Monday, February 22, 2010

The Blind Wolf in Interrogation: An Interview with Kurando Mitsutake

It's been a while since Macabresque was updated, but we return with a killer interview with Kurando Mitsutake, writer, director, actor of Samurai Avenger: Blind Wolf, whom our devoted (!) readers would remember from Macabresque diaries of Fantastic Planet. Kurando, who recently moved to Japan from L.A. to continue his film career there, has kindly taken the time in his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

How did you start your film career? Could you tell us about the films you have been involved in?

After film school, my first job in the film industry was to assistant produce DVD extras for New Line Cinema. I worked with one producer on behind the scene documentaries and audio commentaries for many films including Rush Hour, Lost in Space, and Blade.

Then I worked for a Japanese TV production company in Los Angeles as a production manager during which time I made a directorial debut with a Japanese TV program called @TV.

After a few years I was able to make my first feature film called Monsters Don't Get to Cry.

Around that same time, I worked as a visual effect assistant for The Grudge 2 and was the Assistant Director for the film’s reshoot sequence in Chicago.

I was also the director's assistant on 20th Century Fox's Shutter as well.

You also took part in several projects as an actor, including the popular TV series, Heroes and Ugly Betty according to IMDB. Could you tell us about your acting career? How do you find time to act in other projects while you also work on your own films?

My acting career started as an accident. After I finished my first feature, my friends and I made a short film called Samurai Avenger: Lone Wolf Blood. We did this short film to raise money for the feature version which evolved into Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf.

Since we had no budget for the short, I cast myself as a side character. When the short was done, one of my friends who is a working professional actor told me he wanted to introduce me to his agent. From there one thing led to another and I signed with that agent and got very, very lucky with my run as an actor in Hollywood.

But when I launched “Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf”, I had to stop taking auditions because I had to dedicate all of myself to the picture.

How did Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf come about? What were your inspirations? Could you also tell us a bit about the production process? How did you decide to write, direct and star in the film?

I always wanted to do a samurai movie, especially with a good kick ass revenge storyline. So the concept for LONE WOLF – THE SAMURAI AVENGER was with me for almost a decade.

I love classic samurai chambara films but they are so expensive to do them right. Costumes, wigs, props, and locations... So I decided to create a parallel world - Wild West meets Samurai East. In this world, I could tell a classic tale of revenge which I always wanted to tell but with a small budget, it was “everything is possible”.

In the low budget independent film making world, one must wear as many hats as possible. This is the reason why I ended up doing so much for this movie.
 The decision for me to play the lead character was purely an economical one too. It is very difficult to secure an actor who can commit to a long feature film shoot with a very small budget. So I thought since I'm there on the set everyday anyway, why not play the main character. Also the fact I had a very lucky career as an actor helped my decision.

Were you influenced by the revival of/homage to old exploitation films popularized by Quentin Tarantino?

I have always been a huge fan of those genre pictures from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I am happy to see the revival, but was already influenced by those films.

Do you think Samurai Avenger is an homage to exploitation/martial arts/spaghetti western films or does it parody them?

I guess it's both. But more homage with all my love and respect to those films, especially spaghetti western and Japanese chambara films.

Would it be safe to say there were some references to Jodorowsky’s El Topo aside from all the other exploitation film references? Is there a surreal/underground cinema influence in the film?

I love Mr. Jodorowsky's work but I'm a bigger fan of Santa Sangre than El Topo, if I had to choose.

Many people have seen influences from El Topo in Samurai Avenger, but it wasn't intentionally done. Samurai Avenger was influenced by such filmmakers like Kenji Musumi and Sergio Corrbucci.

How has the film been received? What is it like to make an exploitation film in an age mostly driven by political correctness?

Samurai Avenger has been received really well by the genre film fans from all over the world. I guess because mainstream films have gone very politically correct, there is a huge demand for edgier more exploitative films.

Samurai Avenger was screened at 9 film festivals in 5 countries in 2009. We received best picture awards from Fantastic Planet film festival in Sydney Australia and Indie Fest USA in Anaheim California. So far, we have secured distribution in several countries with many more hopefully to come.

Can you tell us about your future projects? It looks like there might be a sequel to Samurai Avenger…

My next picture might be a "Mondo" style fake documentary on Japan. Another homage to the exploitation genre film.

Another picture that's in the works is a hard boiled gun action movie. After a sword fighting movie like Samurai Avenger, I really want to do a gun fight movie.

I am hoping to do a sequel to Samurai Avenger too. We have to see how well it does commercially in the world first. If it does well, I'm sure we can raise money for the sequel.

Any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

The life of both a commercial or independent filmmaker isn't an easy one. So I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. But if you must make a movie, do a feature not a short film. If you plan well and execute the plan well, you might get lucky and the film might be distributed. That won't happen for short films.

Any last words?

Please find and watch Samurai Avenger. If you enjoyed it, recommend it to your friends. With the strong word of mouth, it might ultimately lead us to make the sequel. Thank you!

PS: To find out more about Samurai Avenger and Kurando's work, visit