Bertrand Schefer

Residency Program

Institutional Recommendation Program

update: 2019.11.27

Bertrand Schefer

Participating ProjectInstitutional Recommendation Program
Activity BasedFrance
Period2010.12 - 2010.12
Purpose of the residency

We would like to make a film about Shibuya gals freely inspired from Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book. We will ask the girls a series of questions taken from the lists of "things" in the novel. We'll also make images of the neighborhood of Shibuya, mixing super8 and video formats.

Plan during the residency

We'll be filming with long time collaborator Claire Mathon, director of photography and an assistant to translate the answer and help us communicate with the persons we'll meet. We will make a series of interviews indoors (probably at TWS) and shots from the streets of Tokyo, particularly in Shibuya.
Residency Report
About the research
We shot a film during three weeks with a light equipment we were carrying with us. We made a series of portraits of Shibuya gals on the crossing of Shibuya and asked them to just stand still in front of the camera while the people behind them were crossing the street. This principle produces a feeling of loneliness in the middle of the crowd and isolates the fascinating faces of these sophisticated dolls among the turmoil of screens, noise, traffic etc. Most of them accepted to pose when they were together with a girlfriend so many portraits are double ones.
In order to kind of describe the reality of this very busy crossing we made wide long shots at different moments of the day and in different kind of weathers. The ballet of thousands of umbrellas under the rain was particularly impressive.
We also took super 8 images of the "things" we found the more characteristic or moving or striking...according to Sei Shonagon's lists in the Pillow Book. This novel was indeed our first basis as a project for a journal before we found out that filming the Shibuya gals would certainly be much more powerful than any view of Kyoto's landscape!

We focused on the gals because they seem very representative of the Tokyo style, especially of Shibuya. It was a very interesting experience to stay in the same place several days and observe the life of one particular location in the city. This attempt to "exhaust" a place allowed us to go deeper and deeper in the observation of details and to become more familiar with our topic. We sometimes had to be really patient and wait for the girls we wanted to shoot. Also some of them refused and we had to accept this deception. After a while we started to be more aware of their codes : sunglasses or headphones and a rapid pace are dissuasive signs...gals walking alone will be more mistrustful etc. On the contrary, young eccentric ones walking together were generally quite happy to pose in front of the camera.

About the cultural exchange
We mainly talked and exchanged with our two assistants, Alice and Daphne, who alternatively worked with us as translators. One of them is Anglo-Japanese and the other one is Franco-Japanese. It was very exciting to share our impressions and reflections about the culture and the country.
I would say we also exchanged a lot with the girls we shot, even if it was through Alice or Daphne.
We also had the chance to meet some other residents at TWS during our stay : we mainly got to know about their work during the presentation and open studio.

In terms of the production
We shot what will probably be a 30 / 40 minutes film. We are going back to France with approximately 15 hours of dailies and will start the editing straight away. We must admit we were very lucky about the crew (the two assistants we met here were just perfect and understood what we needed... we also all got well along with them) and about the weather (a beautiful pure blue sky was there almost every day). Without forgetting the chance of staying at TWS Aoyama which was the most convenient and ideal situation for us. We could in particular walk to Shibuya and carry our equipment with us.

In terms of the cultural exchange
Meeting and filming these young girls has learnt us a lot about them. It was a very unexpected encounter. We feel it is a first step to a further relationship to Japan and we are happy to have spent quite a lot of time observing and filming. We thus overtook the clichés we might have had as simple tourists and also the cliché attitude consisting in taking the counterpoint of the clichés...

Future activites
We actually worked with a development budget and would like to apply for a production grant in France in order to pursue this work and maybe have the chance to come back to Japan. From the beginning of our stay here we understood that it would be useful and necessary to proceed gradually, step by step. The group portrait of Shibuya gals gave us the idea of shooting a series of teenagers in villages in the countryside, in a very different if not opposite context than the middle of Tokyo. It would be the second part of the description of one place and it's youth.

Creator Information