Tokyo: First Funding-Gap Market Off to a Strong Start

'Training Hoffman'
Courtesy of TIFFCOM

'Training Hoffman'

Films and TV series with an Asia connection are linking with potential partners from the region at the event hosted by the TIFFCOM content market of Tokyo International Film Festival.

The inaugural Tokyo Gap-Financing Market (TGFM) got off to a busy start on Wednesday, with 20 projects from around the world looking for production and distribution partners, along with the final pieces of their funding puzzles.

The 14 films and six TV series, chosen from 87 submissions, have meetings in their own Zoom rooms over the next three days with investors, sales agents, production companies, broadcasters and streamers. The initiative is being hosted by TIFFCOM, the content market of the Tokyo International Film Festival, and held all online.

TGFM head Pascal Diot, who has run a similar venture at Venice for the last seven years, said more than 100 meetings had been arranged by the time the market opened on Wednesday morning in Japan.

“To be honest, the biggest headache has been the time difference, because we have people participating from around the globe. So scheduling meetings has been a challenge,” said Diot, speaking from France as the market was opening in Tokyo.

In order to give TFGM an “Asian specificity,” all the selected projects have a significant link to the continent, explained Diot.

Training Hoffman, a film based on the true story of a troubled Mexican former table tennis player who is forced to coach a novice para-player, is planning to shoot its climax and other scenes in Tokyo, where Christina Hoffman won the sport’s para world cup in 1995.

Director and writer Rafael Tres has already scouted locations in Japan and has the International Table Tennis Federation on board, giving him access to shoot at real tournaments.

“We are looking for an Asian partner and we think the film has a lot of potential in the region because table tennis has a big following there,” said Tres, speaking from Mexico. The project already has $1 million of funding in place and is looking for another $800,000 to bring the film to fruition.

Selected projects were required to have raised around 60 percent of their budget to be allowed to participate.

“We have two days of meetings fully booked already. It’s amazing, we have meetings with many of the companies we were hoping to talk to,” added Tres.

Clone Hunter, a planned anime trilogy that has secured a distribution deal with Sony Pictures, has 80 percent of its $2.5 million budget in the bag. It is hoping to secure the funding shortfall, as well as Japanese distribution through TGFM.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from investment funds in Asia-Pacific,” explained Toru Tokikawa, director, co-writer and producer, speaking from LA, where his Rivertime Entertainment production company is headquartered.

With pre and post-production set for LA, and production spread across Japan, South Korea and China, Japanese-born Tokikawa emphasizes the diverse crew and voice cast assembled for the project. Along with his Korean writing partner Min Hye Kim, the voice cast includes musician Ne-Yo and Ryan Potter, who voiced Hiro in Disney’s Big Hero 6.

“As a Japanese, I’d be honored if through Japanese anime we could contribute to more diverse filmmaking,” said Tokikawa.

As for raising funds during a global pandemic, TGFM’s Diot is optimistic.

“The investors are still there. They have to invest, it’s their job,” said Diot as he prepared to work through the French night.