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Kore-eda Hirokazu, the celebrated Japanese director of Palme d’Or winning film ‘Shoplifters,’ is developing multiple projects for Netflix.
He is currently at work developing a big-budget film that he will direct and a series, where he will be the showrunner and direct some episodes. The moves expand Netflix’s current program to ramp up its live action Japanese content which is crucial for success in the local market and is also increasingly being watched by international audiences.
Kore-eda gave away few details of the subject matter of the projects, but in a video message to the Netflix Japan Festival 2021 showcase on Wednesday teased their scale and his willingness to experiment.
“Netflix and I are teaming up to create a drama series and a big-budget movie that is different from my previous works. You still need to wait for a bit before they’re finished and delivered to you. I incorporate different elements from those in theater movies and try to create exciting works. Please look forward to them,” he said. “Probably, the scale of the new movie will be different from the movies I’ve made before. Also, the drama series would not be realized if I didn’t collaborate with Netflix.”
“I’m not the only director working on the drama right now, I’m responsible for the chief direction as the showrunner, and [will] direct several episodes myself. But this time I try to incorporate young directors and work with them. This is also a big appeal for me to work on this project.”
Kore-eda, who has called himself an outsider in his home country, has previously demonstrated his willingness to oversee rising Japanese talent. In 2018 he came on board as producer of “Ten Years Japan,” an omnibus film in which filmmakers are asked to imagine their country ten years into the future.
The global streaming giant has had considerable success in East Asia, but it has had to dig deep into local content to achieve success in Japan and South Korea. It has licensed, co-produced and developed original content in both places.
On Tuesday, Netflix said that it will add 50 new pieces of Japanese content to the 90 it already offers. In particular, it plans to expand its position in Japanese feature film.
Local industry conditions, mean this may be an area of significant opportunity. The predominant practice in Japan is for films to be backed by production committees consisting of several firms from across the production, finance, distribution and advertising spectrum. While this ensures coordinated marketing efforts and minimizes individual financial exposure, it is also a risk-averse system that is prone to slow decision making. Also, despite the size of the local market, Japanese films have very low average production budgets.
A company like Netflix that can offer unitary decision-making, creative freedom and bigger production resources has the potential to attract significant local writing and directing talent. While Korean market conditions are not identical, these attributes were responsible for attracting “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho to Netflix to make 2017 fantasy film “Okja” and triggered other talent to follow.
Kore-eda signaled his interest in experimentation and the freedom to challenge stereotypes offered by long-form series and streaming platforms.
“Realistically, radical films normally have little chance of being screened in theaters. In the end, they would not be seen by the audience. It’s not just in Japan but in every country. Through streaming, these films can be actually born into the world. I think it’s important,” he said.
“Take American films, for example. These are streaming films winning the Oscars including documentaries. And the amount is growing. By breaking old boundaries and limitations, there are chances to give birth to new creators and new works. It’s definitely a stage for that. I think it’s a very positive situation.”
Kore-eda became the first Japanese director in 21 years to win the top prize at the Cannes film festival with “Shoplifters,” a masterful tale of a family of professional thieves who take in an orphan girl. He could well return to Cannes with “Broker,” a drama about adoption, which is currently in post-production.
The picture is not his first in a foreign language – his 2019 film “The Truth” was substantially told n French – but will be his first in Korean. It stars three of South Korea’s top actors Song Kang-ho (“Parasite”), Gang Dong-wan (“Peninsula”) and Bae Doona (“The Host,” “Cloud Atlas”).
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