Hideki Arichi - Artist / Printmaker / RoninThrough the process of helping to promote MOON since 2009, I’ve been very lucky to have got to know Art Director Hideki Arichi. Not one to blow his own trumpet, I thought it was about time we nailed him down to an interview, to let you all know a bit more about Hideki, his work in film, and his ongoing developments in the world of art. So without further ado, let’s have a word with the Artist, printmaker, Art Director for film, stage technician, film maker, actor, & traveller…

(UR) We’ve obviously got to know you through your work on Duncan Jones’ 2009 debut feature MOON, can you tell us how you got involved in that, and your role in the production?

(HA) I’ve known Duncan for more than 10 years now and we’ve worked together periodically on different projects. I was brought in to work with Tony Noble as his Art Director. The role entailed putting together a small team to get the main set ready for shooting. I would supervise the drawing team as well as drawing the plans up myself. These would then be discussed with Tony and the construction manager and then built by the construction team. Working closely with construction we would source materials at their lowest cost but without compromising the design integrity. I was also involved in sourcing some of the props including the used aircraft parts as well calling on previous work colleagues for tips on sourcing things like American railway buildings for Sam’s model.

MOON - Sam Bell's Model Village(UR) This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Duncan Jones (Director) Gavin Rothery (VFX) and Barrett Heathcote (Edit), can you tell us a bit about the first short you worked on, your involvement again, and how you all met in the first place?

(HA) I met Duncan when he was a student at the film school and met Gavin and Barrett over the years through Duncan. The first short I was involved with was actually a commercial entry for Kodak(1) where a small noodle stand was constructed and placed in London’s Chinatown. It was a short but sweet tribute to ‘Blade Runner’ and I designed the physical and built the physical elements. Up next was a much more ambitious short which was in studio and involved a set build and sowed the seeds for working at Shepperton Studios. The short called ‘Whistle’(2) was set in Switzerland and the set was to be a chalet interior. I came on as the Production Designer but also handled sourcing materials and props.

(UR) MOON is the film we associate you with the most, but you’ve worked on quite a few other high profile films (Batman Begins, Troy, Van Helsing…) can you tell us a bit about those, and how you found the experience differed from big budget productions, to more modest ones?

(HA) I have been very fortunate to have worked on some large film productions and value the experiences. The camaraderie that develops on a large film within an art department is something quite unique and one that I do miss at times. I also enjoyed meeting and hearing stories about the films I had watched avidly as a child from some of the older now mostly retired art directors when I first started. It was a privilege to have worked with them.  With ‘MOON’ I had a more hands on approach and enjoyed the added responsibilities but also had the opportunity to have my voice heard collaboratively with Duncan and Tony. I’d love to work with Duncan again at some point in the future and look forward to the opportunity should it arise.

(UR) I know you more as an artist now, than an Art Director for film. How did you get involved in film in the first place?

(HA) I enjoyed going to the cinema since childhood and felt that I wanted to be involved in film making when I was older. After many false starts I ended up attending film school still with an eye on becoming a director. While at the film school due to the nature of student productions you do end up doing other roles. It was there that I was asked to design another student’s film and found myself enjoying the role of designer. What the film school did not make clear was the division of labour within the art department. The route into the film industry was very arduous and I was lucky to receive generous advice along the way from some older established members of the British film industry.

(UR) Because of the association with film, people may not realise your main focus recently has been on your art work, with new work inspired by your recent residency in Iceland. Can you tell us a bit about the your work, the medium and process you work with?

(HA) At present I work primarily with printmaking which is a process that I take enormous pleasure from. There is a magic for me in the processes involved from mixing chemicals, inks, working with and against the different materials. The physicality of turning an old press gives me great satisfaction as an inked up plate comes out the other side of the press and then lifting the paper to reveal the image. The press itself that I use in the studio dates from 1830-40 and comes from Paris, France. I love the fact that despite its age it still produces results that modern presses struggle to match.

Hideki Arichi Printing Press(UR) What is it about Iceland that draws you back, you’re back over there now, right?

