Tap into the colourful world of Japanese Idols with a T&F original composition for Super 8 film competition, Straight 8

Although it takes submissions from the highest tech creative agencies in the world, the Straight 8 short film contest is all about going back to basics.

The rules are these: make one short film, shot in sequence, on one cartridge of super 8 film (so, restricted to 3 minutes 20 seconds long). Submit the raw cartridge with no edits, no retakes, no colour-grading, and no post-production. Then send an original soundtrack separately; the composer is not to be present during filming, so the audio will be played in sequence for the first time at the Straight 8 screening event.

For their 2017 Straight 8 film submission, titled ‘Forever Idol,’ leading Japanese production company Tohokushinsha Film Corporation found their pink-haired protagonist in the colourful culture of the Japanese Idol. Not to be confused with the reality TV singing contest of a similar name, Japanese Idols have been around since the 1970s, and refer to a particular type of cute and wholesome role model. These manufactured public figures are widely admired for their squeaky clean public images, and can be seen acting in heartthrob/starlet roles and singing in J-pop acts.

Forever Idol strikes a curious tone of isolation from its first very frame, which is amplified by its sugary and uptempo dance-pop soundtrack. A solitary female figure, dressed in what looks like manga cosplay, goes about the mundane tasks of her everyday: cycling through the city, handing out flyers to passers-by, visiting a temple, buying groceries, and enjoying a beer. She then performs on stage to an audience which responds in the glow-stick waving style of ‘wotagei,’ a staple of Idol fandom, but then when you least expect it the film’s narrative takes an abrupt dark turn.

We were faced with the unique task of scoring this unseen project when the producer of the film called our Tracks & Fields CEO Christian. Despite being someone used to saying either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the spot, this time Christian paused and said, “Give me until the end of the day.” Forever Idol presented a unique set of challenges: how to hit all the right notes with an original composition soundtrack, scored in the tradition of Japanese pop music with Japanese lyrics, with no visual references aside from a basic storyboard, and a delivery deadline of four days? Never one to shy away from a daunting prospect, Christian had found an unlikely solution within a handful of hours.

A talented French-born, Berlin-based composer from within the Tracks & Fields production roster was drafted in to write the music, and after a detailed briefing he was able to apply his expertise to the job at hand. “Having played a lot of Japanese video games and having watched lots of anime/manga during my childhood,” said the composer, “I felt pretty excited when Tracks & Fields gave me the ‘challenge,’ as a European music producer, to work on my first ever J-Pop tune!” With the music completed, the next step was to find the perfect singer to lay down the lyrics supplied by the filmmakers. The soundtrack’s J-pop persona, a native Japanese singer named Maki, was found by scouring through Berlin’s local underground band scene.

“The most fun part was recording the vocals with Maki,” our composer recalls. “I had been given the lyrics of the song in a phonetic way so I could pretty much follow what was being sung. Maki translated the lyrics, and while we were working on the vocal topline, I was giving phonetic advice on how to sing, without knowing Japanese! That made it a pretty hilarious situation.”

The completed version of ‘Forever Idol’ premiered last month during Straight 8’s screening program for CICLOPE Festival 2017. As one of just 16 films selected for screening during this prestigious event, the public unveiling of ‘Forever Idol’ also marked Tracks & Fields’ first ever Straight 8 appearance.

Please enjoy the final result of this unique collaboration below.

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