Made in Asia: Japan

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There are indications that, however slow the Japanese national government has been in the past to recognize the importance of film and other artwork, the level of assistance available to filmmakers is on the rise.

According to the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Japan Arts Fund dispersed 1.13 billion yen ($10.5 million) in grants to filmmakers and other artists in fiscal 2006. The government offers study-abroad opportunities for Japanese filmmakers through its Overseas Study Program for Artists, and, in 2005, the Tokyo International Film Festival collaborated with the government to create UniJapan, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of Japanese films.

UniJapan offers grant money to participants in overseas film festivals; the grants are used to help filmmakers produce subtitles, reproduce prints, pay for travel and lodging, and prepare promotional advertising. Up to 4 million yen ($37,000) is offered to filmmakers participating in the Cannes, Venice and Berlin film festivals' feature-length film competitions.

J-Pitch, a support program of UniJapan coordinated by the Tokyo production company 100 Meter Films, offers workshops and seminars to help filmmakers meet with producers outside Japan and secure international funding for their projects.

Filmmakers working for the large studios are, of course, privy to wider distribution inside Japan and a chance at bigger local boxoffice receipts. According to EIREN (the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan), a total of 407 Japanese films were released in 2007, with film studio Toho producing nine of the top 10 moneymakers. (Shochiku was the lone exception at No. 5; the studio's "Love and Honor" brought in 41 billion yen at the boxoffice.)

Paradoxically, however, because studios like Toho, Shochiku and Toei generally concentrate most of their attention on the domestic market, filmmakers eyeing global audiences may have their work seen by more people as a whole by remaining outside the studio system.

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