The film is unmistakably Japanese in its style and spirit. Where does your intuitive understanding of Japanese culture come from?
Thanks! Yeah there’s definitely a lot happening in this one that was very satisfying for me to create and re-experience when I watch it back again. I’m always looking to add a touch of tangible magic to anything I’m making. Real and there, but somehow lifted into a different space that opens up the imagination. To me that’s what filmmaking is all about—getting to show things that you just can’t do in reality. Escapism.
I was born in England and moved to Japan when I was a little boy, so I’ve spent most of my life in Japan. Even though I’m Canadian. Despite living here for so long, there’s always more I didn’t know about Japan. Kind of like any place you live in for a long time. Projects like this with a strong message and idea help me re-explore aspects of a society and also pop culture that might have been missed before.
What’s this music video about?
[Woo! Go!] by Atarashii Gakkou is a music video made for Nike by Wieden Kennedy Tokyo to launch NIKE JUKU, a new program by Nike to improve the physical, emotional and mental health of students in Japan, who are under so much pressure to perform that they notoriously attend cram schools (“juku”).
Who wrote the song?
The song is an original song made by the creatives at WK Tokyo and Atarashii Gakkou. (For those who don’t know Atarashii Gakkou is an up-and-coming internet sensation pop group from Japan, but has recently gained fame overseas.)
It was a delight to come into a project that already had a banging track in the works and it made it so easy to begin to visualize what it was we were going to do.
Do tell us a bit more about the creative process
The creative team Curro (creative director), and senior creatives/copywriters Nedal and Yumiko were a dream team to work with and it gave me a lot of freedom to explore the visuals as they continually dialed in the song. We also had some amazing art directors Kaz and Akane designing a lot of the Nike Juku signage which looked awesome.
Atarrashii Gakkou was also a dream team to work with. They are endlessly inventive and always welcomed the weirdness of the whole approach.
How did you write the script?
WK brought me in to help treat/write the video as the song was partly done. And I worked closely with them throughout.
Before we had the actual track, however, I wrote a pass based on another track of Atarashii Gakkou that had a similar rebellious/dance-y beat, and shot a 4 minute crazy film of me and my friends (Kai and Nozomi) in a classroom acting out what the story could be.
We dressed up in schoolgirl uniforms…haha…put on some wigs, and pretended to be Atarashii Gakkou and a bunch of students struggling to stay awake studying.
A lot of the ideas for the final script/film were born in that crazy-fun 45min session. Things like the sinking paper quicksand scene, were all spontaneously thought up on the spot as we tried out a bunch of ideas on the phone.
The video of us in schoolgirl uniforms was intended just for “internal” viewing…but turns out the band, the team at Nike, all saw it and loved the weirdness of it. Haha. So that’s how we moved onto the next phase and came officially on board.
What was the next phase?
We really wanted to push to make a fully complete film and not a halfway music video commercial. It’s kind of rare in the commercial world that things would go so far in that direction, and it shows a lot of courage to just make something that is entertaining while still holding the core message.
I then began boarding the whole thing. And even shot a 2nd more dialed in previz on my phone again of me dancing around the classroom. You can see that one in some of the gifs in this article.
What were the memorable moments of the shoot?
I think for me the most memorable moments were the practical effects. We were never going to have time for ANY vfx, so we committed to doing everything practically.
The fire was done safely and practically using a custom solution that evaporated within two seconds of being lit. So what you see in the film is 100% real.
The sinking floor was another effect that we built a fake ceiling and floor within the same building we were shooting in.
On top of that, it was just working with Atarashii Gakkou. They do all their own choreography, so they can re-choreograph easily on the spot and know how the camera sees things instinctively. We were shooting three long night shoots with 50 extras in a very small building. They have a lot of energy on set and always wanted to make things as cool as possible.
What equipment did you use?
I worked with DOP Mikul Eriksson, and we shot this all on Sony Venice K35s, and my Komodo with a 9mm lens.
I operated most of it myself as I really wanted to be able to give direction in the moment to the actors as well as just experience the moments up close rather than in a monitor.
That was the most rewarding part actually—just being hands on with this whole process. It started as an iphone test film, and ended as a more cinematic/dramatic/funny version of that same mack-handheld-feel. It needed to be a little rough around the edges so that we didn’t get into the tropey music video world.
What did you do for lighting?
Mikul did an amazing job kitting out the whole building with wireless fluorescent LED lights that we could adjust wirelessly. We wanted the juku to have a lived in—slightly uncomfortable vibe at the start, that could flicker into an after hours feel as soon as the girls showed up in the space.
There was also integration with art dept head Masami-san, who built a very convincing juku-cram-school world that no one ever questioned!
Were there scenes you shot that didn’t make the cut?
Yeah we originally had a rooftop dancing number but it ended up being one of those big set pieces that just didn’t suit the vibe of the rest of the film. There was something about keeping it all crammed within the cram school that felt more true to the story—proving that you can move, refresh, and learn better no matter the size of the space you are in.
I’m looking forward to digging into some totally different projects now and continuing to experiment as much as I can. This was one of the most memorable projects I’ve been on so far!