(HA) In Iceland I find a sense of comfort and a peace of mind as well inspiration from the country’s landscapes and the attitude of its people. I am constantly surprised in Iceland either by what nature throws at you in terms of beauty or by its harshness. I have made some good friendships in Iceland and their warmth continues to inspire and draw me back. In February I stayed in Reykjavik on an artist’s residency run by SIM, The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists. The residency was very important in my development as an artist as it gave me the opportunity to see and meet artists from different cultures. I am back in Iceland this summer but this time in the north of the country and you can read about it at http://www.hidekiiswhere.wordpress.com/ Each time I visit the country I seem to stay a little bit longer!

(UR) You’ve become rather prolific lately, is there anywhere we can view your work online? Can we buy prints from you?

(HA) I have recently updated my website www.hidekiarichi.com and to my own surprise have been very prolific. All print work is hand printed using a rolling press or an Albion Press. The editions are more often than not limited often to 20 and hand numbered and signed. All prints are available for sale and I am also currently exhibiting with a touring exhibition in the Midlands and will also have prints upcoming at www.a4printmakers.com in Cornwall. More recently I have also started working on works on paper which are abstract watercolours and will shortly be on my website as well.

(UR) Although you’ve been busy in the studio lately producing new work inspired by your residency in Iceland, you have also been back in the film world, but on the other side of the camera this time, can you tell us what you’ve been working on, and the work involved?

47ronin(HA) In July I spent some time as an extra on a feature film and actually thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I’d heard back in February that a film called ‘47 Ronin‘ was gearing up to shoot in Hungary but didn’t realize that they also planned to shoot in England. In late June I found out that they were at Shepperton, yes that studio again. I half seriously tweeted that maybe I should go to Shepperton and see if I could get a job as an extra. Well one of my Twitter followers tweeted me back with a link to the casting agency. I filled out my details and by the next day had the agency asking me to go to the studio for a fitting and that I’d be cast as a ‘ronin’. Having long hair paid off as the hair department never had to put an additional hairpiece in except for one scene and I already had a beard. I got to dress as an 18th Century samurai as well as in armour. Once again the friendships and camaraderie that develops when people are thrown together over a period time was enjoyable. The days were long and at the time seemed long, hard and tiring but in retrospect were a lot of fun. The days were punctuated with long periods of waiting, nibbling on biscuits, trying to rest and then performing whatever actions were needed for the scene. Yes we moaned about the hours, the food at times but it was a really fun way to spend a couple of weeks in July and get paid.

(UR) How has it felt being on the other side of the camera? Have you seen anything on set that you’ve wanted to mention from an Art Direction point of view, then bitten your tongue?

(HA) I would have liked very much to be involved in that particular film from an Art Direction point of view but for whatever reason it wasn’t to be as I had sent my CV to them before they left for Hungary. They did a really great job and I was impressed by what they achieved.

(UR) Finally, can you tell us a bit about where you are right now, and how we can keep up to date with what you’re up to, you’ve began to blog the experience this time right?

(HA) I am back in Iceland this summer but this time in the north of the country in a place called Skagaströnd, the real film buffs out there might remember the town appearing in a film called ‘Cold Fever‘ and you can read about it at ‘Hideki Is Where?‘ Each time I visit the country I seem to stay a little bit longer! Here’s a music tip since there are other artists other than Sigur Ros and Bjork…try Mugison.

(UR) I mentioned on Twitter earlier that we’d hopefully get this interview up this evening, with a little surprise (Hideki revealing his role as one of 47 Ronin) Duncan noticed this, and revealed another little know fact about you:

“his time working as a male stripper at famous London pole dancing club Stringfellows?”

(HA) As to Duncan’s revelation what can I say? In my defense I was young and who knew there was a market for slightly barrel chested Japanese men with skinny arms!

You can follow Hideki on Twitter, keep up to date with his current Icelandic adventures on his blog, and view his work on his site. Sure he’d be happy to help you, should you be interested in purchasing one of his very limited edition prints also 🙂

(1) Duncan’s Kodak ad, along with a portfolio of his other advertisement work can be seen here.
(2) ‘Whistle’ is available as an extra special bonus on the DVD / Blu-Ray release of MOON.