I went into Single8 hoping that it would recapture the magic of It’s a Summer Film!—which remains one of the best movies I’ve ever seen at Japan Cuts, bar none. While Kazuya Konaka’s semi-autobiographical behind-the-scenes comedy (imagine The Fabelmans, but on a shoestring budget) doesn’t quite reach that level of quality, it’s still a delightfully fun celebration of the joy of creativity.
The plot revolves around Hiroshi, a teenage cinephile that aspires to direct a blockbuster sci-fi epic akin to the recently released Star Wars (his latest obsession)—albeit with significantly fewer resources than George Lucas had at his disposal, thanks to the stinginess of his school’s cultural festival committee. Despite his obvious lack of experience (he prefers to avoid the topic of his only previous production, an amateurish rip-off of Jaws), his infectious enthusiasm manages to attract equally passionate collaborators—a part-time employee at the local camera shop is particularly eager to help, providing both equipment and advice. As the narrative unfolds, however, the project gradually evolves; the protagonist’s teacher, for example, encourages him to be less derivative, suggesting that he should focus on substance (theme, characterization) rather than style (flashy, expensive special effects).
And therein lies Single8’s greatest strength: it emphasizes the process of filmmaking, as opposed to the result. Imitation isn’t merely the sincerest form of flattery; it’s the crucial first step towards developing one’s own personal voice and artistic vision—in other words: innovation begins with inspiration. Just before the end credits roll, our young hero promises his friends that their next effort will be even better. That ambitious attitude—the acknowledgement that there is always room to learn, grow, and improve one’s craft—is what storytelling is all about.