Press Conference for Trip around Japan

On April 20, we had a Press Conference at the Loisir Hotel in Naha to announce and explain our trip around Japan.

Naha Press Conference.tiffMy Japanese is good enough to have a beer with friends at night or when I work on my own projects, but in front of a group of people, I definitely should not try. Yuri was translating for me. I roughly explained that we were making the trip for the promotion of our film, “Looking For Anne”, of course, and its director, Takako Miyahira. But we also take the road to find out about the situation of Independent Cinema in Japan, and to remind the people how it is still enjoyable to screen a film in a movie theater, in the company of other people. Despite the seriousness of all this, it should be a fun trip of discoveries…

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Takako talked about how she and Yuri will proceed for the communication on Twitter, the Japanese blog and the use of Internet in general. Yuri talked about how she went about to find our precious sponsors and the type of itinerary that we were working on, visiting the cinemas and media in each prefecture.

Takako and the TentMushi were by far the most popular with the journalists… As everything else in Okinawa, the atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed… And since Takako is from Okinawa, she has become a real center of interest everywhere she goes…

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CGF002 Why the Movie Trip around Japan?

Yuri had been toying with the idea of making a movie along the spirit of “Anne of Green Gables” for years when our son and co-producer, Samuel, persuaded her to go ahead with her project. Yuri wrote the script with Takako Miyahira, my long time assistant director, in order to reach a large Japanese audience fascinated by the Montgomery books.

Two years later, Takako succeeded in delivering a superior first film, sharing the Montgomery philosophy in an entertaining original story, with reflections about society and the human condition. A feel good, intelligent movie that avoids the tear jerking stuff, “Looking for Anne” had all the winning conditions to make an excellent box office success.

With the arrival of the economical crisis however, and a few other factors that are not relevant for this discussion, we lost quite a few major players for the financing as well as the distribution of our film in Japan. We ended up inheriting of all the distribution rights for our movie, and a few additional debts that were not expected. Since Yuri and I had a long experience in movie distribution, we saw the situation as a new opportunity to make things happen rather than waste time feeling bad about it.

201005081206.jpgBut for years, when our Québec filmmaker friends would ask us to find a distributor for them in Japan, we kept explaining that distribution there was an extremely expensive operation if one wanted to have even a minimum of exposure in this much too crowded media scene. Even for free, distributors were not willing to take any film unless they had super stars in it or a shocking element that would make the media drool.

We were too well aware of the situation: we are talking about a very strict minimum of $300,000. to have some sort of a visibility in the media. Most of the Japanese campaigns never go for less than $500,000., the million being the norm for your standard commercial movies.

We had an extremely large, passionate and well identified audience for our movie, but we also had a little less than $100,000 to let these people know that our movie existed.

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Nevertheless, Takako went on to win the two top prices for “Best Director” and “Best Movie” at the Asian Festival of First Films in Singapore in November 2009 and got some press coverage. These prices gave us the necessary exposure to score some interesting numbers here and there, where we managed to let the people know about our film. In Naha, Takako’s hometown, we were able to generate an amazing media attention which brought a bit over five thousand people at the Sakurazaka Theater in three weeks. From there, the Major Theaters contacted us, and surprisingly, we were able to move from the Art House circuit to the Multiplex circuit, which still needs and wants to play Independent movies when they see the opportunity.

And this is how it all started: we realized that people came and loved our movie when they heard about it on time. In places where we had little media coverage, we couldn’t attract any type of audience, but it went very well in places where we got it. From this, we concluded that we couldn’t compete on the national scene to get media attention, unless we had a fortune to spend, but we could do it with the local media who always needed some local news. We would create the news by getting on the road and visiting all the media in their own territories…

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The following clip, shot with my iPhone, covers the “seal” operation, which we decided to put in place to catch attention. So far, it does seem that we succeeded to a certain extend…


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