Ciclope Asia 2019: Pre-Ciclope Interview with Julie Thomas

Ciclope Asia, with which AOI Pro. is a partner, will take place this week Thursday. We would like to share an interview with one of AOI Pro.’s senior international representatives, Julie Thomas-Toda, about the festival, film crafts, and the Japanese ad industry. 

About Julie Thomas-Toda

Born on one island and moved to another, Julie left her home of Honolulu, Hawaii in 1991, and joined AOI Pro. Inc. in Tokyo, when very few foreign women were employed in the Japanese advertising industry. Julie contributed in pushing film craft beyond the cultural and language barriers for AOI Pro. to become the leader in collaborating with international creative professionals and filmmakers, setting the precedent for cross-cultural advertising in Japan. Seeing beyond the initial concept in a production, Julie thrives on discovering multi-faceted creative possibilities and delivering beyond the clients' expectations.

Her work as a creative coordinator has led her around the globe, working with some of the most distinguished professionals in the industry for clients such as Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Sony, Panasonic, Coca-Cola, Shiseido, Nike, Kirin, Asahi, and Nestle.

Julie delves into the advert and film craft realm daily, easily geeking out several hours at a time to uncover who’s work is excelling in the world of persuasive filmmaking. She has served on the Film Craft juries for ADFEST, Ciclope, SHOTS, and YDA.

Japan has been her home for the last 27 years where she resides in Tokyo with her husband and two children. 

What is Ciclope Asia?

Ciclope Asia now in its second year here in Tokyo is a festival specifically dedicated to film craft with festivals taking place all around the world: Ciclope Africa, Ciclope South America, and Ciclope Asia, culminating to the main Ciclope Festival held every year in Berlin, Germany. Last year was the first Ciclope Asia, with entries from countries throughout Asia, such as New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, China, Taiwan, and Japan.

What do you think is the significance of having Ciclope in Asia?

Some people will not agree with me but I firmly believe that film craft differs greatly depending on the country, influenced by culture, society, the norms and values of that country.  Compared to the rest of the world, technical or artistic decisions for example such as the choice of lens, framing, lighting, color grading, editing, etc.  are unique to that particular country or region. In my opinion, I don’t think Asian film craft gets enough exposure, and sadly doesn’t received as much recognition internationally.  

Can you give an example with Japanese commercials?

A majority of the commercials here in Japan are 15 secs in length so everything needs to be a quick-read. The viewer can’t be left second-guessing what the brand or the story is trying to say. There just isn’t a lot of room to play with which is why for example with casting, they tend to be quick-read type casted or a celebrity. If there is more space for storytelling, you can add little moments to the story through camera movements, performance of the actors, etc. But for 15 secs, it has to be quick and clear, similar to Manga or Comic books. 

What is the importance of film craft?

In many of the festivals, they honor the idea first, and the element of film craft comes second. Even if the original idea is great, if it isn’t executed well, the idea fails. This is where Ciclope differs.  It is specifically honoring the craft. 

Specifically with regards to AOI Pro., festivals like Ciclope are important as technically we are not the ones that come up with the idea — this is the role of the agency creatives. Ultimately our role is to bring their idea to life through good film craft. 

Film craft is a big puzzle. It’s about picking the right pieces — companies, people, location, music, editors... When you find the right pieces, everything fits together perfectly, and completes the story/picture that we are trying to create for our clients. I would like all the production companies and agencies in Japan to really consider the elements of craft, because it’s going to take their ideas to the next level.    

What are the types of people who come to Ciclope Asia?

Last year it was mainly people on the agency or production side.  It would be great if more clients and crew such as editors, cinematographers, music companies and animation companies would attend.  Not only do you learn to value craft more but it’s also a great networking opportunity.

 Why would people want to come to Ciclope Asia?

Besides being exposed to Asian film craftsmanship, it’s a great excuse to visit Tokyo. I feel every country and city in Asia cannot be grouped together, they are all very unique in their own way. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit Tokyo, you should. As someone who has been living here for more than half of my life, I can say Japan is definitely a good first step into Asia.