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Japanese director and photographer, Yuuka Eda, represents the power of young creativity infused with real emotions and a desire to connect. As a director, Eda funded, written, and directed her debut movie (Girls' Encounter) which went on to become a huge success among Japanese cinema aficionados. Admittedly, Eda recalls that her jump-start as a director happened by accident or occasion as the director of a film she was involved with during her high-school years simply skipped town days before the project was going to be shot leaving the cast, crew and shooting schedule behind and without any direction. Yuuka states that she felt a sense of responsibility to take charge and see the project coming to fruition. From that moment on, the young director discovered a passion for the motion pictures that she had never recognized before.

Yuuka Eda went on to write and direct Girls' Encounter (2017) and 21st Century Girl (2019) whose depiction of youth angst and emotional turmoil perfectly portray what is like to be young in Japan. Her debut screenplay, Girls' Encounter, was funded and directed by Eda herself after she worked as a freelance in the film industry and as an actress. The story is captivating and emotional with the added sultry emotional discharge of Japanese coming-of-age cinema. It tells the story of Miyuri, a vulnerable adolescent that has been driven into emotional turmoil by the pressures of her provincial school and university entrance exams. She also has to deal with the viciousness of her classmates, who even toss away her only companion, a silkworm. The story goes on and brings some romanticism and lightness to the darkness in her life as a mysterious new student, Tsumugi, suddenly arrives and begins to spin webs of connection, aspiration, secrets, adventure and sensuality that transform Miyuri into a stronger and more confident girl. Tsumugi herself has secrets which she keeps in hiding? The film is a mixture of elements that make reference to the silkworm and what it becomes when it grows up.

Eda's ability to capture and portray youth in Japan is praiseworthy, and she describes her process as beginning with a series of questions. For Yuuka, the 'why' leads to the composition that perfectly and seamlessly depicts the life, fears, joys, and insecurities of real youth. While in lockdown, we had the pleasure of speaking to Yuuka about her work, the way she perceives and captures youth, her relationship with social media and much more.

Filipe Phitzgerard: First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Let’s start from the beginning. How did directing come about for you? Yuuka Eda: I graduated from a general university. I was studying acting while working as an assistant under an acting coach. At the same time, I worked freelance with film to save money. At the age of 23, I made a feature film for the first time with a script I wrote and the money I financed myself. And when I was 24, I released it in theaters and from there I worked as a film director.

F.P: Can you recall any interesting stories from when you were about to embark in the film industry? Y.E: At the age of 18, I just hoped to be involved in film, and somehow I ended up participating in a college movie club which was producing its first film. The person who was to be the director ran away one week before the shooting started, leaving only the location and shooting schedule fixed and everything else was going to zero. At that time, I felt I should take responsibility and undertook the director's role. That's how I became a film director. So I never actually wanted to be a film director in the beginning but if it wasn't for the director leaving so suddenly I don't think I would have become a director. I thank the director who fled at that time.

© Yuuka Eda

F.P: When did you come to realize that photography and film were things you loved and wanted to pursue? Y.E: It was when I was 18 years old. I took pictures with a camera I bought with money I’d saved and I shot a movie for the first time. I was shocked by the difference between "just seeing as a customer" and "actually creating" and I started to want to pursue it.

F.P: What are the things that most influence your work? Y.E: It is the relationships with and between people. I meet and talk with many people every day and objectively observe what I am feeling and acquiring. I expand my thinking by repeating this over and over again. I tend to see this a chemical reaction that can never happen alone.

F.P: How do you approach photography and film? Are they quite different for you? Y.E: Photos and movies are completely different. The photo captures the stimulus instantly and instinctively. Meanwhile, the film is meticulously built from the beginning to end, I think. Thinking too much is not a good thing for photography, but when it comes to a film it is something that gets deeper and improved through trial and error every day.

F.P: Your work is not only beautiful but packed with real emotions. I personally love how you portray youth and the challenges involved in it. How do you approach your work when looking at the emotional side of youth? Y.E: I love finite things. I believe that values are beautiful because of their limitations and capturing them while they exist will make the moment shine more. Youth is just that feeling. Impulsive, sharp, painful, fragile. It is like a rough diamond. The appearance changes depending on the angle, and when it hits the light, it refracts in a direction that you cannot imagine. In order to try to fully capture such unstable light, I try to face young people with a positive love while still keeping a sense of distance available, that is not too close to their feelings, so they have space to still feel safe and comfortable.

