The seminar was conducted under the umbrella of the TIFFCOM contents market, now in its fifth edition, which runs from October 22-24 in Roppongi Hills.
The panel was moderated by Steven Paul, chairman and CEO of Crystal Sky, which is producing the upcoming live-action remake of Japanese video game Tekken. The panelists were: Brad Krevoy, CEO of the Motion Picture Corporation of America (MPCA); Tim Kwok, owner and producer at Convergence Entertainment; and Zak Kadison, vice president of Fox Atomic.
Kadison, who co-produced remakes of My Sassy Girl and the upcoming The Host, summed up the current climate in the US: 'Things changed after The Ring and J-horror. Studios spent a lot of money on rights and films circulated that couldn't be matched with writers or directors. A lot of films got made, but a lot didn't. Now studios want talent attached.'
Krevoy talked of seeking out properties that make audiences 'laugh or cry' and cited Japanese and Asian films' strong emotions while Kadison praised their 'unique storytelling perspective'.
Paul elaborated further on how US producers choose Japanese projects to remake: 'What I primarily look for is 'branded entertainment' that has built in awareness that I can get excited about. Production and P&A costs are huge in Hollywood, so a proven track record is important, whether it's a best selling manga, a hot video game or original movie.'
As announced this May,MPCA acquired remake rights of Tokyo Broadcast System's hit melodrama Yomigaeri. Krevoy set up the project, retitled Rainbow Bridge, at DreamWorks, producing alongside TBS' Takashi Hirano and remake specialist Tetsu Fujimura of Filosophia.
The protracted negotiations with TBS highlighted cultural differences the panelists spoke about. Kadison explained: 'In Japan the equivalent of chain of title is much less clear and outside people are required to vet those documents. With older titles, such as the Lone Wolf And Cub remake which never materialised, it can be impossible to sort out.'
Krevoy sorted out rights issues before offering the project to DreamWorks on the basis of the video alone. 'You don't always have to package a remake with talent if the film is special.'
Tim Kwok touched on differences in dealing with original creators of remake properties. 'In Japan, the original creators of properties are held in high esteem. In the US it's about business, cut and dried, but in Japan it's about relationships. While films in Japan get from script to screen much quicker, US projects can remain in development for years with rights reverting back. Expectations need to be explained to rights sellers.'
Kwok is producing live-action adaptations of Capcom video game series Clock Tower and Hideyuki Kikuchi's novel Wicked City.
While studios pay large sums for total control, both Kwok and Krevoy encouraged Japanese rights sellers to bargain for involvement in remake projects rather than just money alone.
The seminar was preceded by a case study of A Moment To Remember, originally a Japanese TV series, then a hit Korean movie, which is now in the process of being set up as an English-language remake at CBS Films. Although details of the US remake are still being ironed out, Susanna Grant (Erin Brokovich, In Her Shoes) isbeing lined upto write the script.
Jean Noh in Tokyo contributed to this report.