After working on beloved and exciting TV shows, including Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Punisher and The Witcher, director Marc Jobst takes us on a high-seas adventure in One Piece, a Netflix series adapted from the popular manga.
Jobst serves as an executive producer of the show and also directed the first two episodes, which means he was tasked with setting the stage for the journey to come.
The series follows an enthusiastic young adventurer Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) who assembles a crew to search for a hidden treasure, called the One Piece, in order to become the King of Pirates. But not only does Luffy have to tackle sea beasts, rival pirates and dangerous waters, some believe the One Piece treasure is actually just a myth.
'I didn't want to replicate the manga or imitate the anime'
For Jobst, what really stood out about this story was this sense of adventure to see the expansive world, all in one "big hearted" story.
"When I read the manga and read the scripts, the thing that I loved so much about it was it is joyful and it's sunny, and it's optimistic, it's positive, it's big hearted," Jobst told Yahoo Canada. "It felt like the world needed a bit of that."
"You have these characters, particularly Luffy, ... who just has this kind of way of inspiring people to believe in themselves, to believe in their dreams, to want to be more of themselves. He's always encouraging of that and in a world in which we need to allow each other to be who we are, that felt like something really exciting to be part of."
With a story based on Japan's highest-selling manga series in history, it's understandable that the team behind this new version of One Piece had to navigate expanding the world for this live action format, while being conscious of the expectation of existing fans. While hopefully attracting people completely new to the story. Given Jobst's extensive experience with highly popular franchises and characters, that certainly made him uniquely qualified to take on this challenge.
"I've worked on quite a lot of those kinds of shows, I've worked a lot with Marvel Studio and also on The Witcher, ... which have a huge fan bases, all of which kind of know every single detail there is to know about it," Jobst said. "You can get a little bit frozen by that sometimes as a filmmaker."
"The key thing for me about approaching this live action show is I didn't want to replicate the manga or imitate the anime. I wanted this to be something separate, so that we can complement each other."
Jobst praised creators Steven Maeda and Matt Owens for being particularly "sensitive" to each character and the "needs" of the existing fans.
"We needed to create something that felt like it was an addition, not an alternative," Jobst stressed. "When you turn [two dimensions] into live action, what you do is you dimensionalize the characters, you give them an emotional life."
"They have real feelings. They laugh and they love, and they have fear and they have frailties, and all those things bring those two dimensions into three dimensions. ... I just really, really hope that the fans will enjoy it too."
'Action needs to deliver more than a hit'
From the beginning of the process Jobst was adamant that the show would "live or die" on the actors bringing these characters to life. The series required stars who could take on the physical elements of the story, in addition to carrying the hefty emotional drama. This is particularly critical when Jobst's approach to building this world was to start with the characters.
"I come from theatre, my view is that an audience commits to a show not because of the world in which the story takes place, but because they fall in love with the characters and they care about them, and they care about what they are to each other," he said.
Having directed episodes of some of the most beloved TV shows, many particularly action-packed like Daredevil, Luke Cage and The Witcher, Jobst's approach to shooting action sequences is particularly in-depth and fully formed. They pack a punch (sometimes literally) with the action, but they deliver emotionally and narratively as well.
"Action needs to deliver more than a hit, it needs to deliver story and character for me," he said.
Jobst recalled a moment when he was working on Daredevil and he was sitting in a restaurant having dinner in New York City, and a woman said she loved the show, but she revealed she fast-forwards through the action sequences.
"I was thinking, wow OK, so I need to really think about how we do this then, because so much time and effort and energy goes into shooting those action sequences," he said.
"It started this journey for me about saying, OK you have to tell story, and you have to tell character, so that at the end of the action sequence something needs to have changed. So if you have fast-forwarded, you've got to go back and watch it in order to understand why that change took place."
Going back to Jobst's work in The Witcher, specifically the big pilot sword fight, the director highlighted that the first section was all in one shot, thanks for Henry Cavill sword fighting skills, and as a way to really deliver the message that this is a dangerous man.
"I knew that when he met Renfri, who was the p, where the action sequences are specifically stylized to be more playful.stop the action whenever I wanted to, in order to be able to engage the emotion," Jobst explained. "If I'd done lots of cuts in that first section, by the time you get into the second section of that fight, you'd be kind of tired."
"I wanted to earn the right to make the cuts, in order to be able to get those great emotional moments between The Witcher and Renfri. To say, 'Well, are they going to kiss? Or are they going to kill?' That was the idea."
That technique was expanded upon for One Piece, where the action sequence are specifically stylized to be more playful.
'I believe stories teach us how to be human'
Having worked on several impressive TV shows, Jobst recognizes that what really attracts him to a project is character and story.
"I came into the business of telling stories because I believe stories teach us how to be human," Jobst said. "We have some characters and we put an obstacle in their way, and then we slip on their shoes as viewers of the film and we walk in the shoes of this character, through overcoming the obstacle."
"I'm always drawn to stories in which I can feel we learn more about ourselves as human beings, and that can also be superheroes."
Jobst gave the example of Luke Cage not really wanting to be a superhero, the Punisher fighting in wars overseas and coming back to America where nobody cared about what he went through, and The Witcher, which makes you question who the real monster is in the story.
The director indicated that extends to One Piece as well, where Luffy forms this crew to "find the family he never had."
"They'd been after this treasure for 22 years, they've never found it," Jobst explained. "That's because in some respects, maybe the journey is more important than the treasure itself."
Moving forward in his illustrious career, Jobst is working on a project called Home, which he teased explores, "what is home for us, where is home, what makes us feel at home."
"It's about three homeless kids on the streets of Bristol in England, and I'm working with a team of rap artists and beatboxers, and choreographers and dancers, and we're using all different forms to tell this movie, through the language of these young people," he said.
"In a way, what's exciting for me about that project, and to a degree One Piece, is that I felt like I'm using all the skills that I've learned in my career from theatre, from working in documentaries, from working in radio, and writing and directing a lot of drama. To now becoming an action and adventure director. But somebody who's also really actually interested in the individual, in the drama of what it is to be human."
This interview was conducted during the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. Director Marc Jobst's statement on the ongoing strikes:
"Marc would like to state that he supports both SAG and WGA in their pursuit of reaching a fair and equitable resolution to the respective strikes. In talking about his work - past and present - he does so with unequivocal support for the highly skilled crews that make up the different unions (SAG and WGA included) and believes all should be valued and recompensed for the contributions they make in bringing these series and films to life."