Short Film Spotlight is our ongoing series of insights into the world of short films. This week, we bring you an interview with Japanese-American actor and producer Hideo Sato, who recently finished his short film Welcome To The End.
Screenhead: Tell us about your acting background
Hideo Sato: I’ve been mostly in theater my whole life, almost ten years now, five years in Japan and five years here in the US.
That’s a long time without testing the waters of film and TV?
I’ve been in a few short prodcutions in Japan and I did some TV commercial work, but nothing compares to the stage, performing on front of a live audience. You don’t get that rush when it’s filmed.
But you are moving into films?
Not completely. I still do theater, and I’ve been adding film work now. It’s a different road you take when it’s filmed, the auditions are different, the selection is different. After enough failed auditoins here in LA, I started a production company with my brother who operates from Japan, we’ve got some funding and are starting to do our own thing. We’ve gotten some commerical directors on board to expand to commercials and TV spots. We’ve already done half a dozen commercials for Japanese companies.
How difficult is it to get off the ground with a new production company?
There are a few aspects. There’s always the money aspect, trying to get funds and so on. And then there’s simply getting your work out there. It’s always possible to get funding, but what you do with the money is what matters. Hopefully Welcome To The End will get us noticed, both the produciotn company and myself as an actor. We have another short film lined up, Hiro, which we’ll shoot later this month in Japan.
You star and produce Welcome To The End.
Yes, and we fund it, too. It’s our first real production, and it’s exciting to be involved from the very beginning to the end. And I wanted to be involved, it’s in my nature, even in theater production, I’d bring my ideas in terms of set design, wardrobe, etc. It’s not always welcomed by the crew, but you’re roll the dice and take your chances.
What’s the reception been like?
Wonderful. We’ve already screened it twice in front of around 100 people each time at Sunset Gower Studios last week and it was awesome, people were really into it. Most of them were our friends and people we knew, but still, it’s a great feeling. Just seeing it on the big screen, you feel a sense of accomplishment.
You play the Yakuza gangster and the double, how difficult is it for an actor to play two roles?
I wouldn’t call it difficult, rather, it’s very time consuming when it comes to the set ups and you have to be very prepared. The crew have to know how exactly how it will be cut in the editing room, and you definitely need to watch out for continuity errors — we’ve had a few of those that we luckily managed to cut around in post.
Any plans to turn this into a feature? It seems that many short films these days are meant as a “promo” for a bigger project.
We have a different feature in mind, a Hitchcock-thriller called Hatsukoi, which we are currently in pre-production with. It’ll be our first feature film. We didn’t intend for this short to be anything than a short, an interesting story that we can showcase at smaller festivals, to use as a calling card for all of us.
Finally, what advice would you give to young actors and those looking to get into shortfilms:
For actors, reach out to filmmakers and someone with a common interest. You can spend weeks, months, years looking for the perfect script with the perfect character, even if it’s a short film. It’ much easier and better to just reach out to filmmakers and say “Hey, I have this idea about a short, let’s meet and talk about it”. Just get involved, start brainstorming, find an interesting story you want to tell. And then cast yourself (laughs).