Friday, April 15, 2011

Five Questions for a Director: Steven Tsuchida

Rather than give a book review during our SPAM month, we instead bring you an interview with Steven Tsuchida, director of the fabulous (in every sense of the word) 2004 short film Spam-ku: I Won a Haiku Contest about SPAM.  We here at High Coup Journal consider this film to not only be beautiful but also to represent just about everything we stand for.  Anyway, to the interview!  Here we go...

1. The final scene in your 2004 short film is both humorous and really pretty frickin' eerie.  What inspired it?

I would think no one could prepare for turning into a block of Spam.  So there wasn't any direct inspiration. However, I grew up in Hawaii where SPAM consumption is the highest per capita in the United States. I myself have consumed an embarrassing amount of SPAM in my lifetime. It's quite common. It's even served in all of the McDonald's in town - as well as similar fine dining establishments.  It's only when I came to the continental United States where I learned of the irony/sarcasm/humor of SPAM. I thought everyone ate SPAM.  And, as far as turning into SPAM? Well, you know what they say... you are what we eat.

2. As a director, is it easier or harder to coach actors towards behaving in a sincerely awkward fashion?

Life is just as, or even more awkward, then the cinema. An actor simply needs to refer to their own lives and the awkwardness comes out. Even the coolest kid in school looks in the mirror and sees a little bit of geek reflected back. We are all awkward animals, so it's not a far stretch to act awkward.

The difficult part is being sincere. Meaning, the awkwardness needs to feel real and not an act. Awkwardness is intended for the viewer to feel sympathy to the actor. But if the audience feels like it is an act, the awkwardness is insulting, and you lose the sympathy vote for the actor. Sincerity is the key to acting.

3. (Total fanboy question, sorry): You got to work with Sarah Silverman a few times-- how was that???

It doesn't get better. No scratch that. If she ate Spam, it would be better.

4. But back to your work, what're you up to these days?

I'm prepping a webisode starring Rick Fox.
That's right. RICK FOX!
Trust me. Hilarity will ensue.

5. Haiku is about the shortest form of poetry out there.  Do you see any overlaps between haiku and short film?

Absolutely. The beauty of a haiku is that it maximizes an economy of words that will resonates far beyond it's tiny stature. What I love about an effective haiku is the "aha" effect that it instills. A great haiku illuminates a truth, connecting to the viewer on both a universal level and a personal level. There is a clarity to the words that sheds light on the human condition. Like a haiku, the best shorts work because of there simplicity in the idea and clarity in storytelling.


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