Interview with Filmmaker Kirk Wolf (SUSHI)

SUSHI was the winner of BEST MUSIC VIDEO at the August 2021 EXPERIMENTAL Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Well, it was really exciting because Maia gave me a ton of creative freedom which in my experience hasn’t always been the case with music videos. Some artists have a certain image that they need to protect so getting them to do something like chopping up your boss and serving him to customers isn’t always an option. She had some direction of course, for instance she was very adamant that she wanted to be shown as the victim of sexual harassment and also fighting back against that. And the song was called sushi so…my mind just kind of wandered from there trying to find the most impactful combination of all those elements.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I think we started talking about ideas in early December. Maia was coming into Tokyo from Paris where she lives and stayed for a few months and filmed three music videos in that time. I think we shot like January 3rd or 4th and after that it was probably a good month or two of editing. Part of that delay was because we had the opportunity to work with an amazing colorist, Simon Boissonneaux, a friend of my DP Hans Bobanovits, but he’s always booked out for at least a month in advance and I just kept begging the team please wait for him to be available it’s going to be worth it!
And it absolutely was.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Unexpected and unsettling (many people have told me “unwanted” as well)

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Haha I’ll try to avoid saying “time” or “money” because everyone’s very aware of that already.

Actually what was really difficult, and a bit of a learning experience for me, was that Hans and I had really planned this like a short film you know? We had it super strictly storyboarded and we needed certain shots to make sure that the story was understandable and to make the final product work we would basically need to get everything.

Like, this isn’t just cool coverage of the artist lip syncing and dancing that you chop up in editing, we actually needed to get every shot. And in the end due to time at the location we definitely didn’t get every shot so editing around those gaps was a big challenge.

But also, I realized right away that the shots we had didn’t necessarily line up with the beat of the music. It’s hard to sort of squeeze something that would otherwise be a short film into the format of a music video because you’re thinking I need this cut here for the sake of the “storytelling” but its so off beat and feels awful for the music video.

That was definitely the biggest challenge.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Man, yeah that was crazy. I was sitting at my desk and as soon the first person started talking I got up and started pacing around haha.

It was so much positivity I couldn’t handle it I was totally squirming. I sent Hans the link as soon as I got it and we were both watching the feedback texting back and forth like “can you believe they said that??” .

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Probably in the middle of my graphic design degree in college. I don’t have the right kind of mindset to be a graphic designer I think. It’s a really difficult profession and you’ve got to love it and I just never really fell in love with it the way some of my classmates did.

But I, like basically everyone, was always in love with film and when we were given some video assignments during one of my design years I thought “yeah this is what I was looking for”.

And that coupled with a presentation given by one of the Alums from my program who had gone on to work for Digital Kitchen, the company responsible in a big way for changing the entire opening credits landscape (they did Dexter, Six Feet Under, True Blood, etc.), kind of convinced me that it was an actual possibility to get into the industry.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Wow, that have to be a toss up between anything in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Disney’s animated Mulan. I saw Mulan in theaters about 9 times as a child and then there was a year in college where all my friends lived in a house together and basically had the LOTR extended cut trilogy and nothing else, no cable, no netflix, so we watched those over and over.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Oh I thought it was awesome. Really it couldn’t have been easier. I think it’s incredible to have so many film festivals using the same platform rather than having to figure out and navigate everyone’s individual system.

9. What is your favorite meal?

That’s really hard to say. There’s a particular mexican red pork stew that I can never remember the name of but my friend David’s mom makes it and I can’t remember having had anything better.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m working on another music video now actually with the same production company DMBZ, though a different artist this time. And after that I’d really like to take a break to finish writing this short film I’ve been working on for forever and start getting more serious about narrative work.

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