×

New incentives get solons’ blessing

Legislation should encourage local production

TOKYO — After decades of attitudes ranging from indifference to outright hostility, the Japanese government has finally decided to assist its film industry.

Responding with numerous programs from disparate (and sometimes competing) ministries, the pols now see the sector as having huge potential to drive exports.

Leading the way is the Agency for Cultural Affairs, which established advisory film committees in 2003. Following their recommendations, the agency has created substantial policies, ranging from a general doctrine concerning the “preservation of movies as a cultural asset” to detailed changes in Japanese law that allow individual film ventures to be limited-liability partnerships, thus reducing risk.

According to Tomonori Saiki, a film expert who came over to the agency from the National Film Board specifically to develop film policy, “We’re tying to establish an infrastructure to support filmmaking in Japan for the long term.”

Popular on Variety

The agency allocated a budget of $18.4 million in 2006 and raised it slightly to $18.7 million this year for these policies and programs.

Initiatives range from supporting film fests and the National Film Center to financing Japanese co-productions with foreign production houses. The latter effort has been the most fruitful, with five projects garnering government coin recently.

“We Will Not Forget You” by production houses Wides Japan Inc. (Japan) and Isaku Film (Korea) received a grant of $252,000. “The Longest Night in Shanghai,” a co-production of Movie-eye Entertainment Inc. (Japan) and Megajoy Pictures (China) made off with the same, as did “Silk,” a pic with numerous financial backers, including Bee Vine Pictures (Japan), Tele-film Canada, HGFund, Alliance Atlantic, Fandango S.R.L, (Italy) and New Line Intl. Two more Japan-China co-productions, “Hou Ou” and “Sakurannbo,” snared $58,000 and $160,000 respectively.

Other government departments are heavily involved as well. Keiji Koizumi of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) explains, “METI is developing programs that put importance on Japanese intellectual properties, and the top priority is film, or rather image-based contents.”

Though they have diverse initiatives, METI is stressing three areas: the development of an international market for Japanese contents, training of Japanese contents producers and creating the Japan Intl. Contents Festival, skedded for Sept. 19-Oct. 28 in Tokyo.

Under the moniker J-Pitch, nonprofit org UniJapan is overseeing the first two initiatives, with Toshiyuki Hasegawa acting as director. “This is the second year we’re doing Japanese pavilions at festivals around the world to let the film community know about these programs,” he says, citing plans for Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Pusan and Hong Kong’s Film Mart. “One of the basic tenets of J-Pitch is to increase Japanese producers’ ability to do co-development and co-production of films with foreign producers.”

To that end, a series of workshops is being held for Japanese producers by 100 Meter Films, a Japan-based international production house. Producers submit a treatment and, if chosen, attend the intensives with an eye to developing the venture with producers outside Japan. Koizumi stresses, “J-Pitch is the incubator to get the projects going, get people making the contacts.”

J-Pitch brings in numerous experts from in and outside Japan to advise the attendees on how to develop their projects. One of the leaders of the workshops, helmer John Williams of 100 Meter Films, explains, “It’s a project-development program with an emphasis on developing not only projects but producers, too.”

In addition, J-Pitch has formed a partnership with the Producers Network at Cannes and has a 10-year plan to place foreign producers with Japanese projects.

Among numerous J-Pitch successes to date, Hasegawa points to one: “In Hong Kong, the Japanese production company Entertainment Farm announced a co-production with Fortissimo. Kiyoshi Kurosawa is attached to direct, and an Australian will write the script.”

The Japan Intl. Contents Festival (JICF) is being produced by the Visual Industry Promotion Organization (VIPO), a Japanese contents biz umbrella org that has been set up by METI.

Tomoharu Ishikawa, the secretary general of VIPO, explains, “The main purposes of VIPO is to develop Japan’s contents market, to develop human resources in Japan and to help companies get set up.”

JICF will present speakers, screenings and markets in an attempt to synergize film, toons, videogames, animation, comics, TV shows and character goods in order to offer international buyers a range of locally produced contents.

But as both an adjunct to the Agency of Cultural Affairs committees and deputy director of UniJapan, Takashi Nishimura sees the well-meaning government efforts as somewhat disorganized.

“Whether the government can successfully implement its plans to develop the contents industry in Japan still remains to be seen,” he says. “There are so many agencies related to the same projects, they need efficient regulation. Until then, it may be tough to be effective.”

More Film

  • Tresor Plots $72 Million 'Asterix &

    Tresor Films Plots $72 Million 'Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road,' New Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

    After delivering two of the highest-grossing French films of last year, Alain Attal’s Paris-based production company Tresor Films (“Sink or Swim,” “Little White Lies 2”) is kicking off 2020 with its most ambitious project yet, Guillaume Canet’s “Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road.” Co-produced and financed by Jerome Seydoux’s Pathé, “Asterix & Obelix” is budgeted [...]

  • Anais Bertrand on Producing Sundance Player

    Anais Bertrand on the Obstacles She Faced to Produce Sundance Player ‘Jumbo’

    Zoé Wittock’s debut feature, “Jumbo,” screening in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition, is also the first feature film produced by up-and-coming French producer Anais Bertrand, of Insolence Productions, who has cut her teeth on award-winning shorts, including winning the Procirep Short Film Producer Award last year. “Jumbo” is about a young woman, played by Noémie [...]

  • 'Parasite,' 'Jojo Rabbit' Win ACE Eddie

    'Parasite,' 'Jojo Rabbit' Win ACE Eddie Awards for Top Feature Films

    “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit” have won the top feature film trophies at the 70th Annual ACE Eddie Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Jinmo Yang won the dramatic feature category for “Parasite” over “Ford v Ferrari,” “Joker,” “The Irishman,” and “Marriage Story.” The victory marks the first time in ACE Eddie Awards history that a [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

  • Oscar Isaac Golden Globes 2016

    Film News Roundup: Oscar Isaac Joins Superhero Movie 'The Great Machine'

    In today’s film news roundup, Oscar Isaac boards “The Great Machine,” Keira Knightley joins “Silent Night” and “The Dog Doc” finds a home. CASTINGS Legendary has closed a deal for Oscar Isaac to star in and produce superhero saga “The Great Machine.” The project is based on Brian K. Vaughan’s comic book series “Ex Machina” [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    U.S. Movie Admissions Plunge 4.6% in 2019 Amid Box Office Decline

    U.S. movie admissions slid 4.6% last year to 1.24 billion, the second lowest admissions number during the current century, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has reported. North American box office for the year declined 4.1% to $11.4 billion, NATO said Friday. That figure was in line with the estimate released at the end [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'National Treasure 3' Moves Ahead From Disney, Jerry Bruckheimer

    Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer are moving ahead with a third “National Treasure” movie with “Bad Boys for Life” screenwriter Chris Bremner tapped to write the script. Bremner has also signed to write a fourth “Bad Boys” for Sony with Bruckheimer producing. Bruckheimer produced the three “Bad Boys” and the two “National Treasure” movies. The “National [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content