Sat Oct 19 01:10:17 EDT 2002
From talking to invariably frustrated Korean and Japanese buyers, I get
the impression that Western sales agents aren't really tuned in to what
sells in Asia. I'm probably looking at things too simplistically, but
there seems to be patterns such as the "beautiful boy" factor which
must triple the value of Japanese sales. But Western films tend to hit
these buttons more by accident than design. And with, say, a Hong Kong
film with Japanese locations and stars, the producer is more often
trying to bring a fashionable Japanese flavour to the film to boost the
domestic box office. Japanese distribution is a secondary concern.
Columbia Tristar has gone to the other extreme. Funding Asian movies
whose primary target is the local audience, but with international
distribution down the line. They're still trying to find the winning
formula, and other companies are following in their steps. Columbia
have been largely hands off artistically, giving directors free reign
outside casting and script approval. But casting has been the major
weakness of these films to date; in particular the token foreign
actors. But these are presumably teething problems and next year's
crop looks more hopeful.
There's been several articles profiling Roy Lee recently: Variety,
Screen International, Los Angeles Times ... even Kentucky Fried Cinema
website. He doesn't understand any Asian languages. Seems very much
the right guy at the right time with the right Hollywood connections.
Apparently, he gets a lot of hate mail from Asian film fans.
On Sunday, October 20, 2002, at 01:38 AM, jeffrey isaacs wrote:
> From: jeffrey isaacs <jdi1 at midway.uchicago.edu>
Date: Sun Oct 20, 2002 1:38:39 AM Etc/GMT
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Ring remake
Reply-To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Just heard a very good 5 minute story put together by Beth Accomando
for PRI's The World radio program on the release of Ring remake which
attributes Ring and a dozen other Asian film remakes (that many?) to
producer Roy Lee. Did anyone catch the piece on the radio? Can anyone
tell more about Roy Lee?
The PRI story claimed that Asian films are perfect for remake by
Hollywood because they are in familiar genres and because studio execs
get to look at "fully realized product" before having to decide if it'd
'work' - meaning, I gather, if it would work for American audiences.
The story goes on to discuss the changes made to adapt Ring for
One of the producers for Ring remake described the Japanese original as
ambiguous, vague, having clues that don't match up. The makers of the
new version have apparently fixed that problem and have "turned an
inexplicable horror into a detective story." I only watched the
Japanese film once (Ring gekijyo kanzenban, I think it was) but it
seemed to me to be tightly organized and to adhere to Hollywood's rules
for narrative clarity. It was certainly no more confounding than an
episode of X-files - with which it seems to share an aesthetic of
perpetually postponed resolution and, of course, both are set up as
serials - which, I gather, Ring remake is not. Interestingly, the
director of Ring remake, Gore Verbinski, said he tried to give the
"false feeling" that the narrative moves forward. Doesn't it?
The radio story ended with a comment on the reaction of a Japanese film
industry representative who supposedly described the Hollywood remake
as "very good, very scary, very American." I interpret the very
American comment as a good indication that Ring remake will not be very
well received in Japan - not because Japanese audiences don't like
American films, clearly they do.
People on this list have commented on the strategic use of recognizable
actors from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea in Japanese film and vice-versa
to make films appeal to audiences in more than one country.
In listening to the story, it occurred to me that despite the fact that
everyone knows that audiences outside of the US contribute a lot
towards the earnings of US-made films, those people actually making the
films in Hollywood don't seem to give sufficient weight to
international audiences when they are planning their films. Maybe it is
only Asian audiences that are under recognized?
For those of you who know the nuts and bolts of how Hollywood films are
planned and made, I ask, could this possibly be true? Doesn't some
financial forecaster chime in with, "make it resemble the Japanese
original in tone a little more and you can count on $15mil extra from
Japanese rentals"? Maybe this is a secret known only to the agents for
Jean Reno and Steven Segal? Or, is the potential profit too
insignificant to make it worth raising in a Hollywood pre-production
You can listen to the PRI story at http://www.theworld.org (October 18
show) - but it appears that PRI's The World shows are available on-line
for only a week.
Ph.D. student, University of Chicago
Instructor, Yokohama City University
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