2009 TOKYO INT. FILM FESTIVAL – Day 2
Tokyo market looks quite healthy and makes a surprising contrast to the still slow Pusan market. I’m still running around the TIFFCOM booths and mostly finding the occupants too busy to talk to me. Since it is day 2, that’s a good sign. There is still the on-going criticism that TIFFCOM is just Japanese companies selling to other Japanese companies and like Hong Kong’s Filmart brisk TV-related business makes the film market look busier in a way that the film only Asian Film Market in Pusan does not. But it is clearly not accurate. No major deals, but a lot of talking – and that’s the way the deals start.
Some of the scuttlebut explaining the reason Pusan persists with its ill-fated market (though business was up on last year’s travesty) goes along the lines that if Pusan throws in the towel on the market, then there is a danger that the Pusan festival may lose attendees to Tokyo festival as well. Good theory, but frankly I doubt it. While TIFF has made the festival more user friendly in the past couple of years (“oh, you mean if we are nice to the journalists, they are more likely to say nice things?”) it can still be a difficult festival to negotiate. Furthermore I think Pusan has established itself as the Asian festival of choice (but NOT the market of choice) and so it will remain the festival that everyone goes to because everyone goes to it. People forget that both Berlin and particularly Cannes in the 80s have experienced times when people were ready to forget about the festival. Pusan will survive even if TIFFCOM continues to prosper.
OTHER MARKET BUGABOOS
It is interesting how the proximity of AFM (the American Film Market) contrary to general perception may actually be helping TIFFCOM as it means that talks can be started here and possibly announced in LA in a few weeks time. Hong Kong’s Filmart has a similar relationship with Cannes in that it is a place where discussions can be initiated or continued but the BIG announcements are held in reserve.
It also seems to me that this year’s Oscar nomination for Departures is having a halo effect for Japanese companies who are dealing with international distribution. While I think it is a fabulous film, I’m sure Dear Doctor which played in Pusan and is scheduled for Palm Springs Film Festival would have had a much harder time if it wasn’t for programmers and distributors who are looking for lightening to strike twice. Of course quality always gets noticed.
A couple of smaller distributors and buyers are getting around the tough times by not renting a booth at TIFFCOM like the big players. Instead they stroll around TIFFCOM with their flyers, DVDs and business cards all packed into a suitcase (with rollers of course) and hey presto they have a portable booth. See someone you want to talk to; grab one of the spare tables and you’re off to the races. I met with people from Hong Kong and Japan who are doing this and I’m sure there are others too. Not sure how TIFFCOM or other markets feel about this, but since such practitioners still have to pay a market entrance fee then TIFFCOM don’t lose out totally. Of course soon people won’t need suitcases, they’ll do it all from their phone. Send a pdf of the flyer to your email account, send a weblink so you can watch the film or trailer on internet phone. All that’s left to do is go out to dinner while the assistants (if you can afford to have one) take care of the paperwork.
TALKING OF PHONES
Can’t believe my bad luck. A multitude of phone rental companies and I had to choose the one that is having a industrial dispute with its carrier. Hence I cannot call anyone and no one can call me! Won’t name the companies as I don’t know who is in the right or who is in the wrong (as if it is ever that simple), but it has put a crimp in my Tokyo social life. What I can say is the company gave me good service last year. I just hope that I’m not being charged phone rental while I’m unable to use the phone. But if its anything like Australian phone companies I just bet they are.
When it came to the time to return the rental phone, the company didn’t charge me a cent!
There are three venues for film screenings. Two DVD projection booths Projection Booth No 1 and Projection Booth No 2 (with the biggest projection set-ups I’ve ever seen) on the 49th floor and Projection Booth No 3 which handles 35mm film. It takes a while to figure out that Projection Booth No 3 is actually located in the Toho Cinema Complex where TIFF is taking place. What takes even longer to figure out – because it is not printed on the TIFFCOM guide – is that Projection Booth No 3 is actually Cinema No 4. At Cinema 3 yesterday, the security scanner looked at me blankly when I asked about market screenings. I was just about to give up when the publicist for the distribution company stopped me to ask why I wasn’t going to her screening. When I explained I couldn’t find it, she revealed she already complained. It certainly went some way to explaining why so many people turned up 20 minutes into the film.
IN SEARCH OF FOOD
So not only does the TPG start 22 hours before TIFFCOM starts… but the TIFFCOM Opening Reception is 34 hours later than the opening of TIFFCOM!
Up on the 49th floor a mere 9 storeys higher than the market, a huge crowd of people were asked to listen to speeches by government ministers and TIFF CEO Tom Yoda (I observed on TIFF’s Opening night that paparazzi were following Mr Yoda like he was The Beatles. Screen International’s Jean Noh more wisely observed that “He probably owns The Beatles”). While red and white wine was laid on, food was a tad more sparingly supplied. I took a photo of the buffet table because I’m sure some people who attended would claim no food was provided. You had to be quick. The place was so crowded that only the people who could see the table even knew the food was there.
I managed to score three mini kebabs and get the hell out of there with a starving Patrick Frater of the The Hollywood Reporter and slightly less ravenous Liz Shackleton from Screen International to head down to the next TIFF party which was in the same Movie Cafe where the DJs and bands had been the night before. There was food there too and more of it than upstairs, but Patrick was looking for a meal and so I dragged the gang down to Roppongi Crossing to a salaryman’s okonomiyaki place. Dirty, gritty and with smoke stained menus, the place looks like it probably hasn’t changed since the 1950s.