You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TIFFCOM: Japan Interest in Co-productions With Europe, and China is Growing

Long low on the priority list for Japan’s notoriously insular film industry, co-productions between the second-largest film market in Asia and its overseas partners are now in the spotlight. That was the view of a industry executives, speaking at a seminar at  TIFFCOM, on the margins of the Tokyo International Film Festival.

A bilateral film co-production agreement between Japan and China was signed in May. That marked a thawing of political relations and may open the door to a new film-making era. Not surprisingly, co-productions between Japan, Europe and Asia was the subject of a seminar held at TIFFCOM on Wednesday.

Sedic International producer Toshiaki Nakazawa, whose credits include the Oscar-winning drama “Departures” and the Takashi Miike samurai swashbuckler “13 Assassins,” which he made with veteran British counterpart Jeremy Thomas, noted that Japan needs to “expand the pie” of its film market. Given that Japan’s population of 130 million is in decline and the world’s population now stands at nearly 7 billion people, he said, “We should be going after the larger global market. And that means going for more co-productions. We need to be more aggressive.”

The old model of exporting Japanese art films, while keeping the more commercial product for domestic audiences “is not good enough anymore,” he said. “We need to make a new type of culture, new types of films.”

Alexandra Lebret of European Producers Club, an association of 103 film and TV producers active in Europe, listed Japanese-European co-ventures in recent years. These rose to 14 in 2016, but fell to just five in 2017, the latter total involving four European countries. One reason why these numbers aren’t higher, she said, is that “Japan has no co-production agreements with European countries,” which given such agreements smooth the way through dense European regulatory and bureaucratic thicket, makes the country’s industry less attractive as a production partner.

On Wednesday in Tokyo, Roberto Stabile, head of Italy’s film promotion organization ANICA, revealed that a bilateral treaty between Japan and Italy is being discussed.

Japanese visual content is popular in Europe, Lebret said. She cited the example of “Your Name,” the Makoto Shinkai animation that recorded a strong 220,000 admissions in Europe, as well as films by Japanese auteurs such as Hirokazu Koreeda, Naomi Kawase and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (who are all regulars, by no coincidence, at Cannes).

Jeffrey Chan, EVP of Bona Film Group, a leading producer and distributor in China, noted that the gap between theatrical markets in North America and China is shrinking, with first quarter 2018 grosses in China, at $3.7 billion, beating the North American figure. “But overseas, including Japan, the market for Chinese films is still very tough,” he said.

Whether or not the recently signed co-production agreement will change that situation remains to be seen, but given that international co-productions are recognized as domestic films by the Chinese government, he said, “They give distributors more flexibility.”

One recent fruit of this closer relationship between Japan and China is “The Monkey Prince,” an English-language animated feature that, as announced at TIFFCOM on Wednesday, Bona is partnering to produce it with Japanese major Toei Animation, and other companies, on a budget of $30 million.

Censorship in China remains a concern for the Japanese industry, as evidenced by questions on the subject addressed to Chan, but he replied that, for his company at least, “It’s really not so difficult.” The biggest hurdle for foreign co-productions, he explained, is at the script stage, when the scrutiny of censors is at its sharpest. “The (censorship) process is getting longer,” he added. “It now takes about two or three months on average. In the old days it was about two weeks.” “Monkey Prince” has already received censorship approval.

Noting that Japanese content, from manga and anime to novels, is popular in China, Chan remains optimistic: “There is a lot of potential in future co-productions between China and Japan.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Once Upon a Time

    Leonardo DiCaprio's Earth Alliance Commits $5 Million to Amazon Fires

    Earth Alliance, an environmental initiative backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, has committed $5 million toward the preservation of the Amazon rain forest following an alarming surge in wildfires. After launching Sunday, the organization’s emergency Amazon Forest Fund is working to support local partners and indigenous communities in their efforts to protect the sensitive habitats within the [...]

  • (from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

    Box Office: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Scores $102 Million Debut in China, Nears $600 Million Globally

    Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw” returned to first place on the international box office charts, thanks to a massive $102 million debut in China. The “Fast & Furious” spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, collected another $120 million overseas, boosting its foreign tally to $441 million. “Hobbs & Shaw” is nearing the $600 million mark [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Rises to No. 1 With $21 Million Debut

    “Angel Has Fallen,” the third chapter in Lionsgate and Millenium’s action franchise starring Gerard Butler, had a stronger opening weekend than expected, collecting $21.25 million during its first three days of release. Those ticket sales were enough to top domestic box office charts, bumping last weekend’s champ, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys,” to second place. Starring [...]

  • Amanda

    ‘Amanda’ Takes Home Best Int’l Film at 15th Sanfic

    SANTIAGO, Chile    French director Mikhael Hers’ “Amanda” scooped up the Best Int’l Film award Saturday (Aug. 24) at the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Fest (Sanfic), which reported a 20% audience uptick in the past two years and continues to grow its reputation as the most vibrant and prominent film festival in Latin America’s Southern [...]

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content