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Sunday, 24 January 2011

Development Department Executives in Hollywood read more than 
10 scripts in a day.   Of course, I think they get their assistants to read
most of them, and they actually only read the ones highlighted
by the assistants.
Despite this it is an extraordinary feat to find that golden script,
which is like a treasure in a vast desert. Moreover,
it is sometimes like the beautiful blue ocean that is turned completely
red as all the rivals swarm together. 
It’s abnormal increase of  phytoplankton.
Sometimes, there is somebody wonderful left unnoticed
amongst all the scriptwriters and their work falls from
the hands of these executives.
One of these was MARGIN CALL, which is showing currently at Sundance.
In fact, it was big news in the film industry at script stage
even before it’s premiere in Sundance.
In Hollywood, there is a list put together by important people and
superior assistants called the “The Black List”.
“The Black List” means;
“In reality these are brilliant scripts but they have not yet been produced”.
J.C.Chandor’s MARGIN CALL was a rumoured script,
and in 2010 it was in the top 10 on “The Black List”.
Although it did not get selected by any studio,
it caught the attention one day of a certain independent film producer,
who decided to make the film before the 2010 “Black List” was circulated.
It is quite a Cinderella story.
The man who spotted the possibilities in this script was Cassian Elwes,
who is credited on the film as an Executive Producer.
Oh, I know this man!
Six years ago, I was a acquisition executive in my former job at StyleJam.
I had my eyes on a documentary film about the police called
and I flew to the Sundance Film Festival to watch it.
First of all, I watched the film, and then asked to speak to the producer directly.
That producer was Cassian Elwes.  I am sure, he was a producer
working out of the William Morris Agency at the time.
I really thought he was quite tough man to deal with.
Moreover, the director also came to the negotiating table,
and this turned out to be the drummer Stewart Copeland!!
I remember I was so tense that my body was covered in sweat
and my tongue kept getting twisted, despite the severe cold of Utah, USA.
What I really want to say is that he is a doer,
and creates quite an intimidating atmosphere, very professional. 
Of course, the real reason for my perspiration was the fact that
“I am talking with Stewart Copeland, now”; it was like a dream.
Stewart Copeland surprised Japanese fans at press conference.
Anyway, to return to the main topic.
MARGIN CALL, which had caught Cassian Elwe’s attention,
was a hot title at the American Film Market last November.
This is an industry film festival that is held in Santa Monica every year.
Though the film was not complete, the film rights were sold to
17 territorries on the strength of the script and the those wonderful cast attached.
It will open to the public in Germany, Italy, Australia, Scandinavia, Mexico, Brazil,
Canada, Argentina, Latin America, Peru, China, Russia, Near & Middle East,
Turkey, the Ukraine, former Yugoslavia, and Romania.
It is always delightful to know that one film can go to so many countries
after it has been born.
China purchased this foreign film at script stage,
which is a very noteworthy point at this time.
Will it get approval from SARFT, which is the very strict administrator
over the performance of foreign films. 
It’s interesting to keep an eye of this.

