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Q:  What does "Doki-Doki" mean?

A:  "Doki-Doki" is a Japanese onomatopoeia that refers to the sound of the heart beating.  In slang popular with young women, it has come to mean a heightened state of anticipation or excitement, especially concerning the "butterflies" in a girl's stomach when she's near a boy she has a crush on.

 

Q:  Why did you shoot in Japan?  Why trains?

A:  I was disillusioned with L.A. and film school, and took a year off to backpack across India and Asia.  I met a lot of fascinating Japanese travelers in other countries and decided to visit them in Japan at the end of the year.  Several people told me stories about commuter life, and a friend's uncle actually married a woman he had seen as a stranger for years on the train platform. 

I wanted to capture the energy and movement of Tokyo trains and streets and there's something uniquely cinematic about personal interactions in Japanese culture--a cycle of repression and release that gives a profundity to the expression of emotion that's largely missing from American life.

Although filmed half-way around the world in another language, the film's concept originated in my thoughts about living in Los Angeles.  Most of my friends and I moved to Los Angeles to pursue careers in the film industry.  We left everything and everyone behind, and found it very difficult to make meaningful friendships in L.A.  People often attribute feelings of isolation and alienation to L.A.'s decentralized, sprawling layout.  But there's more to it than that.  My Japanese friends felt the same way in Tokyo, and I thought there was something particularly moving about feeling disconnected when you're constantly surrounded by street crowds and packed into overflowing subway cars.  One of the film's main themes is the importance of coming out of your shell and finding ways to make connections.

 

Q:  What about Lost In Translation?

A:  We shot a few months before Coppola, and I was vaguely aware of the project while in pre-production (one of our guys was later a loader on LIT).  I liked the film for the most part, and was shocked by how many of the exact same ideas were used in both films (blue wigs, Shibuya Crossing as filmed from the same Starbucks window, and even scenes I cut from my script that were in LIT:  characters running through Pachinko parlors, strangers reading hentai manga on trains).

There are a lot of Japanese-Americans and Japanese who had problems with LIT's "stereotypical" portrayal of Japanese people.  I find this complaint totally understandable.  Oddly, my Japanese-American friends seemed more upset than my Japanese-citizen friends.  I wanted my characters to be curious, compassionate, vibrant, and, ultimately resilient-just like the many friends I made while traveling in Japan the previous year. 

 

Q:  How did you shoot the film?  What about the crowds? 

A:  We shot using semi-professional actors from Tokyo, as well as non-actors and our 5-10 person crew standing in as extras.  On the train scenes where you see the lead actors, everyone crowding the frame is with us (usually positioned to make it look more crowded than it actually was).  For street scenes, we had no control.  Luckily, Japanese people don't look into cameras or bother you the way people do in most countries.  The entire film was shot "guerilla-style", as the bureaucracy and location fees make legal shooting in Japan almost impossible (LIT did a lot of "guerilla", even with their millions of dollars).  Streets were no problems, but often in parks, train stations, amusement parks, etc., the producer would stall the authorities while we continued to shoot around the corner until kicked out.  Oddly, we never got in trouble while shooting inside a train, probably because of our constant hiding.

 

Q:  What was the budget?  What camera did you use? What about editing?

A:  The budget was about $5,000, including plane tickets, housing, food, etc.  Most thesis projects cost $15,000-$30,000 because they are on celluloid.  We shot in video on the Sony PD-150, with a few scenes on the Sony VX-2000.  For one extremely packed train scene with natural crowds, I used a palm-sized Sony PD-5 while posing as a tourist.   I edited on home PC's, using Adobe Premiere (not ideal).

 

Q:  Why Black and White?  Why video?

A:  Most of my favorite Japanese films are in B&W, and it's sort-of how I see Tokyo (which is actually a fairly gray city except for the colorful neon at night).  B&W also lends itself to hyper-reality, and it fits with my adherence to the theory that cinema works best in cycles of repression and release (after a long period of B&W, we cut to color for a cathartic moment).  Plus, shooting film would have been impossible in these circumstances (impractical lighting, size, and weight), and color video still looks a bit amateurish, like someone's wedding home-videos.

 

Q:  What is the music in the film?

A:  The credits lists all the bands, and the DVD lists all the song titles in order.  On the DVD is a "long version" of the film that includes a few songs not specified in the DVD credits:  an instrumental from The Good Girl soundtrack, "Untitled #4" by Sigur Ros,  "The Staunton Lick" by Lemon Jelly, and "Clip-Clap" by Kahimi Karie

 

Q:  How can I get a video copy of the film?

A:  Please refer to the "Get A Copy" section by clicking on the link in the upper right-hand corner.

 

Q:  Did the schoolgirl, Makiko, jump from the bridge at the end?

A:  There are three different versions, and the one screened at festivals ends with shots of bubbles floating around the train tracks, but we never see the schoolgirl blowing them.  It's intentionally ambiguous.  I like to let the individual audience members decide for themselves, depending on what they bring to the film.  For more info, please refer to the "Get A Copy" section by clicking on the link in the upper right-hand corner.

 

Q:  Why are there different versions of the film?  How are they different?

A:  Please refer to the "Get A Copy" section by clicking on the link in the upper right-hand corner.

 

Q:  What's next for the director?

A:  I recently graduated from UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television's graduate MFA program, and I'm finishing several feature screenplays.  I hope to shoot a feature in Japan, as well as in rural Texas near my childhood home.

 

Q:  What are some of the director's favorite films?

A:  I'm probably most influenced by Satyajit Ray, Kurosawa, Ozu, Bresson, the Dardenne Brothers, and Ken Loach...but I love tons of other filmmakers like Lean, Imamura, PTA, Kore-Eda, Bergman, Stillman, etc.  

Here's a random sampling, in no particular order:  The Son, Rosetta, The Eel, Henry Fool, Monsieur Hire, Le Boucher, Sweet Sixteen, Oasis, No Regrets For Our Youth, After Life, Red Beard, Ikiru, Midnight Cowboy, Dreamlife of Angels, Apu Trilogy, Brief Encounter, Close-Up, Ballad of Narayama, Kes, Barcelona, Big Lebowski, Office Space, Flirting With Disaster, Le Trou, A Man Escaped, Straight Time, Pickpocket, Los Olvidados, Winter Light, Yi-Yi, Tokyo Story, Fat City, All About Lily Chou-Chou.