U student dreams of becoming a filmmaker

Story and photo by ANDREAS RIVERA

Hirotaka Yoshikawa is described by classmates in his screenwriting class as quiet and well-mannered, but one of the most interesting people they’ve ever met.

Yoshikawa was born in Tokyo, Japan, on June 26, 1987. He grew up close to an American Air Force base, which was his first introduction to American culture. The neighborhood he lived in was very conservative, and this clashed with the American ideals of the base.

He went to an international elementary school where he was taught English.

Yoshikawa wanted to leave the country for his education, so his school contacted a teacher in Utah who put him on an exchange program. In 2001 he came to Salt Lake City for high school and college.

“I wasn’t scared, I was too excited to be scared,” Yoshikawa said.

It was easy adjusting to the new culture, he said.

“People were the main things that were different, but other than that I had no complaints,” he said.

Even before coming to the U.S. he had wanted to be in the movie business, and upon attending the University of Utah, decided he wanted to go into movie production and write screenplays. He is currently a film major at the university.

“I like to try different types of writing, but I really like comedies,” he said. His favorite movies are comedies, including “Back to the Future,which is his favorite film.

“I’ve actually stopped watching films after becoming a film major,” Yoshikawa said. “I’m not huge into big budget films, so I hardly watch new ones.”

He and other students in the film department bash films, both big-budget and independent films, he said.

One of his biggest influences is Charlie Kaufman, who is famous for writing “Being John Malkovich and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

“He always leaves in something unexpected,” he said.

Yoshikawa has submitted two scripts, “Where You Wereand Run, to several contests. He hopes they will get picked up and made into movies. But if they don’t, he may make them himself. His script, “Where You Were,” has recently made it into the quarter finals of a screenwriting contest by Fernleif Productions.

Paul Larsen, a professor of film studies and instructor of Yoshikawa’s screenwriting class, said Yoshikawa produces a lot of pages.

He said Yoshikawa’s style of writing is very unique to him as well as being funny and witty.

Besides writing scripts, Yoshikawa has made a few short films, both for school and for personal experience. His favorite one is called, “A Color of Summer.”

“The film is about someone trying to find satisfaction in cultural things, but he can’t find what exactly he’s looking for,” Yoshikawa said. “However, what he is really looking for finds him.”

He said making a short film is a threeday process for him. On the first day he comes up with the plot and writes the first draft and then revises it. On the second day he films the movie. He said filming shouldn’t take any longer than a day for him. He spends the third day editing the movie, which also shouldn’t take longer than a day, he said.

Valerie Douroux, a fellow film major at the U described Yoshikawa’s filming style as very abstract and experimental, which she believes reflects from his personality.

Douroux, who met Yoshikawa in a screenwriting class they shared, said her first impression of him was that he was very quiet, studious and thoughtful.

“He has a very Buddha-like personality,” Douroux said. “Whenever I see him he is very mellow-tune.”

She said despite his low-key personality, his writing is very funny.

“As a filmmaker, I have learned from Hirotaka you have to have dedication,” Douroux said. “He has dedication and that’s exactly what you need to elaborate a story.”

Yoshikawa will graduate in May 2010. He plans to work all summer at the U’s Marriott Library to earn enough money to move. He plans to leave Utah within a year and go to California. That is where the business is, Yoshikawa said.

His family is still in Japan, and occasionally comes to visit him. His father is an editor of a golfing magazine and his mother owns an antique store. His older brother works as a graphic designer. “Two years ago was my last visit, but they are very proud of me,” Yoshikawa said.

The most important thing he has learned as a filmmaker, he said, is “just do it, don’t stop, you need to finish what you have started.”