• Director Takashi Yamazaki on Making Godzilla Movies: "A Kind of Sacred Ritual" - Achieving a Historic Feat with an Oscar Win through a "Delegating" Style
Japan Anime News Edit by Taimu Tsuji

Director Takashi Yamazaki on Making Godzilla Movies: "A Kind of Sacred Ritual" - Achieving a Historic Feat with an Oscar Win through a "Delegating" Style

The "Godzilla-1.0" team on the red carpet at the 96th Academy Awards ceremony

The "Godzilla-1.0" team on the red carpet at the 96th Academy Awards ceremony

---Interest has been growing in the visual production company "Shirogumi," celebrated alongside Director Yamazaki, Noriko Shibuya (VFX Director), Masaki Takahashi (3DCG Director), and Tatsushi Nojima (Effects Artist & Compositor). The VFX for "Godzilla-1.0" were completed by a small, elite team of 35 people in about 8 months, a feat that's been praised for its remarkable budget and deadline management.

[Yamazaki] "A major theme for me has always been how much we can simplify the checking system. Given that this Godzilla movie was going to be far more challenging than anything before, we renovated our studio in Chofu. We arranged for all the staff to be on one floor so everyone's voice could be heard. When someone said 'It's done!', they could roll their chair over to that person's desk for a check. This allowed for a significant increase in trial and error, leading to an overall improvement in quality. I believe that was one of the key factors."

---If the budget and timeframe had been double for "Godzilla-1.0," do you think the outcome would have been better?

[Yamazaki] "I don't think having more money necessarily means something will be better. Constraints are the mother of creativity, in a way. They push the creative aspect because there's something to work against. If we had started with double the budget, we would write the screenplay accordingly and approach it with double the budget in mind. But that's a purely hypothetical situation, so it's hard to say whether it would have been better."

"Maximizing Results Within Given Budget and Deadline: The Secret?"

[Yamazaki] "For Shirogumi, it's about valuing the autonomy of the staff and letting them take charge. There's always been that kind of culture, not exactly 'practice makes perfect,' but for instance, Nojima, our compositor who's 25, said he wanted to work on the water (sea) scenes. So, I told him to go ahead and make something substantial, and he ended up creating something that even Spielberg praised. Another compositor, Sato, said he could do animation, so we let him, and he was incredibly skilled.

There's a line in Akira Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai' that goes, 'Treat children as adults, and they'll pull their weight.' I believe in that because I was treated that way. As a brash new graduate, the company's president at the time, Tatsumi Shimamura, told me, 'If you can take responsibility, then go ahead and lead this big project.' He allowed me to try various things. Of course, when things didn't go well, and it seemed we were in trouble, the seniors would step in to help.

Even when I said I wanted to direct, there was no precedent in a post-production company, but they told me I could do it if I took full responsibility. Shirogumi is very kind to those with ambition, a culture created by our predecessors. I've always believed we need to continue this ethos, and it has worked out very well this time. Last year, sadly, we lost producer Hideji Abe, who gave me the chance to direct."

I made my directorial debut with 'Juvenile' (2000), and despite opposition to someone who had only worked in VFX directing, Mr. Abe protected me, and I was able to become a film director. Looking back, at every moment, there were benefactors who let me freely create, expanding my world each time.

---At the press conference following the award, you mentioned, 'Godzilla has opened many doors for me, leading to new adventures. I believe new possibilities are emerging that were different from before.'

[Yamazaki] "I hope the market will open up. Until now, Japanese films have managed domestically, but if the market expands overseas, production budgets can increase. This, in turn, allows for higher quality productions and a virtuous cycle of expanding market size. I want to continue making entertaining films that people enjoy watching in theaters.

---This interview was conducted on March 21. Subsequently, Yamazaki signed with the major Hollywood talent agency CAA (Creative Artists Agency), which represents big names like Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Keanu Reeves. Hidetoshi Nishijima, who starred in 'Drive My Car,' which won the International Feature Film at the 2022 Academy Awards, is also signed with them. This contract opens yet another door for Yamazaki to direct a major Hollywood production."