Yasu Tanida has made two films with director Chris Eska: the short “Doki Doki” of 2003, and the current feature “August Evening.” “Our first film was all in Japanese in Japan,” Tanida notes. “Our second film was in rural Texas in Spanish. I expect our third will be in Swahili in Africa.”
It wouldn’t be such a shock. Tanida’s eclectic body of work continues to range from shorts and musicvids to commercials and features; his next, “Control Group,” will — coincidentally — be directed by an African (Tanida’s Chapman U. classmate, Olumide Odebunmi).
Although the exquisitely luminous “August Evening” was shot on a microbudget and exhibits the finely honed precision of a short story, Tanida apparently has much larger plans.
“I want to aim toward bigger-budget films,” he says. “‘August Evening’ we shot for nothing, but the story was so good. ”
Eska’s film, about the interrelationships among a family of Mexican immigrants, called on the delicate side of Tanida, in terms of both the look of the film (he used a Sony HDW-f900) and the psychology of shooting: The lead, Pedro Castenada, had no previous acting experience.
“We shot a lot of long lenses,” Tanida says. “It’s less imposing on the actors. We’d have an 85mm lens 15 feet away instead of a 20mm three feet away. Whatever worked to get the tone and meaning across, we would do.”
Born in Japan, the 28-year old Tanida came to Orange County when he was 3. He attended Chapman, where he concentrated on cinematography, won the undergraduate Einstein Award and then the Kodak Best Cinematography Award.
His aesthetic is reflected in his films with Eska. “It’s the same for me on every film: Instead of covering a scene, I try to discover it.”
The film that changed my life: “Do the Right Thing.”
Mentor or inspiration: “I love the same cinematographers everyone else loves, but for me it’s more about moments: Rutger Hauer’s ‘time to die’ on the roof in the rain in ‘Blade Runner’ or Diane Keaton saying goodbye to Woody Allen in ‘Annie Hall,’ the wide shot at the end.”
Tool I can’t do without: “I always have a Par can with medium lenses on the truck because they have a beautiful harshness, but you can put a piece of diffusion in it and make it soft and beautiful.”
Agent: He’s looking.