Mackenzie Sheppard website
|PROJECT NAME||‘NIKE JUKU’|
|WIEDEN+KENNEDY TOKYO @wktokyo|
|Creative Director||Curro de la Villa (クーロ・デ・ラ・ヴィラ) @currodlv|
|Senior Copywriter||Nedal Ahmed (ネダル・アハメド) @nedallll
Yumiko Ota (太田祐美子) @yuninota
|Senior Art Director||Kazuhi Yoshikawa (吉川一陽) @kazuhi_yoshikawa|
|Lead Producer||Kosuke Sasaki (佐々木洸介) @kosukelawrence|
|Account Director||Jordan Cappadocia (ジョーダン・カパドーシャ) @jordancap|
|Account Supervisor||Chelsea Hayashi (ハヤシ・チェルシー) @chelseamiwa
Kaede Ose (大瀬楓) @kadesyrup
|Account Executive||Ryu Kaida (海田隆) @ryukaida727|
|Producers||Ty Demura (出村太) @tydemura
Yoko Onodera (小野寺陽子) @choco2910
|Comms Planning Director||Justin Lam (ジャスティン・ラム) @justinclam|
|Comms Planner||Joanna Fukae (深江ジョアナ) @joyofu|
|Strategic Planning Director||Thijs van de Wouw (タイス・ヴォン・デ・ウォ) @thijs.vandewouw|
|Strategic Planner||Rina Deguchi (出口莉奈) @rinadagucci|
|Studio Designer||Akane Yasuda (安田茜) @akaa.ne
|Studio Manager||Aiwei Ichikawa (市川愛維)|
|Agency Editor||Vinod Vijayasankaran (ヴィジャヤサンカラン ヴィノド) @videovinod|
|PR||Midori Sugama (菅間碧) @midorisugama|
|Translator||Mako Tomita (富田万木子)|
|Executive Creative Director||Scott Dungate (スコット・ダンゲート) @scotty_fingers|
|Managing Director||Yosuke Suzuki (鈴木洋介) @mrnobody8695|
|WELCOME FILM PRODUCTION|
|PRODUCTION COMPANY||AOI Pro.|
|Director||Mackenzie Sheppard (マッケンジー・シェパード) @mackshepp|
|Director of Photography||Mikul Eriksson（マイケル・エリクソン) ＠_mikul|
|Line Producer||Anna Liu（アンナ・リュウ）/ Sumire Matsumura（松村すみれ）|
|Production Manager||Kazuki Omi（近江和希）/ Kanako Sato (佐藤果南子)|
|Assistant Director||Hideaki Jimbo（神保英昭）/ Kai Hoshino Sandy (サンデイー・ホシノ・カイ)|
|Production Designer||Masami Tanaka（田中 真紗美）@masamit0125|
|Casting Director (for Atarashii Gakko!)||Shohei Ueno (上野昇平) @shohey02|
|Casting Director||Mai Ikeda（池田舞）/Misaki Matsui（松井美咲）/Rikiya Takano（髙野力哉）|
|Lighting Director||Arata Ijichi（伊地知新）|
|Hair & Make up||PHOEBE（フィービー）@feebz_|
|Choreographer||Nozomi de Lencquesaing (ド・ランクザン・望) @nozominski|
|STUDY BREAK PRODUCTION|
|PRODUCTION COMPANY||AOI Pro.|
|Production Manager||Kai Tsuyuguchi（露口 凱）@kai_0425 /Yurika Yamada (山田 百合佳)|
|Director of Photography||Shun Murakami（村上 俊）@shun_murakami_|
|Casting Director||Mai Ikeda（池田 舞）|
|Lighting Director||Yamato Watanabe（渡邉 大和）@yamato0326_|
|Wardrobe | Costume | Styling||YOPPY（よっぴー）@yoppy0123456789|
|Hair & Make up||PHOEBE（フィービー）@feebz_|
|Production Design||Masami Tanaka（田中 真紗美）@masamit0125|
|Editor||Sachi Sasaki @ssachi0528|
|Assistant editor||Tomonori Watanabe @_tomostudio|
|Sound Designer||Mike Regan (マイク・リーガン) @mikeregannoise|
|Sound Mixer||yoshizaki.masaaki（吉崎 雅章）/Hiroki.Okumura（奥村 宏貴）|
|Colorist||Mikey Rossiter (マイキー・ロシター) @mikolour / Haruka.Okutsu（奥津春香）|
|Film Transfer||Metropolis Post (メトロポリスポスト)|
|Compositor||Murata Chitoshi（村田 千登志）/ Yamaguchi Sakiyo（山口 紗清）|
|FX Artist||Naomi Hayashi（林 直美）|
|Animation||Takashi Ohashi (大橋史) @ohashitakashi|
|Photographer||Masumi Ishida (石田真澄）@8msmsm8|
|Assistant Photographer||Ryuji Tamaki (玉城竜次)|
|Retoucher||Takuya Tsugane (津金 卓也)|
|STUDY BREAK – LA TEAM|
|Production Company||Couscous @couscous|
|Executive Producer||Bear Damen @beardamen|
|Producer||Salim El Arja|
|1st AD||Kat Nguyen @katnguyenfilm|
|Line Producer||Po-Wei Su @poweisub|
|Production Accountant||Neil Engelman|
|Locations Manager||Tom Macdonnald|
|DoP||Logan Triplett @logan_triplett|
|1st AC||Mike Lemnitzer @hellyeamike|
|2nd AC/Loader||Vinnie Bredemus @vinniebredemus|
|Key Grip||Shun Goldin|
|Audio Mixer||Jeremy Emery @jeremyemery|
|Medic / CCO||Chris Serafin|
|Driver PA||Alessandro Sassi|
|Dailies Producer||David Boito|
|Illustrator||Audra Furuichi（古市オードラ ）@kyubikitsy|