This is an Edited Translation from 2001 edition of the ALC MAGAZINE
Edited by Yuriko Yamaki

Mr. Yasuaki Nakajima

Born 1972, Hokkaido, Japan. After graduating from high school, Yas went to Tokyo, working during the day while producing and directing claymation film in his apartment at night. The film "HAND AND EGG" Color/8mm/15min, which was screened at Tokyo’s famous Image Forum Film Festival.
While in Australia in 1994 on a working holiday, he filmed his day-to-day hitchhiking adventure throughout the country. The following year he traveled to New York and London to studying acting, returning to New York again in 1996, where continued his studies at the HB-Studio. Yas started to produce and direct his first dramatic feature film "AFTER THE APOCALYPSE" (Black & White/16mm) in 1999. He currently works on post-production of the film. Yas’s first connection to film occurred in junior high school, as he was drawn to Jacky Chang’s attitude towards filmmaking. Upon graduating high school, he felt that he would not benefit from going to a university, and worked several jobs before leaving bucolic Hokkaido for the bright light and big city of Tokyo. It was a time of economic prosperity in Japan, and he earned enough as a high-rise window cleaner to support himself while he studied film at weekend watching all night film screening at the Bungeiza theatre in ikebukuro, Tokyo. In search of experience, he bought a second-hand Super-8mm film camera, developing a self-taught filmmaking style. "I loved making animation, like when you use clay and shoot frame by frame. Since you don’t require an actor, you can spend as much as you like on our work."
He submitted his work, "HAND AND EGG", to the Image Forum Film Festival in Tokyo, where it was allowed to screen after running a gauntlet of several judges. This inspired Yas to make several other films. However, after 4 years of life as a window cleaner by day and filmmaker at night, he realized that he was not moving forward.
"I couldn’t find places in Tokyo to show my films. Then I wondered about showing my films overseas. When I thought of my future, I realized I needed an overseas perspective.
In order to get that, I knew I needed to speak English, so I quit my job and went to Australia for a working holiday."
Assigning himself a film project while in Australia, Yas carried 50 cartridges of 8mm film in his backpack and hitchhiked throughout the country for 6 months. He documented his life and the landscape. The road movie diary, "THE HITCHHIKER WITH A MOVIE CAMERA"
"I spoke no English, knew nobody, and felt like a ghost in the desert--a person who just appeared out of nowhere with no past. But I realized I needed to survive wherever I was. I needed to find food, place to sleep, have sex and make friends. I struggled because I couldn't speak t he language, but I learned it is possible to connect with people in other ways—through their eyes and their body language."
But He wanted to progress farther in his English abilities, and so pondered a trip to either the UK or USA. Finally, inspired by the independent art movement in New York he heard of from a friend, Yas picked that city.
"You need knowledge of acting to be a director. I had a frustrating experience trying to direct an actor friend of mine in Tokyo once, as I was not able to coax the desired performance from an actor’s perspective."
Yas began to study acting in New York at the Lee Strasberg Acting Institute. However, because he was only visiting the USA a 90 days travel visa, he had to continue his course of study at the London branch. Yas enjoyed exploring the differences in the American and British styles of acting, as well watching European films, but New York was calling. After studying in London for a year, he returned to New York (by way of Japan) as a student of the City University of New York in Staten Island.
After one semester of arduous traveling to Staten Island from his room in south Bronx, Yas transferred to the Manhattan-based acting school, HB-Studio, in Greenwich Village. For the next 2 1/2 years Yas acted in several Studio, Independent and student films, running gamut from extra to principal. He also worked as crew. During this time Yas utilized his own difficult experience house hunting in New York, while making the short "LOOKING FOR A HOUSE" and followed that with the short thriller "RESTOOM" which takes place in a New York men’s room.
"We’d find actors through Back Stage. They would work without pay if they liked the project. It’s exciting to make films in New York because there are so many energetic and enthusiastic actors and crew."
These works were screened at the Brooklyn Film Festival, a Soho art gallery, and other venues. Upon graduating of acting school in 1999, Yas decided "to make a feature length film with my ideas and my friends."
Low budget film productions cannot afford the expenses of a set. The idea for "AFTER THE APOCALYPSE" came from ruins in Brooklyn, which ultimately became the film’s locations.
"The film is about five survivors trying to make sense of New World after a devastating urban catastrophe challenges all their human needs."
In his previous shorts, Yas drew themes and viewpoints from his own life, but he did try to keep more objective perspective for the making of "AFTER THE APOCALYPSE" spending three targeted months in an improvisational rehearsal process with his actors. Starting from the idea of "expressing communication beyond speech" there were no words.
"Foreign directors like myself pay a lot attention to an actor’s behavior rather than how they speak their English dialogue. Although the behavior may be silent, I think it’s a universal language."
After many difficulties in finding a DP and new lead actress, the film shot in 10 days of principal photography and 2 days of re-shooting. Currently Yas has been fielding suggestions from acquaintances with screenings of the rough-cut while hunting down financing for the sound and print processes.
Yas stresses the importance of the "Indies style" in filmmaking. "It is not easy to clearly delineate the line between the independents and studios now, but the difference is in the spirit. Some people say a film in which final-cut rights belong to the director is independent. My favorite filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick, was an independent until his death."
Now that his practical training is finished and he has returned to a student way of life, Yas has been interning at a film production company. In order to develop his acting skills, he is studying voice, mask, and mime, as well as joining a theatre troupe. "To make a good film, it’s important to write a good script and have someone who will support you in your endeavors. I am learning a lot through collaborating with other people since I still developing my knowledge and skills."
We asked, "what’s your goal?" as replied, "My dream is to be like John Cassavettes. He succeeded as an actor and kept on making films the way he wanted. If I could do that, it would be great."