Lasso-swinging filmmaker Ogata has been capturing attention with his cross-cultural sketch comedy series, Yukata Cowboy.
Filmmaker Atsushi Ogata is standing at the entrance of the Toronto hotel where he is staying during the third annual T.O. WebFest. Wearing a yukata (Japanese summer kimono), cowboy hat and boots, and with a lasso in his hands, it’s no surprise that Ogata has some passersby turning their heads.
Ogata is a film director, video artist, screenwriter, actor and comedian whose latest creation is Yukata Cowboy. This web series has earned awards at numerous international web festivals in Europe, North America and Asia for its twisted but universal humour. In the series, Ogata himself acts as the title character. He tries to blend into every place he visits, but he is so good at it that he inevitably causes some humorous confusion. He is the most mistaken man in the world!
Bento Box: Your web series is about blending into other cultures—and, looking at you, you’re a person whose ethnic background is hard to guess….
Ogata: I get that a lot. Yukata Cowboy was born because of that.
BB: The character also exposes funny cultural differences. Are the episodes based on your own experiences?
Some episodes are a little exaggerated but mostly, yes, they come from my own experiences. In season one, I have an episode called “American Accent,” about an incident which actually happened with my then-roommate. She came out for the screening and was quite surprised [laughs]. She was portrayed by a porcelain doll, not an actual actor!
BB: I found your use of props very interesting! Where do you get your props and how do you decide on using them?
I film the series at home. So, when I need costumes or props, I just go downstairs, where there’s lots of interesting stuff that my parents collected from around the world. I began using whatever I could find there. Sometimes what I do find is not what I’m looking for, but that adds a humorous touch and I usually think of a way to make use of it.
BB: Do you film, edit and release the episodes online all by yourself?
I do have people who help me, such as my producer Sian Evans and Ben Hillman, who designed the title logo and the opening animation. While I do most of the filming myself, when I visit film festivals, I sometimes ask the other filmmakers to film me [laughs].
BB: I hope you have met people who you can work with here in Toronto. Have you found something worth filming in our town?
Actually, I haven’t walked around much yet.
BB: OK, then let’s get out of here and I will show you around a bit. Maybe start with the famous TORONTO sign? Yukata Cowboy might want to lasso it!
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Since graduating from Harvard University and MIT, Ogata has worked in the U.S., Holland, Germany and Japan. He appeared weekly as a comedian on VARA Dutch national TV for three years. Ogata has directed Eternally Yours, an award-winning short film, Trick or Treat: I LOVE America!, a web series with Japanese YouTuber Meg-win TV, and Cast Me If You Can, a theatrically released feature-length comedy.