A First Class Train

The last in our series about the Epica Awards Grand Prix winners. The idea could have been achieved using special effects. Instead, the creative team took a more beautiful route.

кем Mark Tungate , AdForum

The feeling that “The Train of Memories” might win the Film Grand Prix at the Epica Awards emerged quite early, when members of the jury began enthusing about it on LinkedIn. The film depicts a father and daughter on their daily commute from the suburbs to Tokyo, over a period of 12 years. As the camera pans back, we see the duo growing older, and somehow further apart.  




The music, the lighting and the poignant storyline all make the film compelling. But the key to its magic lies in a bold production choice. Instead of using special effects to artificially age them, the father and daughter are played by a total of 50 different actors. This analogue choice in a digital age gave the film an extra touch of poetry. We asked Yuta Okuyama, Creative Director at production company SIX INC, how it came about.


What was the original brief from the client, SOTETSU?

SOTETSU, a Japanese railway company serving Kanagawa Prefecture since 1917, aimed to promote its newly established direct through service to central Tokyo via the Tokyu Line, a long-awaited achievement. The objective was to highlight seamless access from Kanagawa suburbs to downtown Tokyo, positioning it as an ideal settlement for families.

How did you collaborate with the agency, Hakuhodo, on the creative idea?

The creative concept was chiefly developed by the creative team of SIX and Hakuhodo. Creative director Yuta Okuyama and film director Show Yanagisawa collaborated closely, merging their expertise from the initial planning stages.

Why did you decide to use real actors rather than special effects to age the man and his daughter?

We focused on one-cut filming instead of filming the same pair numerous times. Because life is like a one-cut film: time flows only in one direction like a river and cannot be partially retaken or replaced. Just as life progresses linearly, we wanted to evoke the irreplaceable essence of each moment.

How did you cast the different actors involved?

Casting presented the challenge of finding 24 lookalikes for each lead actor, requiring extensive casting calls spanning over 1000 actor agencies. Especially meticulous was the casting for the daughter's role, necessitating multiple sessions to match various criteria, including age-specific physical attributes and acting proficiency.

How long did it take to shoot the film, and what special techniques did you use?

While ample time was devoted to pre-production, filming was completed within a day. We employed 25 hand-powered car props and manually moved them to recreate the train’s winding movements, expressing the swaying emotions of the father and daughter over the years. Additionally, the lighting crew employed light shades outside the makeshift train to replicate the interplay of light within, symbolizing the passage of time.

What are your thoughts on winning numerous awards for the film?

It's truly an honour for a local train line advertisement in Japan to receive global recognition. Personally, I find it incredibly rewarding to see how the film resonated with audiences worldwide, highlighting the universal experience of parents navigating the bittersweet journey of watching their children grow.