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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Nov. 16, 2010 | 5:37 PM

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NAKAMATSU! An Interview with Kaspar Astrup Schroder

Kaspar Astrup Schroder’s documentary The Invention of Dr. Nakamats, is an invitation to a world of wonder.  It’s subject claims to hold over three thousand patents, and claims to have invented both Karaoke, and the floppy disk.  He communicates regularly with his dear departed Mother, and at age 80, he feels that his life has roughly reached the halfway mark.  While some of the good doctor’s claims may be exaggerated, it’s impossible not to be moved by his ingenuity and life-affirming world view.

The film has been making the rounds of the festival circuit, and arrives in L.A. for a screening this Thursday at The Cinefamily, with an in person appearance by Dr. Nakamats himself.

Director Schroder agreed to answer some questions for FilmRadar via email. 

FilmRadar: What was your first meeting with Dr. Nakamats like?

Kaspar Astrup Schroder: After contacting Dr. NakaMats and only talking to him over the telephone, he told me that he was going on holiday in Paris. So I met with him there for a few hours. Just to see if we’d connect and if there was the right chemistry. We hit it off and agreed to make the film. So I went back to Denmark and found the fundings and went to Japan and then it all started…

FR:When you were making the film, did you have a translator with you?

KAS:No not at all. In order to get as close to my subject as possible, I do the whole directing, shooting and sound work my self. So I was alone with Dr. NakaMats and his staff for the full 30 days we were shooting, which I think benifits the intimacy of getting to know the character. But since I don’t speak japanese, Dr. NakaMats would tell me what the next scene or meeting would be about and then I’d just shoot from the hip. But his explanation would be very rough, so there were many surprises when I came back to Denmark and found out all the interesting details in the scenes that really form Dr. NakaMats as a character. That was really fun. To get the transcripts from the translator and find so many new things I hadn’t known, shooting the scenes.

FR:At the beginning of the film Dr. Nakamats claims to have over 3000 patents and later he claims to have invented both the floppy disk and karaoke.  How did you go about verifying some of his more outlandish claims?

KAS:I wanted to find out about all these patents, but it’s a real jungle, the whole patent-world. It’s nearly impossible to find out who really owns the patents. But I never wanted to make a film that should verify his ownership or not. I wanted to make a film that portrayed the man behind all the patents. See my answer to the japanese magazine below:

FR: Mark Mothersbaugh and Silas Hite contribute a dynamic original score for the film.  How did that collaboration come about?

KAS:After shooting the 30 days with Dr. NakaMats I came back to Denmark and my editor edited a 4 minutes pilot in which we tried out different kinds of music. It was really difficult finding music that suited Dr. NakaMats’ character. But we just tried loads of different soundtracks. One of them was The Royal Tenenbaums and we immediately agreed that this worked. ‘Cause a lot of the music we tried was commenting to much on his character in stead of “going along” with this big ego. So the music by Mark Mothersbaugh really worked and when deciding for a composer for the full movie, I thought, “What the hell, let’s see if we can get Mark Mothersbaugh”. So through his agent it was quite easy to get contact to Mark and his studio. So we sent the pilot and Mark was digging it and agreed to the budget. So it was a fantastic gift and blessing. And so Mark was working simultaniously on a bunch of projects, but Silas being another composer in his studio that he collaborated with before and has the same feel and style as Mark collaborated with Mark and together they made a fantastic score. You know, you kinda think it might be difficult to work together with someone that doesn’t speak your language and is on the other side of the world. But it was really joyful. Mark and Silas was really dedicated and understood what my intentions were. And eventhough I think we kind of went out of budget and Mark was going to new projects especially Silas was so dedicated and really gave it all the attention and hard work it needed. ‘Cause it wasn’t easy giving a score for Dr. NakaMats. There are many facets in his character and he’s not a man that shows his inner emotions, so the music really had to help do that.

What was Nakamats’ reaction when he saw your finished cut?

KAS:He brought his fanclub for the first screening and they were extremely pleased. So that affected him and he agreed, though he had some small corrections he would like to have made. But overall he is pleased. However he still feels the film can be improved, so on the dvd release there will be included a “Dr. NakaMats Cut”. Don’t think there has ever been an “actors cut” in a film, but that just helps display his big ego, which I think is interesting and kinda funny.

FR:Did you try out any of Nakamats’ products while you were making the film?

KAS: Yeah I did drink a lot of Brain Drink during my stay, which I think is delicious. Bought some packs and drink it here in Denmark. Then the Flying Shoes are really a lot of fun! You feel like a super human, wearing them. I could run extremely fast.
Then I had a pretty strong jet-lag, when I came to Dr. NakaMats and he told me to sit 30 min in the Cerebrex, ‘cause that would cure it. I’m sorry to say it didn’t, but gave me a really bad headache.
Oh yeah and I also tried the bicycle taxi that runs on water. Once you helped it going it did the trick and worked. Though the motor looking like fuel cells. I’m not an expert, so I can’t say exactly how it works. And that’s the thing with Dr. NakaMats; he never explained the inventions down to the small details. Just that it works and is revolutionary.

FR: What projects are you working on now?

KAS: A few different ones. A new project about a company in Japan called “Hagemashi Tai” which translates to “I Want To Cheer Up Ltd.” That’s gonna be a big challenge. Then I have a project in development in Denmark, that I can’t talk about yet and I am also looking into shooting a film in the states and am doing some research at the moment on the impact of the recession on the middle class.
Oh and then I just released my new film MY PLAYGROUND, which is a documentary about the impact of the new urban movement called parkour in modern architecture.

FR: The film has been making the rounds of the festival circuit.  Is there a chance the movie will see a wider U.S. release?

KAS: Cinetic Media in New York has picked up the north american distribution and hopefully there will be a television premiere and dvd premiere for the american audience later this year.

The Cinefamily will present a screening of The Invention of Dr. Nakamats this Thursday, November 18th at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax.  Dr. Nakamats is scheduled to appear in person and there will be a reception and art show immediately following on the theatre’s back patio.  For more information, visit the Cinefamily website.

(This interview was originally conducted in Feburary 2010 following a screening of Dr. Nakmats at the True/False Documentary Festival.)

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