An Interview with Joe Kawasaki – By Misty Layne

I recently had the chance to talk with Joe Kawasaki, the writer and director of REBOOT, a film about the future of technology done in a cyberpunk style (check last month’s issue for the review of REBOOT!) to see what happens after you’ve made a movie that’s trending IMDB Top Short Films List, how writing differs from directing and what’s coming in the future! To learn more about REBOOT and Joe, visit the REBOOT website! (www.rebootfilm.com)

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ML: How did the story behind REBOOT originate? Was there a particular instance of the overuse/abuse or incident of technology and how it’s currently being used in society that kickstarted the idea of REBOOT?

JK: I wouldn’t say it was a particular instance so much as back in that period (2010-2011) the instances of cyber-attacks being mentioned in the news was on a definite rise.The hacker-activism movement was definitely on the rise. Public discontent was on the rise. A lot of stuff was rising up.

ML: Is REBOOT the first film you’ve written and directed?

JK: No, I’ve been directing for some time now, but it was a return to a purely narrative format since my film school days.

ML: Which do you prefer – the writing side or the directing side?

JK: … I’d prefer directing; because as hard as it is, it’s a lot less self-inflicted torture than the writing bit. You just don’t have the time or allowances to be precious or fall into this self-doubting hole of darkness. You get up and make your day, and make it happen. Don’t get me wrong, I love both processes very much, but with one you physically get out there and tackle something with an army of people, and the other is this solitary, alone-in-your-head kind of thing. Of course, I say that, and there are definitely times when I think writing a novel would be so much more pleasant than making a film.

ML: And as a writer, do you only work in writing scripts or do you also write articles or novels and which do you prefer there? JK: I’ve written a ton of things that are unfinished, so I’d be hesitant to say I’m a "writer" by any real degree. I’ve written a few things (finished) – short stories, about 200 odd pages of a novel, several short scripts, a few articles (under a ghost name), and corporate scripts. Of the two, I definitely find writing in regular narrative-form (books, shorts) infinitely more satisfying and complete than writing a script. With scripts, I often find myself in some dark state of purgatory, which is odd. It should be much easier than I make it to be.

ML: REBOOT is currently #15 on the IMDB list of Most Popular Short Films. How does that make you feel and does it inspire you to work even harder for the next project to top it? Or are you simply happy to have this recognition?

JK: We actually trended #1 for about a week… which was insane, and that’s definitely a credit to our producer Sidney Sherman, who worked tirelessly supporting and running our ARG online, and promoting the film through all the many global info-sec conferences. He literally built the audience from the get-go. It was definitely not something that happened over-night. On your question, both! We’re very happy that it’s trended so well, and it definitely makes you consider what your next steps would be. At one point, we were thinking to make a feature of a completely different story, a different kind of cyberpunk; but with the momentum that "Reboot" has gotten, it’s definitely made us reconsider that thread.

ML: What are your thoughts about technology in society? We can get an idea from REBOOT but do you think the amount of technology we have is an entirely bad thing or is there any good from it?

JK: I love technology. The irony in all this is that I believe technology – and more importantly, science – is what is going to save us from eminent disaster. That despite all the shit we’re doing with ourselves and with these dangerous trends occurring in our governments and corporations, the one true hope we have will always be human innovation. Now, the relationship between technology and society has always been interesting to me, and that is where the pathos and conflicts occur – in its use, in how it’s exploited, integrated – and ultimately, how it changes the way we behave. Staying human and embracing our human condition while trying to solve problems within it…there is the eternal challenge.

ML: What’s coming up for you in the future?

JK: Hopefully continued work in the visual mediums, and a feature shingle we can sink our teeth into and get started with.

ML: Do you have any advice for upcoming screenwriters and directors?

JK: I’m still figuring things out, so it’s hard to dole out advice, but I guess the main points:

1) Keep shooting. Start with anything, doesn’t matter. Just shoot.

2) Keep shooting. Don’t give up. Make mistakes, learn, and move on.

3) Keep shooting.