Tokyo Zance...- What is Tsunku Town Films schill
Tue Jan 9 07:46:00 EST 2001

Here's a story I wrote for Screen back in June to explain the Tsunku Town
No opinion yet on Tokyo Zansu -- I haven't seen it. By the way, Kaze
Shindo's LOVE/JUICE made my Eiga Gijutsu Best Ten list, while Fujii's camp
shocker Ikijigoku (Living Hell)was my worst film -- by far -- forthe year.

Mark Schilling

On October 13, 1999 a new late-night program debuted on the Fuji Television
Network starring
Tsunku, a pop musician and producer whose acts included the hot girl singing
group Morning
Musume. Tsunku, however, did not intend to devote his Tsunku Town show to
discovering yet
more cutesy singing sensations. Instead, he announced that he had been given
Y100 million
($9.4 million) by an unnamed angel to produce creative projects. After a
lengthy hashing out with
his guests, he decided to make -- ta da! -- movies.

Over the next several weeks the show resembled an ongoing production meeting
as Tsunku and
his guests thrashed out the details, finally settling on a budget of Y10
million for each film, with
story ideas to be solicited on the Tsunku Town Web site <www.tsunk>. More than ten
thousand viewers responded, while thousands more tuned in week after week to
watch the
film-making process unfold on screen.

On March 10 the first Tsunku Town film, Go-Con!, a drama about the group
dating phenomenon
called <ital> go con <ital> (literal translation: "mixed company") was
released and has since
screened at several theaters in the Tokyo area. Three more films have joined
it on release --
Satoshi Watanabe's human drama Maguro no Shippo (Tuna's Tail), Kaze Shindo's
romance LOVE/JUICE and Shugo Fujii's camp shocker Ikijigoku (Living Hell),
while several
more are on the way.

Screen International recently sat down with the show's producer, Hideta
Takahata, to discuss
Tsunku Town's new take on movie-TV-Internet synergy.

Q: Why movies?

A: We had a show, but no theme. Then an anonymous benefactor -- we know his
name, but we
can't say it -- gave our host Y100 million for creative projects. We talked
about what do with it --
one idea was computer games -- but we finally decided to make films. One big
reason was to
discover new filmmaking talent. We thought it would be interesting
television to broadcast our
search. We also recruited ideas on our Web site and got a much bigger
response than we'd

Q: How did you select the winners?

A: We decided more on the basis of the director than the film. In other
words, if we liked the
director, we felt better about producing his film.

Q: You moved fast once you made your choices. You began principal
photography on your first
film, Go-Con!, on January 1, only ten weeks after the start of the show.

A: Everyone on this show comes from a TV background, so we're used to
working quickly. We
wanted viewers to experience the entire film-making process in real time. In
order to do that, we
had to keep the budgets low and the production schedules tight, without
sacrificing quality.

Q: Is this the first time anyone's done something like this on Japanese

A: As far as I know, we're the first, though Tsunku has used a similar
approach on his Asayan
show (a long-running musical talent scout program on the TV Tokyo network).

Q: How are the ratings?

A: Not bad, but more than the ratings, we're interested in getting people to
talk, to react.

Q: Other than asking viewers to submit story ideas, how are you getting them
involved? Are you
hiring them as extras?

A: We thought of that (laughs) but we decided to go with professionals.
Other than the program
and the Web site, we haven't done much else to involve viewers. Do you have
any ideas?

Q: You've already released four films in Tokyo. Any plans for a roll out to
the rest of the country?

A: We would like to screen them in Osaka, Nagoya and other cities around
Japan. We plan to
release them on DVD and submit them to foreign film festivals. Go-Con! has
already appeared
in DVD and been selected by festivals in Singapore and Bangkok. We've also
sold the
broadcasting rights for the films to Fuji TV.

Q: Does the promotion budget come out of the Y10 million?

A: No, the promotion budget is totally separate. We've done some a
dvertising, but most of the
promotion comes from the TV show.

Q: Your budget is about as low as you can go in Japan with 16 mm film. Any
problems with cost

A: No, every film has come in on budget. That was a condition we made to the
directors -- they
get the Y10 million and no more.

Q: How many films do you plan to make altogether?

A: We have four completed and are in the pre-production stage on two or
three more. We are
also negotiating to buy three low-budget films by American independent
directors. One is a
comedy, Trippin', by a young African-American director named David Raynr. It
was produced by
Beacon Communications. Two others -- Walking Cows and Isle of Lesbos -- are
by complete

Q: Why the American films?

A: One of our staff, a woman named Rika Saito, screened them in New York and
decided to
bring them to Japan. Her trip was another of the program's projects. We
didn't want to limit
ourselves to Japanese directors. It's a kind of international exchange

Q: How about the box office so far?

A: We haven't had any big flops yet, if that's what you mean. But the
primary object was to
discover new talent. We wanted to see if we could make interesting movies
with Y10 million. I
think we've shown that we can.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Brown Don" <the8thsamurai at>
To: <KineJapan at>
Sent: Tuesday, January 09, 2001 6:51 PM
Subject: RE: Tokyo Zance...- What is Tsunku Town Films

> Don't know too much about the company, but I do know that Tsunku Town
> is the film production arm of Tsunku (31), former lead singer for popsters
> ShaRanQ and current producer of mega unit-shifting lolita-complex girl
> groups such as Morning Musume.  The company also produced "Go-Con!",
> available on DVD and also for Real Player download (1,000yen) from this
> address:
> Tsunku Town's homepage is here:
> And yes, it is that Kelly Chan who directs an episode of "Tokyo Vance".
> The film is scheduled for Japanese release in February, and was premiered
> in New York and London in December of last year according to Zakzak.
> Don Brown
> _________________________________________________________________________
> Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at

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