By Ninette Cheng
Northwest Asian Weekly
On December 4, Seattle will be hosting a film screening of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai for its 60th anniversary.
In addition to celebrating the anniversary, the event will also introduce viewers to film veteran Richard D. Pepperman’s newest book Everything I Know About Filmmaking I Learned Watching Seven Samurai.
Co-hosted by The Northwest Film Forum, Seattle Film Institute and Elliot Bay Bookstore, the event will begin at 7:00P.M. at the Northwest Film Forum. It will be shown in its full 207 minute presentation on 16mm film. In addition to the film, Pepperman will be giving a Skype introduction before the film.
Pepperman is a film industry veteran with over 50 years of experience as an actor, editor and School of Visual Arts faculty member. An alum of the School of the Actor’s Company, Pepperman got his start in acting and joined the New York Poets Theatre Company in 1961. He then went on to film editing before being invited to join the faculty at the School of Visual Arts. He has also taught at Film/Video Arts (an Independent Film and Video Cooperative), the New School University and Pratt Institute.
“Everything I Know About Filmmaking I Learned Watching Seven Samurai is my fifth book for Michael Wiese Productions,” Pepperman said.
“Michael Weise, the publisher, had a daughter who at a very young age became fascinated with classic movies including the work of Kurosawa,” Ken Lee, vice president of Michael Wiese Productions said. “This was maybe five years ago. “Her father said everything you wanted to learn about filmmaking you can learn from watching Kurosawa films.”
Lee then approached Pepperman about writing the book, a laborious process. The content was all there; Pepperman just needed to find it, Lee said.
“I’ve come to realize as a writer that there is a process requiring time spent living with the work… Eventually the structure of this book changed so that it runs along with the chronology of the movie,” Pepperman said.
“The book is laid out with a template of ‘Lesson Learned,’ ” he said. “As you watch the film and read the book, each and every one of the chapters, based upon the Criterion Collection menu, contains anywhere from one to five or six paragraphs which tell immediately what it is that you can learn from that moment on the screen.”
Lee is excited about how the film screening event has come together.
“The Seattle Film Institute said ‘we love the idea,’ ” Lee said. “They said ‘we’re going to make the screening of the film the kick-off of a new class in independent film.”
Pepperman has fond memories of his first time watching the film and of its legacy.
“I first saw ‘Seven Samurai’ sometime between 1959 and 1961 and I’m much more impressed by the film now,” he said. “One might think that after decades of experience you’d find more flaws, but I find the film to be one of the most remarkable accomplishments in the history of cinema. Kurosawa skillfully and confidently breaks the proscenium view and allows the audience to move fully into the settings and action.”
Pepperman emphasized the importance of viewing the film in its full 207 minutes, the way it will be shown at the event. The original U.S. viewing in 1956 had been cut by 46 minutes.
“The [shortened] film at best, I can guess, would actually feel longer,” he said. “Kurosawa had an understanding of structure, of pacing, that when broken –violated– can very well make it feel that you’re sitting far longer than if you were watching the true version of the film.”
Pepperman hopes readers and viewers gain the fundamentals of filmmaking as well as a deeper understanding of what is happening on the screen.
“I think the audience is in for a genuine treat.” (end)
Seven Samurai will screen at the Northwest Film Forum at 1515 12th Ave. Seattle on December 4 at 7:00p.m.
Ninette Cheng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.