K2 Pictures wants to break the Japanese system of conservative film production

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Kii Muneyuki, former head of production at Japan’s Toei, is launching K2 Pictures, a company that aims to shake up Japanese filmmaking practices. The debut album, with films by Kore-eda Hirokazu, Iwai Shunji and Nishikawa Miwa, will be unveiled next week in Cannes.

A key part of the new company’s strategy is the creation of a film fund, K2P Film Fund I, which will invest in live action and animation productions. It aims to attract investors from Japan, other parts of Asia and the US

The company explains that “most Japanese films today are made under a system unique to this country, with ‘production committees’ made up of organizations such as film companies, TV stations and publishers. Funding under this system only comes from sources with film-related knowledge, making access difficult and limiting returns for both producers and creators.”

Production committees are notorious for their risk-averse, conservative choices and decision-making that is both slow and opaque. The high barriers to entry they have created are also anathema to cross-border co-productions.

“At K2 Pictures we are trying to create a new method, developing this film ecosystem into one of the ‘film production funds’, following an approach used in Hollywood and around the world. This new film ecosystem [..] will enrich film production by returning the profits that traditionally accrue to traditional film companies to both investors and creators. Internationally active creators who support this philosophy can participate as shareholders,” the company said in a statement.

Kii is joined in the venture by Koda and Fred Schmidt. Koda is co-founder of Akatsuki and has relevant experience in marketing, film, games and publishing. Schmidt is chairman of Asia at BentallGreenOak (also known as BGO), a Miami-based real estate investment management firm with approximately $81 billion in assets under management.

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The Cannes unveiling is expected to include projects from: “Shoplifters” and Palme d’Or-winning director Kore-eda, who is part of this year’s Cannes festival jury; Iwai Shunji, who previously directed the pan-Asian hit “Love Letter”; Nishikawa, whose 2002 film “Sway” was selected for the Director’s Fortnight section of Cannes; Cannes regular Miike Takashi (“13 Assassins”); prolific and versatile director Shiraishi Kazuya (“The Devil’s Path”); and leading animation company Mappa, whose credits include “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” and “Attack on Titan.”

Kore-eda, one of Japan’s best-known directors, has used his profile in recent years to bring change to Japan’s sometimes sclerotic film industry. He has made calls for the creation of a new regulatory and financing body operating as the French National Film Center (CNC), which would increase state financing of films and allow creators to participate financially in their work. He has also supported feminist movements and called for sexual equality and transparency in investigating cases of sexual abuse and bullying in the workplace.

“I have been making films for thirty years and was looking for ways to solve my doubts and concerns about the traditional way of filmmaking until I took up the challenge of Mr. Kii and his team. If this challenge is successful, good winds will blow in the film industry and opportunities will arise for new talents. I sympathized with the passion to make such a future a reality, and I am happy to be part of this project,” Kore-eda said in a statement.

“It is clear that there is a growing interest in Japanese-related content worldwide, so we are committed to making our local film industry more active, fair and profitable in the global marketplace, while also building a robust content pipeline that promises to captivate audiences. Kii said. “Our new fund will also be a beacon for innovation, combining risk mitigation strategies with a commitment to artistic excellence – and with our seasoned and highly experienced leadership team – we are positioned to make a significant impact on the global film landscape.”

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“We participated in this project because we want to support K2 Pictures in their challenge. We also look forward to working with them as a film production partner as we explore what we can best do as an animation studio,” said Mappa.

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