F.P: ‘Girls’ Encounter’ was the first of your works I came across and I love how raw and real the story plays out. Now with the recent release of ‘’21st Century Girl’ do you see it as a continuation to ‘Girls’ Encounter’? Y.E: It is not a continuation. But I wrote both scripts, so there may be something shared. Perhaps, because I usually feel the difficulty and itchiness of loving a person, something might be coming through from that.

© Yuuka Eda; Girls' Encounter

F.P: We know you have worked with the incredible Serena Motola; how has it been working with her? Are you guys good friends? Y.E: I met Motola at the audition. From there I worked with her on advertising and photography several times. She is always an honest and loving girl. Occasionally, we go to dinner together privately.

F.P: In your own words; why is it important to portray the reality of youth, their emotions and challenges, in today’s society? Y.E: I think the world of young people is very small. Their community is limited to schools, homes and communities. They don't have the money to spend freely like us as adults, and they don't have the ability to go anywhere whenever they want to. They are fighting in a much smaller world. And so, entertainment is important for them, I think. Actually, I was like that too. That's why it's important to create stories that affirm their way of life and that makes them want to live more not only looking at today but their tomorrows. It is the young people who will create the future society.

F.P: In a world of social media and fast information; what is your relationship with social media like? Y.E: I think that my existence is greatly strengthened by these worlds [real and digital] because a lot of my work is made for young people and social media platforms are where they tend to spend most of their time- or a lot of it.

F.P: What do you think are the positives and the negatives of social media? Y.E: The good thing is that more people can see my work and I can see their reaction immediately. it is easy to use their reactions as a source of information for the next work. The negative side is that it is easily consumed. There is too much information and each piece is often handled like just a consumer product.

F.P: Going back to your photography; you have a very cinematic style and we love it; do you have any tips to young creatives who are pursuing the same industry? Y.E: How can I capture a good photo? Actually, I get this question sometimes. Well, what is a good photo in the first place? For whom? The judgment is ambiguous and it’s difficult to make a decision. Then you should take photos for yourself. Capture the moment when you think it’s good. Many people do not know what they think is good, what makes something good for each person is subjective. I think that repeatedly understanding what I perceive as good helps me create my own style and, as a result, a good picture.

© Yuuka Eda; Girls' Encounter

F.P: What is your creative process like? How do you organize your ideas? Y.E: It starts with "why?" in everyday life. Why do we need to love people? Why can't you kill someone? Why? I always work from a place where I question the obvious. It's usually a question that no one can answer, but something that is just common sense that nobody doubts. But I often find myself angry and sad about those commonplace assumptions. I think about how I can turn that feeling into a story and then assemble it together in visual form.

F.P: In your opinion; what is the most exciting thing about working within the creative industry in Japan? Y.E: In Japan, for better or worse, the borderline between being a professional and an amateur is ambiguous. There are many creators and there are many opportunities. Young people like me can get many opportunities, so I am grateful every day to keep going on adventures and challenging myself.

F.P: Any advice to creatives who are staying at home at the moment and not able to go out because of COVID-19? How can they stay creative? Y.E: I feel kind of desperate because I can't do anything, but I try to take this situation positively because we are still alive and this is wonderful. I’ve been living a slow life watching movies I wanted to and reading novels I hadn’t made time for in my busier days. I think creativity comes from gaps and loneliness in daily life. I believe that right now is that kind of situation and that it will be time to support myself in the next 10 years. And surely the entertainment industry will change and I think it has to. I talk with my peers every day on video chat about how we can find joy and get through this period. Thinking about what to do in the future is a way of being creative. This is a time to rest, reflect and recharge.


© Yuuka Eda; Girls' Encounter

© Yuuka Eda; Girls' Encounter

Seventeen Song © Yuuka Eda

© Yuuka Eda

© Yuuka Eda

© Yuuka Eda


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