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TIFFCOM: Philippines Shares Location Attraction Lessons With Japan

Director Brillante Mendoza poses for photographers
Joel Ryan/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The Philippines has long been a favorite destination to shoot Hollywood films such as “Apocalypse Now” and “Bourne Legacy.” Now the South East Asian nation has broadened its appeal to productions for other Asian countries – Japan included.

At a TIFFCOM market seminar on Thursday Philippines Film Development Council representative Liza Dino-Seguerra and Viva Communications licensing and acquisitions VP Tina Tubongbanua sat down with J-horror director Hideo Nakata, Sapporo Film Commission representative Arifumi Sato to not only pitch their country as a location, but discuss how Japan can improve its own appeal to foreign filmmakers.

(The Philippines’ star director Brillante Mendoza was also on hand at the Tokyo International Film Festival on Thursday to give a master class on working with actors.)

English fluency; low costs; relaxed censorship; coordination between government agencies to cut red tape; and diverse locations that have served as everything from Bali to Norway, were among The Philippines attractions, said Dino-Seguerra. “We aim to be a one-stop shop for foreign productions,” she said.

Japan, on the other hand, has seen major Japan-themed films such as “The Last Samurai” and “Silence” go elsewhere for location shoots. One reason, noted the English-fluent Nakata, is that Japanese are mainly monolingual, despite years of English study in school. Another, he added, is that Japan organizations, from local governments to the military, can present formidable bureaucratic hurdles for foreign productions. In contrast, the more easy-going Philippines sees cops and soldiers frequently play themselves in films, as a sort of side job.

The result, Sato commented, is that foreign productions see Japan as a possible location “only for films that have to be shot in Japan.” And, even then, not always,

But Sato also pointed to Sapporo as an increasingly popular location for incoming productions from the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia. A supportive film commission is one draw, but another, suggested Tubongbanua, are beauty spots, from the natural to the architectural, that have made Sapporo and its surroundings a prime choice.

“I See You” (aka “Kita Kita”), a romcom set in Sapporo that set a box office record for Philippine indie films following its July 2017 release, was a prime example. The story, about a blind woman (Alessandra de Rossi) who finds love – and then regains her sight to find her lover (Empoy Marquez) somewhat lacking in the looks department – was the main draw for local audiences, “but the romantic location definitely helped,” Tubongbanua said.

“Lots people in the Philippines saw the film and wanted to go to Japan,” Dino-Seguerra said. “They wanted to eat the same noodles as the couple in the film.”