Japan

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Treaties: Canada
Recent projects: "Blindness" (Brazil-Canada-Japan), "Silk" (Canada-Italy-Japan)


In spite of a growing recognition of the importance of international co-productions -- as well as a growing number of successful projects -- formal legal structures for facilitating them are almost nonexistent. Japan's only treaty, arranged with Canada in 1994, is actually a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and is effectively unilateral. The Canadian government makes all the decisions relating to co-pros and is supposed to also take care of Japan's interests.

Japan, for its part, has no duty to provide any support to Japan-Canada co-pros. "The Japanese government doesn't actually recognize it as a formal treaty," a well-placed insider says.

Despite these slightly shaky legal arrangements, successes such as "Silk" and "Blindness" have been achieved, both with a third country also on board.

In 2006, UniJapan, the government-funded organization for promoting Japanese film internationally, formed J-Pitch, which is dedicated to creating opportunities for co-productions. The number of international projects, particularly within Asia, has grown since the inception of J-Pitch, but little progress has been made with treaties. "I think much of the difficulty in Japan is with bureaucracy. The ministries need to work together more to make these happen," says Toshiyuki Hasegawa, manager of J-Pitch.

"France is interested in a treaty, and the president of (France's) Center National de la Cinematographie spoke about it when he visited the Tokyo International Film Festival," he notes.

J-Pitch has teamed up with the Tokyo production outfit 100 Meter Films for a series of co-pro development workshops. John Williams, U.K.-born director and CEO of the company, believes the biggest barriers to co-productions is not a lack of treaties but issues within Japanese filmmaking. "The three reasons are: the size of the market in Japan means (local producers) can get their money back domestically; a lack of attention to story development; and limited understanding of rights issues," he says.

-- Gavin J. Blair

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