"A Happy Ending"
Undercover Report on Filming & Production (1)
【Reporter / Yuji Koyama】
One day in July 2010. As the crank-in of "Happy Endings," a film by the Iwamatsu group of Mikawa Pictures, was about to begin, I was allowed to conduct an independent interview and headed to a venue in Toyota City, where a rehearsal of "Happy Endings" was being held.
The first day of the undercover interview
【The hardships leading up to the crank-in】
Overcoming two car accidents
We arrived at Toyota City Station in Aichi Prefecture. From there, the rehearsal site was just around the corner. One week before the film was to be cranked, Iwamatsu's team was expected to be in the final stages of rehearsals, but there was no Director Iwamatsu to be found at the rehearsal hall. In a hall that could have been the size of four school classrooms, the staff and actors were holding meetings and practicing their performances on their own. Kana Shimizu and Hideyuki Inoue, the lead actors, were also there. I had heard in advance that Mr. Inoue had moved from his home in Saitama to the Mikawa region three months before the shooting to promote and rehearse "Happy Endings. He was said to have been living surrounded by home appliances and household goods that had been arranged by a local sponsor. Kana Shimizu, who played the other actor, was also informed that since her home was far from the rehearsal hall, she had to stay at a relative's house near the rehearsal hall for three months during the rehearsal period, from where she also went to high school and had not gone home for a long time since the rehearsals started.
When we arrived at the rehearsal site, we greeted one of the producers, Mr. Masato Shimizu, and asked him about the current production status. When I asked him about the details, he told me that he had lost consciousness while driving his car and rear-ended the car in front of him. The supervisor said that he had probably fallen asleep at the wheel due to lack of daily sleep. The director himself was not injured, and he said he would rush to the rehearsal venue as soon as the police finished their investigation. Mr. Shimizu, the producer, does not seem flustered and is nonplussed, saying, "This is the second time this has happened. He told me that about six months ago, he had held a script writing camp for "Happy Endings" at a ryokan in the mountains, where the director had a similar car accident and had to scrap his car. Hearing about these two car accidents alone, it was easy to see that Director Iwamatsu was in a state of physical and mental exhaustion. Shortly thereafter, Director Iwamatsu arrived at the rehearsal hall. Rehearsals began immediately, but the director's cell phone rang repeatedly during rehearsals. Each time, the rehearsal was interrupted, but it seemed to be a call from the police or an insurance company. Clearly, Director Iwamatsu must have been mentally exhausted, but the look in his eyes as he rehearsed was so serious that one could not detect the slightest hint of such an emotion.
Loss of confidence in heroine
Then, out of the blue, Kana, the lead actress, crouched down on the spot and started crying. She could not perform as well as she wanted and seemed to be completely stuck. Rehearsals have been held every day for the past three months, with scenes involving local actors on weekdays and scenes involving actors from Tokyo and other parts of the prefecture on weekends.
This is Kana's first time shooting a movie and her first time acting. Surrounded by actors with acting experience, the position she is in now must be very tough for a high school sophomore. She could not get up at any time, and the rehearsal was halted. A tense hour or two passed. Perhaps unable to bear the situation any longer, Ms. Inoue, the lead actress, said, "I'm going for a little run outside," and left the room. He must have been unable to bear the heavy atmosphere and left the room.
Before I knew it, Mr. Shimizu, the producer, had also disappeared from the room, and before I knew it, the director and Kana were the only ones in the room, except for me. Just as I was wondering whether I should leave the room, Mr. Nishino from the art team appeared with a prototype of a prop. He knew nothing of the current situation and opened the door to the rehearsal hall with great force, but at that moment, sensing the atmosphere in the room, he did not take a step into the room and closed the door without saying a word.
I myself, unable to stay put, finally ran out of the room, only to find Mr. Nishino of the art team standing outside the door in the hallway, and Ms. Onofuji, the costume designer, standing next to him like Santa Claus with a huge plastic bag stuffed with a mountain of old clothes. She, too, seemed to have arrived for a meeting with the director, but like Ms. Nishino, she was not allowed to go inside. The hallway in front of the rehearsal room was occupied by Mikawa Eiga staff.
It was finally time for the rehearsal hall to close and Kana and the director came out of the room. From what I could hear from outside, the two did not seem to be discussing anything. It hurt me to talk to Kana under the circumstances, but I was here to interview her. I felt that I could not back out at this point, so I decided to approach her fearlessly. I lightly introduced myself and asked her, "Are you all right?" She mumbled, "I'm sure I'll be dropped (from the role). Hearing her voice, I was indeed unable to say a second word. Perhaps hearing her voice, Director Iwamatsu came up to her. He turned to Kana and said, "There were many people who were better than you at the audition. I didn't choose you based on whether you were a good actor or not. I chose you because you had the most guts out of all the actors. What's wrong with you if you're sobbing? He said strongly.
Unexpected decline of location cooperation
In response, Kana started crying aloud instead of saying something. The actor, whom director Iwamatsu had endorsed as having the strongest guts, kept crying. Frankly speaking, today's interview did not yield much, but it was a time when the seriousness of Mikawa Films could be clearly felt.
As I was about to say goodbye to the director at the end of the interview, he was on the phone a short distance away from the crew, talking to me, "He was so eager to get going...why?" I told him. And after the call, he lets out one deep sigh. I ask him, "What happened?" He tells me that the rooftop location where the climactic scene of "Happy Endings" was to be shot had contacted him and told him that permission to shoot on the rooftop had been revoked. He said that for the past two years, he had been turned down by every location because the film's main character attempts to commit suicide by throwing himself to the ground in the film, and therefore the image would not be good. It must have been very discouraging for him to finally receive the OK, only to have the filming location reject it. When I heard the news, I involuntarily asked the director, "Why? I heard that someone had actually committed suicide in that building yesterday.
There is only one week left until the crank-in. My next interview will be on the day of crank-in. Under such circumstances, will they be able to start filming without incident? I will find out the answer to that question during my next visit in a week's time. I will spend the week with both anticipation and anxiety. With these thoughts in mind, I left Toyota.