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After producing a hoverboard and allowing artificial intelligence to create an advert, the newest project for Lexus through The&Partnership examines - over the course of 60,000 hours - what it takes to be a Takumi, a Japanese master craftsperson.

The full film, helmed by Chef’s Table director Clay Jeter, is the longest documentary ever made and takes the slow TV format to its extreme. Launching on Amazon Prime on March 19 Takumi: a 60,000 Hour Story of the Survival of Human Craft immerses the viewer in the worlds of four Japanese master craftspeople who spend 60,000 hours (that’s 30 years working eight hours a day) to achieve Takumi status.

I hope it's an uplifting message; humans have a lot to offer and craft could in fact become more valuable, a luxury, as automation increases.

The film asks the question; in an age where technology can replicate or better anything man can do, what is the value and purpose of man’s endeavour? Furthermore, will these crafts die out or could they become even more prized? 

Lexus – Takumi

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Above: The trailer for Lexus' Takumi: a 60,000 Hour Story of the Survival of Human Craft


Takumi follows Shigeo Kiuchi, 67, a master in the art of Miyadaiku – an ancient form of carpentry; Hisato Nakahigashi, who runs two-Michelin star restaurant Miyamasou; Nahoko Kojima who is 37 years old, but already has dedicated 60,000 hours to her craft of kirie (Japanese paper-cutting), and Katsuaki Suganuma, a Takumi who has worked at Lexus for 32 years, and is in charge of the final inspection line at the car brand.

The film sits on a bespoke player and, like any other streaming service, allows you to fast forward to any point within the 60,000 hours. Will anyone ever watch the full film? Maybe not but watching the looped footage of the Takumi at work is meant to act as a calming experience.

If you don’t have spare 60,000 hours though, there’s a 54-minute-long edit of the documentary that is also airing on Amazon from the same date.


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Above: Nahoko Kojima who is 37 years old, but already has dedicated 60,000 hours to her craft of kirie (Japanese paper-cutting)


Below, The&Partnership’s Dave Bedwood, who wrote the documentary, explains the origin of the concept and 

Each Takumi... had a relevant challenge from AI; either their craft may die, or they are working with it to take their craft to new heights. 

How did you first find out about Takumi?

It was in the original brief. Lexus have a heritage of craft going back to their origins. A big part of that are Takumi craftsman. 


How quickly did the idea to create a long form documentary come into focus? 

The fact we unearthed is that Lexus Takumi devote 60,000 hours to attain true mastery. In a world of phone addiction, dwindling attention spans, Google and Facebook telling us people give six seconds to any content, the initial idea was to be the opposite. To make a point about time. To quantify just how much time is needed to be great at anything. At that point it was just an advertising idea - we needed to develop a story, which naturally led to doing something worthy of a documentary.

It was a slightly different process than the usual writing of a long form piece - as we had to have a narrative that could work over an hour, but also give us a full version of 60,000 hours. This manifested into having a 54-minute edit for Amazon, and a bespoke player version that is interactive and houses the full 60,000 hours. 

It can’t be a Lexus film that we invite others into, it has to be a bigger story that Lexus can be a part of in a relevant way.  

In this version, if someone presses play and was to just leave it, it would play non-stop for seven-and-a-half years. In the 54-minute edit we fast forward past the sections where the Takumi are going through their daily routine. To do this we shot short films of three-to-five minutes of each Takumi going about their usual day, and then we seamlessly looped each of them for 20,000hrs.

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Above: Hisato Nakahigashi, who runs two-Michelin star restaurant Miyamasou


It’s a nice crossroad between Takumi philosophy (constant repetition, no shortcuts) and technology - as once the initial 3 three-to-five minute film has loaded we can loop it endlessly for the same amount of file size. So, 60,000 hours is created with 80 minutes of footage.  

The main point to land is the weight of time and these sections are almost meditative, like an art installation. It also meant we didn't have to send a director out to shoot for 32 years...


What was the process behind getting the film shown on Amazon Prime; was that hard?

The hard thing with creating a documentary that’s to be distributed is striking a fine balance between creating something that is both entertaining and informative. It can’t be a Lexus film that we invite others into, it has to be a bigger story - hopefully culturally interesting - that Lexus can be a part of in a relevant way.  

Once we had done that and completed the film, we worked with a third party distributor to make the 54-minute edit of the documentary available on streaming platforms, like Amazon Prime and iTunes. Part of this process involved ensuring that the film was made available in all 55 countries that the 60,000 hour player exists in – so there was a lengthy localisation process.

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Above: Shigeo Kiuchi, 67, a master in the art of Miyadaiku – an ancient form of carpentry


How did you source and eventually decide on the Takumi that feature in the film? 

That was done with Clay Jeter and the production company. We were looking for people who were Takumi in their own fields of expertise. From musicians, architects, artists, writers, potters, a huge array of skills.

But we were also looking for disciplines which would play against each other nicely, and would give the film a sense of moving from the old world (i.e carpentry) to the modern (i.e automotive). Each Takumi has their own ways of working but all share certain sensibilities, the feeling was that each also had a relevant challenge from AI; either their craft may die, or they are working with it to take their craft to new heights. 

Above: The&Partnership’s Dave Bedwood


Some products - such as cars - pride themselves on their advanced technology; were you very conscious of getting the balance right between Lexus' technology and art? 

An automotive factory to the layperson represents the height of technology. Robots painting cars etc, and it’s here where they'd expect craft to die first. So, showing a Takumi in amongst the robots, adding something no machine can, is quite a surprise. I hope it's an uplifting message; humans have a lot to offer and craft could in fact become more valuable, a luxury, as automation increases.

 

At what might you consider yourself to be Takumi?

I have been doing advertising for 23 years, so I am not quite there yet in hours. Although I’m not sure how many weekend pitches the carpenter got involved in...

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