Japan urged to take film abroad

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HONG KONG -- Japanese moviemakers need to stop seeing their domestic market as their sole audience because a boom time in the industry is inevitably followed by lean years, Bey Logan, vp of the Weinstein Co., told a seminar on "Cool Japan Content" on Tuesday.

Organized by TIFFCOM, the market that runs in parallel with the annual Tokyo International Film Festival, the panelists included Jessica Chen, general manager of Taiwan's Khan Entertainment, and Fumiko Nagata, film and programming division manager for Nippon Television Network Corp.

Fumiko Nozawa, of Japan's ministry of trade and industry, emphasized the healthy state of the industry at home, as well as its growing links throughout the region, while Tom Yoda, chairman of TIFF, was also enthusiastic about improved technology and creativeness permeating Japanese movies.

But it was Logan who fired a warning shot over complacency.

"Japan is one of the most fascinating, contradictory and frustrating markets," he said. "The biggest strength of the Japanese market is that it is so strong domestically, based on television shows that are already familiar to a Japanese audience, they do not travel outside of Japan."

Consequently, producers do not even consider collaborations because they are effectively guaranteed a money-spinning product.

"They are not interested in the U.S., for example, because they are so strong at home," he said. "But I was here in Hong Kong back in the 1980s when the industry was strong -- and now it is much less strong.

"I would urge Japanese filmmakers to keep up their relations with outside companies because even though they are experiencing a boom at the moment, the time will come when there is a bust."

Nagata, who was behind the successful sale of "Death Note" in the region, said she had been lucky as the project had been well known in advance and made her task that much easier.

Chen, who purchased the Ken Watanabe drama "Memories of Tomorrow" for the Taiwan market, said movies that "conquered the audience" by touching their emotions worked well in her market, although it remained dominated by Hollywood titles.

"I want more young people to go to cinemas to see learn about other cultures as it is both an entertainment event and educational," she said.
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