Japan's Association of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (ASMSE) is planning to back further feature projects following completion of its debut film Home Sweet Home which is set for domestic release this August.
ASMSE, a Tokyo-based business organisation with fifty member companies, has developed a financing scheme that bypasses banks and other financial institutions.
Frustrated by the reluctance of recession-hit Japanese banks to lend to smaller companies for new business ventures, ASMSE chairman Kazuo Mitake and fellow businessman Yuji Furunaka approached veteran scriptwriter Zenzo Maruyama in 1998 about developing a film project that they would produce.
Mitake and Furunaka set up two companies to produce and finance the resulting script - $2.83m (Y300m) Home Sweet Home, a drama about the problems of caring for elders in Japan's rapidly ageing society. Angel 21, with Furunaka as president, raised funds from both corporations and individuals in units of Y1m ($9,434), while Cinema Angel, with Miyake at the top, was placed in charge of production.
Another ASMSE member, Akio Fujita, signed on to handle distribution of the film which stars Shigeru Kamiyama, Renji Ishibashi and June Fukubi and is directed by Tomio Kuriyama, director of Shochiku's popular Free And Easy series. The film will open in the major metropolitan areas beginning in mid-August and will roll out to the rest of Japan in September.
In addition to screening in urban areas, Fujita and his team have recruited "day promoters" to arrange for showings in the many provincial communities without movie theatres. The promoters, which include local civic groups and commercial associations, will pay Cinema Angel a flat Y400,000 fee for the right to one day of screenings in auditoriums and other venues. In return they will receive a print, posters, flyers and tickets.