Documentary film on the development of FUJIFILM X-Pro3
Documentary film on the development of FUJIFILM X-Pro3
Executive Producer: Tosh Iida
Producer Kunio Aoyama
Director & Cinematographer: Palle Schultz
Script & Narration: Mindy Tan
Technical Management, Edit, Color Grading, Music: Palle Schultz
Production Management, Stills Photography: Mindy Tan
Mindy Tan, Eric Bouvet, Patrick La Roque, Megan Lewis, Charlene Winfred, Jonas Rask, Zack Arias, Kevin Mullins, Rommel Bundalian,
On the last day of filming, we camped in a forest among tall trees and the shrill of cicadas.
Kunio, with all his might, hauled a large piece of wood from the bushes to make a campfire overlooking Lake Motosu while we patiently waited for Mt Fuji behind the clouds to appear.
As night fell upon us, there we were, Fujifilm’s three camera managers, Makoto Oishi, Jun Watanabe, Kunio Aoyama, and two X-photographers Palle Schultz and myself, a rare combination of people camping on a chilly late summer’s night.
Meat crackled against the flames as Kunio expertly prepares dinner. I quietly observe each of my talented, passionate friends around this table.
It has been an amazing year with the Fujifilm family, one filled with friends, fun, and food, I dare say.
It began over a year ago at Photokina 2018 in Cologne, Germany. Fujifilm was having its largest presence yet at the European photographic fair. I had been invited to deliver talks about my solo-film-making journey, Forbidden Tattoos, using the X-H1. It is ‘traditional’ that Fujifilm invites their ambassadors from all over the world for large events, I was just happy to be given the opportunity to interact and meet other X-Photographers in person.
At a post-event dinner in a German restaurant, where Fujifilm had a brick-tavern all to ourselves, Kunio came and sat beside me, asking “Do you want to make movie?”
It would be about a photographer taking a trip around the world to meet other X-Photographers, he said. Palle would film it, and I’d be the photographer. Perhaps it was coincidence that the Danish cameraman and I were seated side-by-side, prompting such a spontaneous idea? Noisy chatter from the crowd all round drowned our conversation. We scratched out heads, unsure if those words were serious, or a sudden thought spurred by the activities of the week, or if we had somehow lost one another in translation.
That was September 2018.
Three months later, an email popped up in my inbox with a short and simple invitation to Tokyo for a meeting. Palle was also on his way. Quietly, the project has taken root.
How could I have ever imagined myself as Charlie in the Chocolate factory?
The kid with an all-access ticket inside the doors of Fujifilm, who could ask all the questions I ever wanted?
I couldn’t believe that a major camera company had entrusted me, a Singapore female photographer, with the power to call the shots.
My role for the movie was scriptwriter-narrator and in so doing, the researcher. I also photographed the still images. A lot of time was spent organising travel schedules, liaising with photographers, buying air tickets, figuring out which hotels and cars to book for our two-pax duo. Thankfully, Kunio and his teammates Yuto and Toshiya, handled the schedule in Japan.
Over the course of 9 months, filming and interviews took us to Dubai, Paris, Montreal, Singapore, Manila, Newman and Marble Bar in Western Australia, Aarhus and Copenhagen in Denmark, Malmesbury in the UK, and Tokyo and Osaka in Japan.
We accumulated a lot of carbon footprint but hopefully it will all be worth it.
A list of possible themes ran through my head.
What would photographers like to watch?
What would hobbyists find interesting?
Who, and what exactly should this film be about?
What information should we put out to the world?
I want to be honest. I want to be real. I want to show the ordinary things in life that are seemingly banal but provide so much cultural context and meaning. And I want to capture them before it becomes ordinary to me.
I dug out my rusty skills as a former newspaper journalist and got cracking.
Skype calls with shortlisted photographers followed. It was the pre-interview before the actual filming, in order to draft a script, and to determine the right candidates. There was elimination, I’m sorry. My apologies we could not feature everyone.
The first time we arrived at the Omiya office, we were handed green staff jackets.
There were always jokes about Omiya from the younger members of the Fujifilm team, mainly about how the office looked in contrast to modern buildings in Tokyo.
Upon arrival, I asked, “Can we film here?”
Internally, I was debating, “What image does Fujifilm want to portray?”
I know of clients who practice self-censorship to a such high degree, they only show their pristine sides to the public.
“Yes. You can film,” Kunio said.
