BR / Charisma

gregory starr gstarr
Fri Jan 12 10:37:25 EST 2001

>Concerning the secrecy surrounding the movie industry, I remembered this
>quote from producer Takenori Sento, being interviewed in Look Japan.
>"Sento says he cannot understand why movie advertising discusses the size
>of the production budget.  'Film is the only industry that publishes its
>production costs.  It's a business, so you don't need to disclose your
>costs.  There's not really any relationship between production costs and
>quality.  And no matter how much you spend to make a film, if your
>distribution income doesn't reach at least that level then it's a failure
>as a business.'"


You picked a great quote that does much to illustrate the Japanese industry
by someone who sells themselves as an outsider, but whose operations are in
many ways very much in line with the status quo.

I've had a few friendly discussions about this with Sento-san,and he's
tried a bit of smoke and mirrors with me, but nothing so disinforming as
the Look Japan quote.  First, while no film company that I know of
publishes its specific production costs, film by film, most
businesses--like the automobile industry have to accept that their
production costs are public knowledge.  Hollywood would love to be equally
secretive, but--precisely "because" it's a business, with investors,
etc.--the studios at least have to announce the results of their
(admittedly creative) accounting.  And it's precisely because it is a
business that there are some quite talented journalists whose job it is to
ferret out what's going on in production and report on it to an interested
public.  Second, there may not be an exact relationship between costs and
quality, but there is a distinct relationship between an industry that is
financially healthy, (relatively) fiscally responsible and (relatively)
open to public scrutiny and one that can pay talent enough to stimulate its
development.  So here's where I see the relationship between costs and
quality: If production costs were more transparent, it is very likely that
talent would demand a fairer deal.  (It happened in sports, so why not
elsewhere.)  If wages were higher, perhaps more actresses would stay in the
job past the age of 22, and spend the time to actually develop their
acting--and their careers.   (And it's very likely actor Yakusho Koji would
have more competition.)  Perhaps filmmakers could spend more time crafting
and editing their films.   (Which, heaven forbid, could help stimulate a
higher quality of film editors.)   Etc., etc., etc.  Perhaps the films
would benefit from it.
   I'm not exactly in agreement with the overwhelming importance that much
of the world now places on production costs and box office figures as a way
of judging success or failure.  But as a journalist and film
buff, I do admire when a film puts all its costs up there on the
screen--from a well-crafted script to the best special effects your budget
can buy.  That's the relationship between cost and quality.

re your comments about the commercial appearances.

I agree with you completely.  My comments about them struggling with making
a living from film in no way excuses the banality of their commerical work.
In fact, I think it damages the standing of a serious actor, since I know
I find it hard sometimes to see Yakusho in a film without thinking of his
image in his latest goofy ad campaign.  Isn't that why US actors protect
their images by refusing to appear in ads in the states?  (And clean up on
Japan appearances?)

Greg Starr
Premiere Japan

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