Organizers claim event busier than in past

The Tokyo Film Festival’s Tiffcom mart wrapped Friday on a quiet but contented note.

The three-day mart was not notable for high-stakes bidding wars or startling announcements. But it exceeded last year’s jamboree in terms of attendees and outgunned the recent Asian Film Market in Pusan, South Korea.

“It is definitely busier than normal. I went round trying to say goodbye to a few people this morning, but they didn’t have time for me as they were doing meetings,” said Shan Dongbing, prexy of Chinese distributor Jingle Culture Development.

Perversely, the world financial turmoil may have helped Tiffcom, as several Asian companies said they were window-shopping and buying from Tokyo, rather than making the more expensive trip to next month’s American Film Market.

“Everyone’s worried about the economy and is cautious. I hear a lot of people are not going to AFM. They are digging in,” said Steve Chicorel of Taiwanese producer and sales agent Double Edge/Inferno.

“A lot of our clients made it to Tokyo, some of whom have decided to skip AFM. So we are very glad to have been able to meet them here,” said Mina Mita of Fuji TV, producer of some of Japan’s biggest hit films of late.

Kana Aida, senior VP of Japanese-American production at sales outfit Eleven Arts, called Tiffcom “way better than Pusan.”

“Tokyo has something to do with it — people like coming here. It may be a more expensive place, but the festival has invited many buyers.”

Indeed, the fest invited 400 buyers and provided “incentives” to national orgs from the U.K. and Europe to bring delegations.

Mika Morishita, Tiffcom deputy director, said that incentives will be back next year but not handed out casually. “Quality of the distributors, meaning the ones who actually buy, is going to be a key criterion of the incentives we provide to buyers in 2009,” she said.

“We were surprised to have five new companies — including ones from Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore — approach us already to be exhibitors next year.”

While most folk appeared to be looking and talking rather than wheeling and dealing, Japanese producer-distrib Asmik Ace signed contracts for market-screened fantasy “Handsome Suit” with Golden Harvest for Hong Kong and Macau, with Encore for Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and with Serenity for Taiwan.

To grow further, Tiffcom may need to broaden its offerings. “The market is still dominated by Japanese titles,” said Masaki Koga, general manager of licensing for Japanese major Shochiku.

Organizers reported that delegate numbers on the first day were up 36% on 2007 and that second-day foot traffic managed a 10% rise. Day three seemed busier in the morning, but buyers and sellers pretty much hauled out at lunchtime Friday.

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