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Friday, October 24, 2008

HOPELANDER at the Tokyo Project Gathering 2008

I've just returned from Tokyo a few hours ago. Haven't been able to update the blog during the past few days because I've been busy with the Tokyo Project Gathering, a co-production market held in conjunction with the Tokyo International Film Fest and TIFFCOM.

My TPG name tag


A while ago, Ming Jin and I submitted a project, HOPELANDER (working title) to this year's Tokyo Project Gathering and we got selected. In co-production markets like this, projects are selected and listed on a catalog so people (potential investors, distributors, sales agents, co-producers, collaborators etc.) can set up meetings with the producer/filmmaker and see whether they can work together. Aside from being able to do business, these places are good opportunities to exchange ideas, build relationships and networks.

All these projects are in various stages of development. But most are in their infancy (like our HOPELANDER) and producers are just looking for funds and collaborators to kick start the project. (But there are also projects that are already being shot, or have already been completed, and the filmmakers merely needed help with postproduction, or distributing the films.)

Ming Jin came to Tokyo on the 20th, and then, the next morning, we had the TPG Networking Reception. This event allowed all project exhibitors to mingle and socialize during lunch. Aside from being able to chat with a few other exhibitors, I managed to meet up with Jason Gray too (the bathrooms were indeed full of toilet paper that day! Great job, Jason!)! You can read about Jason's account of TIFFCOM here.

In previous years, each participant of TPG has to go onstage to give a brief presentation about their project to everyone else. I assume the organizers had learned the hard way how time-consuming this would be (imagine: there are 34 projects this year, if each takes 10 minutes to present their stuff, it'll be nearly 6 hours before the whole thing's over!)

All we had to do now was to go onstage for a while when each of us (and our projects) were introduced, and that was it. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died when Ming Jin and I were onstage :( But here's what the reception was like:

TPG Networking Reception

TPG Networking Reception 2

Legendary Japanese director Seijun Suzuki came onstage to give a speech as well
(You know the famous YUMEJI'S THEME used in Wong Kar Wai's IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE? It's actually borrowed from Seijun Suzuki's 1990 film, YUMEJI.). The 85-year-old filmmaker also had a project in TPG.

Legendary Japanese director Seijun Suzuki

It was inspiring. He was saying that despite his current health condition (suffering from emphysema, failing eyesight etc.) he was going to continue directing movies. So I knew I had to take a photo with Suzuki.

But that would be difficult. And too fanboyish.

So Ming Jin took a photo of me with Seijun Suzuki in the background instead.

Seijun Suzuki and I

We left the reception early because we had to print out copies of our treatment needed for business meetings during the following day (on the 22nd), but the business center wasn't open yet, so we made a mad dash to my university to make use of the free printing facilities.

My professor's lab had a colour printer.

Unfortunately, that day was a school holiday because it was my university's Founding Day.

We went to my dormitory's office to print a copy instead. Each page cost me 10 yen, the entire treatment was 12 pages, we wanted to do 15 copies of the treatment, that would be around 1800 yen, not horrible. But because the office had a regular printer that worked very slowly (it took nearly 5 minutes, or more, to print out one copy of the treatment), and because I knew the printer would die if I were to do 15 copies, we ended up going to a 24-hour computer lab in the university building where I learn Japanese to do the rest of the printing. That was much faster, but they were all in black and white.

There was a lot of urgency to get these treatment printed because we had to be fully prepared to give them out to each person who wanted to meet us for HOPELANDER during TPG. Some people were fully-prepared: They had posters, banners, postcards, video presentations for each meeting, but we hadn't really started with our script, so we could only make do with our (very detailed) treatments. But a note to any others who were going to get involved in markets such as these, it is highly recommended that you have a screenplay with you because that's always what people will ask for.

The first day of TPG, held at the 49th floor of Roppongi Hills, was the most busy one. We were given 30-minute blocks for each business meeting. A table was assigned to us every time before a meeting. (Unlike most other markets, we weren't given a booth where we could stay all day waiting for people to meet up with us.) Once we had a break, we had to exit the room and either hang out at the lounge, or visit the TIFFCOM at the 40th floor. We had mostly back-to-back meetings (the day ended with a 2 and half hour stretch where we had to meet 5 consecutive companies!), and we only had two one-hour breaks, so it wasn't enough to catch a film. We barely managed to have a quick lunch with Ming Jin's buddy, Thai filmmaker Aditya Assarat (but we call him Juke).

We were exhausted when the day ended. But being my first time in such a market (it was Ming Jin's second time), it was a very educational experience, and yes, I managed to meet a lot of different people from different countries as well.

I was supposed to be at TPG for 3 days (22nd, 23rd and 24th), but I have to catch a morning flight back to Malaysia yesterday (the 23rd)) in order fly off to Rome this Sunday. So I left for Narita Airport at 5am yesterday, taking the earliest train from Roppongi. Leaving poor Ming Jin to deal with the rest of the meetings, feeling a twinge of regret... oh well, let's see how the Rome Film Festival's gonna be like.