Is he the next Chris Nolan? – J.C.Chandor

SUNDANCE WATCH from a distance.
Saturday, 21 January 2011

J.C.Chandor, who is a rookie director with great promise,
has leapt directly to the top level due to his good skill as a scriptwriter.
His directorial debut film, MARGIN CALL
has it’s world premiere at Sundance yesterday. 
margin call  
J. C Chandor makin Kevin Spacey to act.  ©©JOJO WHILDEN
The competition section at the Berlin Film Festival,
which starts on the 10th of February, has been announced.
Although no Japanese film has been selected this year,
to me, J.C.Chandor is a notable American director with MARGIN CALL.
In spite it being his feature film debut,
it is crammed with many distinguished film stars,
like Liam Neeson, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany,
Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tuschi and Demi Moore.
Having had it’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival,
it will have it’s international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival next.
It will then roll out across America in October,
with it’s eye firmly on the Academy Awards, of course.
In 2011 Chandor must be on the fast track
to become the red-hot director in Hollywood.
The story is a thriller that covers 24 hours in the life of the protagonists,
who take advantage of the 2008 financial crisis in America.
I heard that, if anything, it is a drama-documentary.
J.C.Chandor had only made a short film called DESPACITO,
for a cost of 5,000 dollars (only about 400 thousand yen)
seven years ago.  Then he was suddenly catapulted
on to this big budget film with a cost of 3.5 million dollars.
He is both director and scriptwriter on the film.
His next film will be PORTOFINO, which is
a Warner Brothers Studio production,
and will be produced by Leonard DiCaprio! Morever,
he is contracted to write another script for Warners.
I read that his father is a stockbroker,
who worked for Merrill Lynch for forty years,
so I think he is perfectly placed to write about inside traders.
Distinguished films stars want to perform in his films,
plus DiCaprio wants to produce his next one (and maybe even star in it),
plus the majors have their eyes on him.
So he is definitely in the industries “well-written script”.
Chandor said it took a considerable amount of time
to fund-raise,  in the 2009 to 2010 cold attitude
toward American Independent filmmaking,
despite having such a prestigious cast attached.
“I couldn’t write this script without the hard times,
but then it was difficult to make a film
because of the hard times. It was perfect irony”.
Bring him some cold beer, it’s on me!
Well, I certainly have high expectations of this film given the all-star cast.
However, on the other hand, I feel a sense foreboding for this film,
which is talking heads heavy, given my personal taste.
Great actors do appeal, but their performances are
underacted and monotonous, as the film’s setting is in financial circles.
I might loose my concentration watching a film.
This is my sense of smell from my experience as a non-native buyer.
Recent young Japanese audience loose their tension
on too many subtitles, that’s truly unfortunate.
Obviously, some of the film critics at the Sundance premiere really liked it.
I suppose it is like the independent version of WALL STREET.
Welcome Mr. Chandor!
I am really looking forward to seeing it.
I hope it is not a midnight screening in Berlin,
otherwise there might be a shroud of drowsiness in the theatre.
Though I know nothing about the financial world,
If the film takes me in there and drawn into
it’s world immediately from the beginning
and makes me feel I am on a roller coaster, thrill ride till the end,
then I would consider he must be he is the next Chris Nolan, but,
who knows?

the EARTHQUAKE film popular in China and Korea

Saturday,  21 January 2011

The other day I wrote about the fact that the
number of attendances in Korea was the lowest
it had been for the last 5 years.
Today I am going write about
the rising dragon (meaning “powerful”) China.
In 2010 the Chinese box office had a 64% rise.
It was 62 billion one thousand million Chinese yuan
(about 781 million yen) in 2009, rising to
100 billion two thousand million yuan (1,284 billion yen) in 2010.
Fresh in our memory is the record attendance’s of
1,300 million in Korea for TSUNAMI.
The most successful film in China last year was
TANGSHAN EARTHQUAKE, where the attendances topped
2,000 million. It is also a disaster films.
(However, it is a melodrama, not just a disaster film.
The film will open in Japan through Shochiku
Distribution on the 26th of  March).
© 2010 Tangshan Broadcast and Television Media Co., Ltd.  
Huayi Brothers Media Corporation/Media Asia Films (BVI) Limited

The number of Chinese films produced rose by
15% over the previous year with 526 productions.
In 2000 it was 83 films, so it is an amazing
increase over the last ten years.
In China, the government controls film making.
SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film and Television)
looks at the content of the films and administers them.
It is an approval system. Underground films, so it is said,
are still made outside of this approval system.
In China at present the digitisation of cinema
is progressing at a tremendous velocity.
It is said that China will be the first country
in the world to fully digitise all its cinema’s.
Recently I heard the news that China ordered
a large quantity of digital projectors from NEC.
Everything in China “goes fast”.
By the way…
In Korea, 824 million people watched AVATAR,
which equates to a box office of about 204 billion yen in China.
This amounts to 10% of the total world box office for the film.
All of this despite the fact that AVATAR was prevented from
showing in the cinema up to the end of its run.
With a population of 13 billion the power of China is really amazing.
McKinsey & Company predicted in 2008 the city populations of China
would continue to increase. Last year, the market was worth
1,200 billion yen, and this will rise to 3,600 billion yen within 5 years.
Attendances are estimated to rise to 11 billion people in that time.
By the way, the admission fees in China are 18 dollars for 3D
and 12 dollars for 2D films. We feel that it is cheaper
because of the strength of the yen,
but it almost the same admission charge as that in Japan.
It is obvious that the market for film in China is extremely large.
Hollywoods hunt for Japanese animation and Manga originals
has wained to the point where it has all but dried up.
However, they are opening branches in China and investing there.
Everyone will point to this being the tone of
the entertainment industry in China.
“It makes sense!”

SHANE BLACK to direct US remake of DEATH NOTE

Monday, 17th January 2011

Shane Black has been appointed as the director for
the American remake of the manga-based DEATH NOTE film.

