn’t quite ready to be used for everything and hand drawn animation was far to expensive to use for showing the intricacies of a street race. But that was not the most important thing I gained from Initial D. The most important thing Initial D taught me was that a good story can arise anywhere and no matter what story is being told the humanity of the story must always remain. So a show about driving fast on a mountain pass is also a show about growing up and not really knowing what to do with yourself. It’s a state of being that I can certainly vouch for.
After Initial D I went on a Miyazaki film binge and it was perhaps his films that I gained most of my inspiration from.
From Miyazaki I learned that nearly everything stems from childhood and the past. I learned that everything I create is going to be a reflection of myself and a reflection of my experiences but most of all I learned to create what I love. I learned to have fun with my creations, because in the end they’re mine.
It was then that I watched Akira.
Akira taught me that everything is connected in some way. In the first act of Akira we are shown a rebel teenage motorcycle gang who drive fast through the streets and cause trouble in Neo-Tokyo. The ultimate expression of teen angst, however later on in the film we watch as these teens become engulfed in a government conspiracy of major proportions. It’s their, for lack of a better term, angst that drives them to fight back and save their friends. Akira gives us these nobody teenagers and thrusts greatness upon them and in terms of story, it works magnificently.
My love for anime goes much farther than just these examples and I’m being taught more and more by it everyday. So in these next few months while I apply to films schools and make films of my own, it’s nice to know where I can draw inspiration.