Timo Mitsuaki Otsuki, Executive Producer at Cutters Studios grew up between Germany and Japan before finally settling in to Tokyo as home.
Barbara Messer recently caught up with Otsuki following the announcement that he would be Jury President of Film Craft and New Director at AdFest 2018, to talk about what makes a good EP, which language he dreams in, and whether these days he’s more Japanese than German.
You grew up between Germany and Japan. Why did you decide to make Tokyo home?
The grass is always greener on the other side, when I first made the jump to Tokyo, that’s how easy the decision felt back then. Tokyo was fascinating and had this great mixture of modernness and underground-esque culture.
I still think Tokyo is one of the most fascinating cities at present, though when looking back, I have to admit Berlin is too.
I could imagine myself bouncing back and forth between the two cities, though my gut feeling is telling me I should build up myself more in Tokyo as of now.
It seems like I am basing my decision-making more on a feeling than in my head.
You are trilingual in Japanese, English and German. What language do you dream in?
I get this question a lot and actually did think of it a lot in the past. And I think people are not dreaming in languages. I am a believer we are more dreaming in pictures or even something else (another dimension?) we still don’t understand. And that most people are talking about dreaming in languages, because that is the only way to share or explain the experience.
The approval process (in Japan) is different as well and there has been a lot of inefficiency in the process, because it’s very much service driven.
On top of that, when I was young and a friend who was trilingual stayed at my place, he told me the next day, that I was talking while sleeping in 3 languages … I’m guessing my brain just simply translated what I was dreaming about?
At Tohokushinsha, you were an international producer. What are the challenges and perks of working with local agencies internationally? When do things get lost in translation?
Interesting question, especially because Japan is so unique in its workflow.
First of all, a production in Japan gets chosen before the director and most of the directors are freelance.
The approval process is different as well and there has been a lot of inefficiency in the process, because it’s very much service driven.
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For example more people than needed had to travel to the shoot outside of Japan because of political reasons, or we used to color grade the whole footage and not just the edit, or the biggest surprise was that we had the whole equipment on the tech scouting date for rehearsal and some of them started filing that day too.
There is a lot more when getting into details, but my job was not just producing, but also balancing out the workflow/cultural differences to make them understand on both ends.
You have helped grow the influence and reputation of Cutters in Japan. Are there any secrets to being an effective EP?
Tough one to answer, maybe belief, passion and a little bit of drinking?
You grew up in Germany. What is the most German part of your personality?
I’m straight forward, honest, on time and a realist.
What are you looking forward to about being Jury President at AdFest?
I was part of the judging in 2016 and my experience working with last year’s Jury President [Corey Esse, Managing Director and Executive Producer at FINCH in Australia and New Zealand] and the rest of the panel was wonderful. I am looking forward to the challenge of leading the group and of course can’t wait to go through all the wonderful work with the team. The Fabulous Four is also one of my favorites to judge
How does Tokyo inspire you?
In every aspect. Every moment I get out onto the streets I get inspired.
Favorite film you’ve watched this year?
This is more of a timing issue, since most people might’ve seen it before, but ‘Arrival’ was pretty special. With ‘Blade Runner 2049’ being a close second.