“But we camouflage you with green jackets, because not everyone understands this project,” he says.
“Wow, this is really going to be a documentary!” My inner thoughts excited while on the outside trying to keep a pokerface.
He hands us a deep mint green Fujifilm jacket taken from his colleagues’ chairs, and house slippers. Apart from the fact that I was female and 95% of people in the building were male, I suppose I blended in pretty well and even wanted to take the jacket home.
The bulk of my research involved ‘probing’. Yes, unashamedly asking everyone questions, then putting it together for a first draft.
In Dubai at the Gulf Photo Plus, Toshi Iida, the General Manager for Fujifilm’s Electronic Imaging department other known as the “Boss” was sitting at arms’ length over dinner at a Pizzeria. I braved myself and posed him some questions, unsure if they were culturally appropriate or simply rude, “Do you photograph? What do you photograph?”
He responded with an amazing story about his father’s gift of a Nikon film camera in his teens and his love for astro-photography.
I went on to ask about his living arrangements and daily life, knowing he lives very near the office. The “Boss” man chatted on about his wife and daughter.
It was a complete invasion of privacy probing into his personal life, especially not with the big boss! But for the script, I had to find out. It was a relief he seemed happy talking about it.
No question is too stupid, I suppose. One question might lead to another interesting fact.
These personal bites, where people reveal something deep within, the history of themselves that make up who they are today, are the content I love in the interviews that inevitably reveal who people are, and what values the brand is built upon.
Did you know that the Titanium top plate on the X-Pro3 originally arrives in a sheet in the factory and is shaped using a pressing mold? Due to the difficulty of handling the strong material, stress marks may appear on the top plate. Countless tries had to be made before the process could be perfected, before mass production can begin.
At the pressing factory, this man, let’s call him B, has been putting all his energy into producing the perfect top plate for the X-Pro3.
But that day when we turned up to film the first runs of the X-Pro3’s mass production was the first time he saw a working camera assembled as one complete piece. He had been dealing with one part of the camera so intensely, seeing it in whole evoked different intensities of feelings.
As we finished the factory tour, I removed the X-Pro3 slung across my neck and placed it on the table. He asked if he could hold the camera.
B looked through the viewfinder, then asked if he could take a picture.
“Go ahead,” I said.
Once he pressed the shutter button, a complex expression appeared. He nodded, and he nodded to himself, holding the camera, his other hand beating his against his chest repeatedly, as if the ‘thump, thump, thump’ were a voice to contain his excitement and effort, one he had endured for so long.
Then, he declared that he was going to buy the X-Pro3 as soon as it hit the shelves.
Later, it was translated from Japanese that B had been very involved in creating the top plate. Even on Fridays when they grab beers at the bar, the conversation revolved around ways to perfect the top plate. B had lived, breathed and dreamt X-Pro3 Titanium plates for months.
It was devotion. It was passion for the job where you believe you have to do your best for the honour of the craft. Photographers go through these sorts of intensity too. And in that period of passion, this craft can sometimes be the only thing worth living for. It was an emotional moment. I squirmed, hoping that the facial creases would keep my tears from falling.
… is the toughest part of making this documentary.
Because you witness it and know how it feels like, it is almost difficult to describe it to someone who hasn’t had the same experience, without sounding like a paid mouthpiece.
The Fujifilm electronic imaging division are a band of brothers, beyond salarymen.
I hope that through the interviews, you will get a sense of it.
How we are consuming products has become more personable, with brands reaching out to individuals. For this documentary, Fujifilm signed up to reveal themselves in a manner that is bold, unscripted and honest. The only censorship you receive might be self-censorship – some from me (“Do we show this? Do we have to protect the privacy of others?”), some from the subjects interviewed (“Will my bosses like what I’m saying? How will this be edited?).
In the end, I love the approach of Fujifilm making public its people. Collectively they might be a brand. Individually, each member of the team has a face, a name, and devote their work to the creation of value, and in turn, the history of photography.
The camera industry has always been evolving. Alongside my photographic journey with Fujifilm, I came to realise my obsession really is story-telling. Photography is a medium. But mediums also exists in the form of writing, or making a film.
This year of making Camera Punk has been a steep learning curve, learning to structure and manage so much information, and translating the goodwill of others, the time they have generously given, into a finished film deserving of expectations.
The process counts as much as the results. The most precious takeaway from making Camera Punk is the friendships with Fujifilm and X-Photographers from all over the world – that steals the limelight for me.