Atsuko Hirayanagi was
born in Nagano and raised in Chiba, Japan. She is a recent graduate of NYU
Tisch School of The Arts, Asia, with an MFA in Film Production. Her short films have played at numerous film
festivals, including Clermont-Ferrand and Tokyo Short Shorts Film Festival
& Asia. Her thesis short, Oh Lucy!, won 2nd place at 2014 Cannes
International Film Festival (Cinéfondation Selection) and the 1st prize
Wasserman Award at Tisch Asia’s First Run Film Festival 2014. (TIFF official site)
The 22-minute short Oh Lucy! will play at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10 and 13.
WaH: Please give us your
description of the film playing.
AH: Oh Lucy! is about a 55-year-old
single “office lady” in Tokyo, who is given a blonde wig and a new identity (“Lucy”) by her unconventional English language teacher. Lucy awakens desires in
her she never knew existed.
WaH: What drew you to
AH: It started in a writing-class exercise during the second year at my MFA program, where we had to come up
with 100 three-line film ideas in 4 weeks. They gave us random subjects like,
write a rom-com, a buddy film, a musical, a dinosaur film, etc.; the question
for this one was, “Write something about someone you know.” So I did, and then I
totally forgot about it. When it was time to write a thesis script, I went back
to the 100 ideas to see if anything hit me, and this particular one did. I
expanded on the log line and made it into a script.
WaH: What was the biggest challenge
in making the film?
AH: Casting — I
really wanted to find a way to work with Kaori Momoi (an A-list actress in
Japan). Also, we shot and finalized the short across three countries, and that was
very challenging. One of the lead actors also had a ruptured appendicitis mid-shoot,
but we found a way to make it work. She is OK.
WaH: What do you want people to
think about when they are leaving the theatre?
AH: That sometimes uncertainty
can present great potential.
WaH: What advice do you have for
other female directors?
AH: It starts with a
WaH: How did you get your film
AH: I mostly used prize money
(thesis-script competition, prize won from a previous film), donations,
sponsorship by an airline, and a personal loan.
WaH: Name your favorite women
directed film and why.
AH: I really liked Lost in Translation. Sofia Coppola uniquely portrayed the very complex feelings of
a woman going through a quarter-life crisis, which I had not seen done before,
especially in that honest way. It left a very strong impression on me.