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The Directors: Hisashi Eto



Director at AOI Pro. on the challenges of shooting on the streets of Tokyo and throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks

The Directors: Hisashi Eto

Hisashi Eto was born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1970. He studied filmmaking at New York University, which later greatly influenced his creative style. After returning to Japan, he started working as a TVC director. 

Gifted with prominent storytelling and aesthetic visual expression, Eto was one of the very first directors in Japan’s advertising industry to create films with a global perspective. He constantly studied the works of international filmmakers, and brought a new perspective to the Japanese film industry, to actively invite DOPs, colourists and editors to Japan, when most of the works were made by all Japanese crew.

Name: Hisashi Eto

Location: Tokyo

Repped by/in: AOI Pro.

Awards: Gold in the Film Craft Lotus category at ADFEST 2018, Silver in the Film Craft category at Spikes Asia 2017, TED Ads Worth Spreading 2011 and Grand Prix at ACC CM FESTIVAL 2013

LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Hisashi> I get excited when I know that I can create a world as nobody foresaw it in the script. 

LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot? 

Hisashi> Lots of moaning and crying. Throwing stuff at the wall. 

LBB> If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Hisashi> It’s important. But it is also a bad idea to overdo it. You have to be responsibly irresponsible sometimes, so that you can expand into an area that nobody thought of before. But, if I really need info, I simply ask them lots of questions. 

LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Hisashi> I think it has to be with the producers. Japan is unique in a way that you work with different producers on every job. It is vital to have a healthy working relationship with them to create something sound. 

LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Hisashi> I get drawn to more of narrative pieces. I get excited for a chance to work with actors or actresses. 

LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Hisashi> I appreciate any sort of work that I am able to create. There is no wrong for me.

But, honestly, I don’t even know who or what I am about all the time anyway. I shouldn’t expect anybody else to know me.   

LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Hisashi> It is so hard to shoot in the streets of Tokyo sometimes. Once, the police tried to stop our production when a passerby filed a complaint or something. It resolved without any issues because we had the permit and everything. But, it kept happening throughout the day. It was rough. So, the whole crew just decided to pretend like they were shoppers to confuse the police. It worked.  

LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Hisashi> I always try to have a talk with them. I sometimes even ask for the client to stand right next to me when I shoot. Communication is the key. Nobody tries to create a bad ad. They just have different points of view. 

LBB> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Hisashi> Definitely. It is just a bit hard right now to bring in too many people on set because of the Covid though.  

LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time? 

Hisashi> We get to eliminate all those little meetings we used to have. That was a good thing that came out of all this mess. I started doing colour grading with talented colourists from all over the world at home now. This should be the way to do it from now on.  

LBB> Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)? 

Hisashi> That is definitely a challenge. But I really don’t think about it while I work on my films. I look at the monitor on set and I give 100% attention to that.  Whatever happens in post, I just deal with it.  

LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI/data-driven visuals etc)?

Hisashi> I don’t really have a relationship with them. I just take on the script and treat it in the best way possible. If that requires me to use cutting edge stuff, I explore it. My mind is always looking for the best possible method for the film we are about to make. Technology usually helps me quite a lot.  

LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?


Suntory Iyemon_Innovation in the 227th years.

I think the Suntory one really encapsulates what I really love about filmmaking.  For me, the film is about capturing the passing moment. That was all I was thinking about while doing it. Capturing.

Uber Eats 'Training'

AIG Japan Holdings #TackleTheRisk

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AOI Pro., Mon, 12 Jul 2021 14:05:00 GMT