The Weinstein Company and Lexus hosted the New York premiere of their Second Annual Lexus Short Film Series "Life Is Amazing." Those in attendance included Katie Holmes, Matthew Morrison, Danny Strong and many others. TWC and Lexus challenged two rising filmmakers to interpret “Life is Amazing” through short film. The result – "Market Hours" (directed by Jon Goldman) and "Operation Barn Owl" (directed by Satsuki Okawa). Today on August 10, 2014, Examiner.com is excited to share our exclusive interviews about the Okawa's film.
Actress Katie Holmes, who appears in TWC's "The Giver," also served a mentor for this collaboration. Her advice to aspiring filmmakers is, "I think you just have to keep working hard and be passionate about your ideas and see them through. What I love about this program is that so many people have the opportunity to be selected and I think you just have to keep trying and working on your craft."
Q: Tell me about the character you played and the film you’re in.
A: I’m in the film "Operation Barn Owl" by Satsuki Okawa and it’s this really beautiful, surreal, unrequited love story where there is a girl who has been in love with her brother’s best friend since she was young, but he is in love with me and he is completely oblivious to the fact that she adores him. He is in love with me and they have this whole plan of how he is going to propose to me. So she does this out of love for him, out of romantic love, but also love for him as a person, and he is oblivious to it. I kind of felt like a terrible person filming it because she was so in love with him and it’s completely unrequited. There’s a play within the film, so it’s this really beautiful, funny, sweet, and clever film that I’m proud to be a part of.
Q: How did you get involved?
A: I auditioned. I am a working actor and they said they wanted to meet you and I showed up and we went through a couple of rounds of auditions. And Sutsuki had an improv scene so she brought some of us in to the final rounds and had us improv and play off each other which is really great and really fun to do as an actor. And I am British so I was doing my natural accent and then I was also doing an American accent and going back and forth and playing with both of those things and what that meant. And in fact she didn’t decide that she wanted me, that she wanted Ashley the character to be British until the first day of shooting. So it was really a fun, creative process to get to play off everybody and share all these different ideas, so it was a really good time.
Q; And there are a lot of notable mentors involved.
A: We watched the film in LA and they had some really awesome things to say and she said it was extremely valuable to hear from the other side of the fence. I am an actor so to hear the advice given to a director and their creative process is really cool.
Q: How did you get your start in acting?
A: Honestly, when I first started acting it was more of a cathartic thing, it was more something I really wanted to explore and play with for myself, for my own life quality and things. And the more I did it, the more I fell in love with it and I really was like ‘Am I really going to jump in and do this professionally?’ because you know it is competitive and it’s not a linear process. You can’t guarantee that you're ever going to work and it takes a long time. Even when you’re doing well, there are big gaps in between jobs, so I’ve had to learn patience and to just work really hard and to have great teachers. And I get lucky enough to work on projects like this and it’s slowly building and I’m having an amazing time and it’s amazing to be involved with The Weinstein Company, and it’s a huge deal for me. I am very excited. So the fact that Lexus and the Weinstein Company get to come together and to develop this new emerging talent internationally I think is awesome and I’m so proud to be a part of it.
Q: Are you primarily acting in British cinema or American cinema?
A: American. Generally American because I live in LA. I would be very happy to be in a British productions if they want me, but I am based in LA right now so it’s primarily American film and TV, but I’m open to everything.
Q: So tell me about the film you are in and the character you play.
A: I’m in "Operation Barn Owl" and I play Jonah who is putting on this huge event to propose to his girlfriend and Ellen, who is putting it on for me is sort of my best friend growing up, who has had feelings for me her whole life, never really voiced that to me and I have always thought of her as a little sister. It’s really her journey through the day of wondering if this is all going to ever be something, and her feelings for me through this and then also the happiness of my relationship because we go through everything that I have gone through with my girlfriend. But it’s really Ellen’s story that tells it all.
Q: Tell me about collaborating with this director.
A: Satuski Okawa was amazing. She was super collaborative, more so than I’ve ever experienced, willing to hear everyone’s ideas on every scene, on every take. She had a vision for this and she was going to get it, and as an actor it was so amazing to be able to do that. There was no ‘Maybe everyone else had a time crunch’ but she was like ‘No, I want this’ and it was just that freedom it gives you was just the best.
Q: How long did it take to shoot the film?
A: It only took three days.
Q: So it was a relatively fast process?
A: Yeah, but everyone involved was so professional that everyone knew exactly what they were doing and we were going to get through this.
Director Satsuki Okawa
Q: Did you come from Japan for the New York premiere?
A: No, I live in New York. When I first heard about it and they asked me the pitch I was in Tokyo.
Q: So tell me about the story and how it came about.
A: I did the film "Operation Barn Owl" and it’s about lost love and sacrifice and it’s a romantic love story. And I wrote it with Ken Ochiai, we came up with a draft and we worked together to make it a fun story. It’s about the proposal as well.
Q: Tell me about collaborating with Lexus and the Weinstein Company. That’s a big deal.
A: It is a really big deal. I couldn’t believe it. I was in the office and I was talking to them and they were so respectable. They helped me to bring my vision and put it on film. You can’t really ask for more.
Q: Who were some of the mentors that worked with you on the film?
A: We met Phillip Noyce, Antoine Fuqua, Justin Chadwick and Katie Holmes.
Q: What was the highlight of that experience?
A: Just to meet with them and speak to them was amazing. They actually saw film and gave us feedback.