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Uprising: A Mafia Member, a Karaoke Champion and Alice Kunisue


The director at Halal reflects on her Japanese and French influences, why she looks up to the directors Megaforce and “enjoying food as the Italians do”, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

Uprising: A Mafia Member, a Karaoke Champion and Alice Kunisue

Growing up in Japan, Alice Kunisue’s Japanese mother and French father – and their respective cultural backgrounds – were a massive influence during her youth. She describes being “strongly influenced by the two cultures” which she equally loves and uses as a source of inspiration in her work. “From Japan, I took a lot of the quirky humour but also the seriousness and rigour of its traditions. From France, I love the literature, the history of arts, and the culture of good living, good food, and the sarcastic humour.” 

Throughout her childhood, there were several things which kept Alice busy, both indoors and outdoors. “I loved trying anything, sports, outdoor activities like horseback riding and gymnastics, but I was particularly drawn to arts and crafts – drawing, watercolour, Japanese calligraphy, beading, etc,” she says, “As a kid, I was pretty goofy, but also quite a daydreamer. Maybe this slowly led to the desire to imagine stories.”

When it came time to embark on a degree, she chose the University of Montreal where political science was on the cards, shortly followed by art history. During her studies, Alice was keen to do summer jobs and internships to help develop and hone various skills. “When I was 16, I handed out tissues with little ads printed on them, in the streets of Tokyo. It was pretty funny because I suddenly became a pariah and people were avoiding me or totally ignoring me, but I loved it because a few would also come and chit-chat.

She continues, “I met all kinds of people, including a mafia member and a karaoke champion. I also learned to cope with rejection.” With an ever-growing thicker skin, during her studies, she started making collage videos on After Effects, and personal projects for family and friends which eventually lead to her first gig in the industry. “That led me to Pedro Winter from Ed Banger Records suggesting I make a music video for one of his artists [Vladimir Cauchemar], and that’s how I made my first ever music video.” 

Following her studies, Alice landed in Paris, studying art direction and reflecting on the different skills she’d learnt in the process. While she may not use her original studies in political science to inform her work, it certainly made her inquisitive and prompted her to ask questions. She says, “What I got from studying political science is the impulse to question things and have a more critical mind. I don’t think it necessarily shows in my current work, but it’s definitely a part of me and my way of looking at things.”

Further along in her career, Alice created a music video for Franz Ferdinand, and that project certainly left its mark. “[It was] the first professional shoot that I had, and the fact it was for a famous band that I loved was insane,” she says. Her love of the industry and craft has only evolved since then. “It’s so interesting to experiment with staging. Moving the camera an inch can change the whole meaning of a scene.”\

She continues, “But another aspect I love about the film industry is the variety of the people who work together. It takes a wide range of competencies and personalities for a shoot to function, so you get to meet and work alongside very different and rare types of characters, it’s extremely enriching.” So, it’s no surprise that she doesn’t want to create a body of work that looks too cohesive when put together, as she elaborates, “I want to make a wide variety of films and not be stuck in one style or vision. In the long term, I would like to make more social projects, like shedding light on causes that need more attention, because films can do that.”

Working on several projects, the people she works with always play a part in supporting her development, in particular, she mentions Juliette Lambert at Mirror Mirror, a producer who supported her along the way. But Alice is also keen on nurturing her creativity in other ways. “I go to the cinema and museums a lot, especially this past year, I think it’s important to see what’s happening, and I just enjoy it!” She also looks up to Megaforce as directors who create work she’d like to be a part of. She says, “All of their films are super sharp and constantly renewing, but also because they can adapt to any kind of style: they can make a music video for Rihanna or an ad for dishwasher liquid, it’s always awesome.”

And like many creatives, getting outside of her comfort zone is where Alice often finds her own inspiration for projects. “I notice I always get new ideas when travelling also, even going 30 minutes outside of Paris. Changing environments, meeting up with friends, people and really listening. Reading, and getting in someone else’s head can truly open up your mind and sensibility. I especially like reading classical authors because it’s a different vocabulary, different observations and time travel.”

She also keeps up to date with new and exciting films which continue to be released. “I saw ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ last week for example which was quite a slap in the face.” Alice continues to describe the ‘20s setting in Ireland, where the audience gets a feel of the cold mist and wet grass. “The director’s vision is very contemporary which makes the story so relatable. It’s about friendship, pride and rejection on a very deep level. This is the kind of film that really stays with you for a few days.”

While there is so much creativity to take in, there are also elements of the working process which can provide challenges, namely, the way people at different stages of their careers are treated, as Alice explains: “I sometimes still see a lack of respect, like people being treated differently because of their position on a project. As long as the work is properly done, I don’t see why anyone deserves to be treated differently.” Part of her feelings towards a fairer and more inclusive industry means that she’s involved with Free The Bid, which helps create more equal opportunities in the advertising industry.

Aside from that, Alice also touches on the unrealistic pace at which people expect content and the way that quality suffers as a result of this. “It’s probably because of social media’s algorithms, but there is such an urge to create more content in less time. This obviously results in films being done too quickly and roughly, the quality takes a big hit but also people, production managers, creatives, and assistants, who really burn out.” To her, balance is important in ensuring that creativity and positive outcomes go hand in hand.

But it’s not all about work, in her spare time, friends, family, nature and travel have Alice’s heart, “Also, having time to daydream.” And while work is most certainly her passion and creativity runs through her veins, there are aspects which she finds less time for these days, such as painting. “I think if I had a different job, I would probably be doing this in my free time, just like I did before it became my job. So I am extremely lucky. But I also used to paint, and nowadays I don’t have much time to do that so I miss it a lot.”

When it comes to Alice’s reasoning for doing what she does, it boils down to this: “I want to enjoy every moment of our short existence, and contribute to making our surrounding people’s existence a great one-two. This means observing, taking the time, appreciating – enjoying food as the Italians do – and being amazed by everything, like children are. So maybe the key to having a good life is to be an Italian child.”

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Halal, Thu, 16 Feb 2023 17:06:00 GMT