DEATH NOTE Japaniese website
Shane was the script writer for the LETHAL WEAPON series,
and has directed one film – KISS, KISS, BANG, BANG.
Hollywood often seems to catapult less-experienced directors
toward bigger budget films.  I guess that is the beauty of Hollywood.
I have the feeling that Japanese producers are usually afraid that
they will not attract investment if they attach a director
with little or no experience.
Excuse me for say this as no offense is intended
toward Japanese producers.
One of the producers of this remake, is of course,
Roy Lee for Warner Brothers Production,
who invested in the original DEATH NOTE series.
Roy mentioned at last year’s AFM open conference that
“it is very tough to deal with Japanese producers
because of the language barrier and more than this,

the cultural barrier”.
A sentiment that I totally agree with.
Believe me, from my experience,
just to get CHAIN OF TITLE document is really tough job here.
Roy is certainly one the top remake of Japanese film exponents.
He can really sell Asian content to Hollywood Studios.
The Korean film MY SASSY GIRL was Roy; GRUDGE 3 was Roy;
and yes, THE RING was Roy; and THE RING goes 3D is ROY!!!
Is there anyone else out there who is
brave enough to attempt this, apart from Roy?
Ah, there is Jeremy Thomas, of course, who brought the
Academy Award winning film DEPARTURES to the screen,
and has recently produced Miike’s period Samurai drama,
Just, wow!!

Korean cinema down and Chinese up?

Friday, 14 january 2011

Last year in Korea audience attendances was 148 million
which a 5% decrease from the previous year, 2009.
I heard that it is the lowest figure in 5 years.


When I went to Puchon last summer,
and you knonw, Pucheon is not really a metropolitan,
but ordinary middle-sized country town,
there, I went to a cinema in a modest and yellow painted building.
There I saw the premiere of “The Man From Nowhere,”
which starred Won Bin and Lee Byung Hun’s “I Saw the Devil,”
which was shown despite a government ban due to its depiction of cruelty.


All the seats in the cinema was almost fully filled for both films,
so I got the impression that more people attended
the cinema there than in Japan.  
Despite this impression,
are numbers really lower than in the past?


That is to say.


The two films I watched took first and second place
in the cinema attendance charts for that period.  
So this situation may the so-called “Single Victor”
(only one can come top), the same as it is in Japan.


It is like this…..

It is the largest attendance ever!

However, it is only TOHO that has the hit,
whilst another film company goes bankrupt.


I expect Korean entertainment has a strong
following in its homeland, due to Korean idol groups
such as Girls Generation and Kara.
They even have a lot of Japanese who make
the trip from Japan to Seoul to go to their concert tours.


Despite such trend, domestic product is capped at
47% in the so-called Korean Film market share.
(Japan has a similar scheme for the foreign films.)

Although Korea is continuing to pitch high quality films,
the other half is still imports. 
That was not I expected from my experience, though.


Indeed, 7 of the top 10 films in Korea are domestic productions.
So it seems that people prefer local product.
I think the same is true of Japan.


By the way, “Avatar” took the crown for the largest number
of admissions in Korea at 824 mil admission.
Second place was Won Bin’s “Ajosh” at 625 mil.


When I see an amazing number of attendances like this –
1,300 mil for “Haeundae” the year before last –
it really is record breaking.
“Tsunami” (also a Japanese translation of Haeundae)
which are not so rare in Japan, it was promoted with
a full-impact advertising campaign that said
 ”it’s a Mega-Tsunami, isn’t it?”.
However it did not really get in to full swing.


Well, we can see numbers like this everywhere,
but if I apply these against top Japanese cinema
attendances then it equates like this. 695 mil. attended
“Rookies – Graduation,” so the same scale as
“The Man From Nowhere” whilst the “Harry Potter” series
was attended by an average of 8 mil,
so on par with “Avatar” in Korea.


I expect the feeling about a hit of that sort of scale is
that “almost everyone has heard of the film”.


By the way, the largest attendance figure ever in Japan
was for “Spirited Away,” which was seen by 2,300 mil people.
One in six Japanese people saw the film!
(including babies, I have to warn you!)


On the other hand, 2010 was a very important year
for Chinese cinema as it increased it’s pulling power
and appreciation throughout the world.


I thought I was going to write about this,
but I am now tired of typing on my i-Pad.
(I called it “Mantis-style typing” –
a form of typing with one finger.)


Soon I have to go to a meeting with a
licensed tax accountant to go over my accounts settlement…..
I have to sign off now….
Have a nice week-end!!
By the way, Won-Bin in THE MAN FROM NOWHERE was really cool.
I heard from the producer, he did not care to use this cut,
but all his female employee insisted to insert this wonderful six-pack!
thank you, girls!!
©2010 CJ Entertainment Inc. & United Pictures, All Rights Reserved