Nippon Giant Sets Up Shop In L.A. For Co-Production

Japanese giant Media Intl. Co. (MICO) is extending its reach across the Pacific and opening offices in Los Angeles to spearhead its increasingly aggressive plans for co-financing and co-production.

Among the first projects to take form as part of that plan are: A tv series and a $6 million telefilm, and documentaries and dramas built from multinational cooperative venture Twentieth Century.

Yoshiki Nishimura, MICO v.p. for entertainment and head of the L.A. office, would only say tv projects involve top names and a major network and will hit tv screens in early 1992. The $6 million budget for the series will be paid in equal shares by MICO/NHK, RAI-2 and L.A.-based Spectacor. There is no U.S. network attached, although NHK and RAI-2 are committed to broadcasting in their territories.

According to Spectacor” s Daniel Sladek, recently promoted v.p. of marketing and distribution, the one-hour series is “Foreign Correspondent,” about a journalist based in Rome. The pilot is being scripted by Earl Wallace and will be produced in Rome. Locations and characters will have an international flavor, too.

“There are Japanese, American and Italian people working creatively on this, and there will be Japanese, American and Italian characters in the story,” notes Sladek.

RAI-2 and Spectacor also have a three-picture deal as equal partners to produce films for the USA cable network. The first is “Endless Fear,” to be produced by Sam Brooks. The deal allegedly is the brainchild of Spectacor prexy Joseph M. Cohen, who co-founded the USA Network. Spectacor CEO Michael Jaffe is credited with making the RAI-2 connection.

Nishimura says the NHK/MICO investment in Twentieth Century will run to $70 million over the next 10 years. From that fund will issue projects making use of an enormous library of film and tv clips being amassed by the participants, which include the Soviet tv ministry, Gosteleradio, ABC News and NHK. Nishimura says particular attention will be paid to stories concerning Japan-U.S. relations.

He also promises a growing Los Angeles presence. The MICO office, which will not open officially until June, will have five to seven employees, among them local readers/story analysts. “We have tons of scripts that need analyzing,” Nishimura says. “At this stage it is mostly development and co-finance, but we are also looking for good material.”

With tentative relations already formed with England’s BBC, Italy’s RAI and other Euro powers, MICO is attempting to build further finance-broadcast connections.

“We continue to look for European partners,” Nishimura says. “Strong European companies with broadcast connections.”

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