Interview with ASFF 2013 Filmmaker: Saera Jin

Preparations for next week’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival are in full swing and we can’t wait to welcome Japanese filmmaker Saera Jin to York for the event. Jin is travelling all the way from Tokyo for the festival, where she will partake in the panel discussion section of our Meet the Filmmakers event on Saturday 9 November. Audiences can catch the premiere of Jin’s delightful romantic comedy Konnichiwa Brick Lane at the historic venue of St William’s College and also at Yorkshire Museum, located inside the spectacular Museum Gardens. We chat to her here about her plans for the festival, what audiences can expect from Konnichiwa Brick Lane and her panel discussion and why she’s making such a long journey for ASFF.

ASFF: Konnichiwa Brick Lane is an uplifting romantic comedy. What most attracts you to this genre as a filmmaker?
SJ: As a writer-director, romantic comedies are my favourite genre to work with. I especially enjoy the writing process: creating a story that is entertaining, lighthearted but also meaningful. I’m currently working on a lot of stories that are focused on cultural differences in love and relationships. As an avid filmgoer who is also Japanese, of course I love all the classic films by Ozu, Mizoguchi and Kurosawa – I’m sure many of the ASFF audiences love them as well. However as a storyteller, I am influenced by contemporary independent filmmakers such as Julie Delpy (Two Days in Paris) and Cédric Klapisch (L’Auberge Espagnole). I look up to Julie Delpy as a role model – a talented female writer-director of superb romantic comedies.

ASFF: What is it about Brick Lane that made you choose not only to feature it as a location but in the film’s title too?
SJ: Brick Lane is a unique, long street in east London, which has such vivid cultural diversity: from the traditional Bangladesh community to hip clubs, bars and vintage fashion stores. It was the ideal place for the storyline and I wanted to hint at the cultural diversity in the film by expressing it in the title too. As well as featuring in the title and location, Konnichiwa Brick Lane is also one of the lines in the film! I just loved the simplicity of the phrase and how comical it sounded.

ASFF: You’ve also enjoyed a career as a fashion photographer and journalist. What do you think this experience brings to your practice as a film writer and director?
SJ: I have been lucky to have worked in the fashion industry for over a decade, and to have lived in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo – and I also have clients in Stockholm! With such diverse experiences, and so many fascinating characters and episodes in my past, I can say that I have a living archive of inspiration sourced from my time in the fashion world. Naturally, in the end, stories and characters are what I have created fictionally in my head. Also, in terms of visuals, my photographer’s eye and understanding of cinematography have helped immensely when working as a director.

ASFF: You’ll be appearing on the Meet the Filmmakers panel at ASFF on Saturday 9 November. What are you most looking forward to about this experience?
SJ: I’m very excited to be one of the panelists! I’m looking forward to meeting and connecting with the ASFF audience and my fellow panelists, who are talented independent filmmakers. I’ll be glad to share my experiences as an emerging filmmaker, of writing and directing Konnichiwa Brick Lane and also my latest short film, Equation for a Blind Date, a romantic comedy on which we are in post production. I’m always keen to hear from people who are into the same genre and also interested in weaving cultural diversity into the mix. I hope to help inspire other new filmmakers to go for it and make their films happen. And if anyone in the audience has seen Konnichiwa Brick Lane at ASFF, I’d love to hear their reaction!

ASFF: You’re travelling all the way from Japan to attend ASFF this year. What is it about the event that made you want to make such a big journey?
SJ: Indeed, I’m travelling all the way from Tokyo to York! ASFF is known to champion the best of new, independent short film and filmmakers. With the festival’s strong reputation, I think it is the perfect place in the UK to present the first narrative short film that I have written and directed. I’m also looking forward to the Meet the Filmmakers panel, and to meeting some great new people, both audience and peers. Needless to say, I’m keen to watch ASFF’s selection of fantastic new short films. Even if it’s a long journey, it’s such a privilege for us to be involved in ASFF, and I couldn’t miss the premiere of Konnichiwa Brick Lane! The UK is where I studied for my MA in Creative Writing, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I also want to try a cup of authentic Yorkshire tea!

ASFF: Konnichiwa Brick Lane will also be appearing at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival in November. How do you feel the two festivals compare?
SJ: Vancouver is a wonderful, diverse city, and Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF) is more for the Asian community in the city, providing a great platform for new films and talented filmmakers from this background. Equally, ASFF is a world class showcase and celebration of film, though a wider variety covering all genres, and exclusively short format. York is a beautiful, historic setting. So they’re two very different festivals and cities, but both outstanding in my mind. Coincidentally, Konnichiwa Brick Lane is scheduled to jointly premiere at both ASFF and VAFF on Friday 8 November. It’s a world first – maybe our film will be the start of a new relationship between the festivals! Our film’s producer, Sharon Rapose will be attending the Vancouver premiere. We are thrilled about both festivals and the joint premiere. Afterwards, we’ll arrange a nice Skype chat between Vancouver / York over a glass of champagne.

Konnichiwa Brick Lane Saera Jin (Balancefilm), Japan/ UK, 2013