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AN INTERVIEW WITH Yoichi Utebi, PRODUCER
As a film producer, please introduce yourself and your background.
My name is Yoichi Utebi. Currently, I am based both in LA and Tokyo Japan. As a producer, I have been involved in this industry for several years with more background and expertise in marketing and event producer on global scale. As a producer, one of my main missions is
to be part of the film production from Happy Science (Japan’s most influential spiritual movement lead by the founder Ryuho Okawa).
Another major mission is to introduce these works worldwide. As a window to the world, we have newly established a production company
called HS Productions in Los Angeles. From here, we are actively engaging in spreading the message to the world.
Why you became a filmmaker or film producer?
I have always been involved with content and software marketing and production with companies around the world.
I have traveled to over 30 countries so far and worked with many different people with different cultures and religious backgrounds.
As I was always a big fan of movies and filmmakers, I wanted to contribute my experiences and expertise in this field.
I have been involved with several movies produced by Happy Science such as “The Laws of the Universe Part 0,” ”The Mystical Laws,”
“Final Judgement,” “The Laws of the Universe Part 1” and as a producer, “Immortal Hero” and “The Real Exorcist.”
Movies and films have the power to tell the story to the world and touch people’s hearts, despite of all the differences and background.
At the end of the day, we are all same humans and we can all be connected as one through powerful and positive messages and visuals.
I am so fascinated with the power of movies, and that is my inner energy for the passion.
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to become a film industry?
Actually, the first movie I have ever seen in a movie theater with a large screen was “Star Wars” (1977).
I was in elementary school. Until then, I’ve never had experienced a movie theater. As we all know, the impact and Influence of “Star Wars”
was enormous; at that time as it changed the future of movie making. As a very young boy, first time watching a movie in a theater
(and it was “Star Wars”!) was just an unbelievable experience for me. Many many years have past since then, but
I still clearly remember that moment …
You produced a wonderful film called "The Real Exorcist" which was Officially Selected in the "American Golden Picture International Film Festival". What specifications in our festival motivated you to participate?
We have decided to submit our film to the "American Golden Picture International Film Festival" because it offers filmmakers great
opportunities to showcase their films by holding both monthly contents and yearly competition.
As filmmakers, we want to deliver the film’s main messages to as many people as possible, and we thought that this film festival
will give us a chance to do that. Although this year’s event will be an online event due to the coronavirus pandemic, we hope that a lot of people will participate in this festival. It would be great if we can receive feedback about our film from the participants of the film festival.
Could you please tell us about your production process. The production budget for this film was $3,000,000.
Have you had any challenges you faced in making this film?
As the title suggests, we wanted to show what the “real exorcism” is in this film―what really happens when we fall under negative spiritual influences, when we are under the attack of the devil―and show how to solve these spiritual issues and fight against evil.
We used special effects and VFX to depict these spiritual phenomena so that the audience themselves can also go through these
experiences as they watch the film. This was our challenge on the production side. Our another behind the scene challenge was a spiritual one. What I mean is that we actually had to fight spiritually against negative influences during the production. Believe it or not,
there were spiritual beings that tried to stop us from shooting this film. So in that sense, this film is very real.
And now we are facing another challenge of releasing the film in theaters because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But we believe that watching this film will help people gain a positive and bright outlook and give them hope for the future.
So we hope to be able to show this film to as many people as possible around the world.
The cinematography, acting and special effects supports the drama in a very effective way.
What was it like to work with them?
We were blessed with the incredible cast and staff, and it was a wonderful experience working with them.
Yoshiko Sengen, the lead actress, did an amazing job playing the role of Sayuri, a café waitress who has a secret side of a “little savior.”
To play this role, she went through an intense and rigorous spiritual training to perform exorcism. I really believe that the rites
she performs in the film actually have the power to heal people’s hearts and defeat negative energies and spirits. Mirai Irako did an excellent job playing the role of Isamu who gets strongly impressed by Sayuri and starts supporting her. Rin Kijima also did a great job
playing the role of Isamu’s girlfriend, Kyoka, who grows jealous when Isamu becomes close to Sayuri.
We had many other experienced professional actors and actresses that made up the cast of this film.
The staff were also all top-notch professionals with years of experiences in filmmaking. Akiko Ashizawa is a pioneering female
cinematographer who was awarded a medal of honor by the Japanese government. Shuji Asano, a VFX producer, did an amazing job
illustrating the spiritual phenomena, such as spiritual possession, the light of salvation, and spiritual barrier.
We had many meetings before, during, and after the shooting to discuss how best to express the invisible world. But it was really worth it.
I think we could show what really happens spiritually when we come under negative spiritual influences and how,
by strengthening the inner light, we can fight off negative energies.
The most important part is distributing the film. What did you do for distributing your film "The Real Exorcist"?
Now, we are facing the biggest challenge with distributing the film because of the current situation―the coronavirus pandemic.
We were originally planning on releasing the film in about 200 theaters in Japan from May 2020. But because the Japanese government declared the state of emergency in April, most of the theaters closed. But we have decided to release the film as originally scheduled
on May 15 without any delay, and miraculously theaters in Japan started to open from the release week and we were able
to show this movie in about 200 theaters across Japan
(as of the end of May) . “The Real Exorcist” was the only
newly released film nationwide in Japan since the government
declared the state of emergency in April. But we are happy with our decision because we received lots of positive feedback and
comments from those who watched the film.
This film really makes you feel positive and refreshed after
watching it, which will help you strengthen your immune system
to fight against the virus. We are now preparing to release it
in theaters worldwide, including the US, Canada, England, Taiwan
and more. We sincerely hope that the release of “The Real Exorcist”
will help revive the film industry around the world.
For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn after finishing this film?
For me, the most important lesson was that the intention and the purpose for making films really matters.
There are literally thousands of films made every year, but I think the question that filmmakers need to ask themselves is why and for what purpose we are making these films. I believe that good films are the ones with positive, constructive, and encouraging messages
that have the power to change the world. Moviemaking is not only about expressing what we believe, but also about delivering our message
to the world and bringing a positive impact on the people’s lives. So the biggest lesson I learned was to believe in the purpose
and mission of the film all throughout the pre-production, production, and post-production.
What is your filmmaking goals?
The films we produce are based on the original stories by Ryuho Okawa, who is the founder of a global spiritual movement, Happy Science.
We would like to deliver his messages imbued in these stories and spread the Truth, love, and light through our films,
and we want to continue to make effort to produce and bring to the world movies that would inspire people in a positive way
and contribute to making the world a better place.
What is your next project?
We are now working on our next film “Twiceborn” which is scheduled to be released in fall 2020.
And I have the privilege to be one of the producers of this film as well. It is a biographical true story of the founder of Happy Science,
Ryuho Okawa. We have much more films lined up on production so please look forward for more movies from us!
GOOD LUCK Yoichi
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