Find top US directors to support your talent and capitalise on US films shooting in Japan were among the nuggets of advice that Hollywood agents and casting directors offered to Japan's talent powerhouses at a TIFFCOM seminar today.

Panellists including Endeavor's Adam Levine, US casting director Richard Pagano and Paris-based casting agent Nathalie Cheron talked to Japan's Amuse, HoriPro and Stardust about the best ways to get Japanese actors cast inUS and internationalfilms.

Levine pointed out that Endeavor decided to represent Ken Watanabe after seeing him in The Last Samurai, directed by Ed Zwick.

'I don't there there is a huge demand [for Japanese actors] so you have to go out and create that demand which is kind of what we do,' said Levine. 'But it helps if a big director or star likes your talent. The studios will always listen to Ed Zwick because he's made some good movies.'

Pagano, who has cast films including Hotel Rwanda and X-Men: The Last Stand, agreed this was an effective route: 'If Joel Silver or a star like Jim Carrey wants to put your actor in a movie then he cando it. Big directors don't need big stars for every role and we find they're often the bravest when it comes to breaking out new talent.'

Levine also suggested the Japanese talent managers find out which US films are being shot in Japan, as movies such as The Last Samurai and Babel had bothgiven a leg up tolocal talent. 'It's a great opportunity to get your people into these movies and then capitalise on the heat from that.'

But while Japanese actors such as Watanabe, Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) and Sei Ashina (Silk) are increasingly appearing in international films, the seminar revealed there is still a huge gulf in working practises between the US and Japanese talent industries.

Timing is a problem for US productions trying to find Japanese actors as it often takes a few weeks for the Japanese side to respond on a particular project, especially as they have to translate the script. 'Often the process in Asia takes a long time - the opportunity is gone and you lose jobs that way,' said Levine.

Scheduling is a big headache when it came to casting local talent in overseas productions, according to Stardust's Tatsuya Iwakura: 'We had a problem when one of our actors had to commit to a very long period and it was difficult for us to negotiate.'

However, he added that the overseas film was not a US production and therefore not covered by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) rules that protect actors against scheduling issues.

The Japanese managers also said they find it difficult to know who to trust when US producers came knocking. 'Often the US side suggests we chip in for financing, but it's hard to tell if we're approaching a real live project or something less stable,' said Amuse artist management executive officer Chiaki Harada.

Pagano suggested they get the foreign producer to put their talent's fee into an escrow account and to attend markets including the AFM, Cannes and Berlin to find out who the trustworthy players are: 'But remember that sometimes even a studio film can get pulled.'

The casting forum also revealed big differences in the US and Japanese talent systems. In the US, agents and lawyers negotiate on behalf of actors, but they also have managers who represent their interests but can't negotiate or pitch. Agents are also taking on a producer role by packaging projects. 'More often we have to manufacture our own work for our clients,' said Levine.

The Asian system sees talent management companies such as Amuse, HoriPro and Stardust oversee all the functions of an agent, manager and lawyer, and lock talent into long-term contracts. They also become investors and producers to create vehicles for their stars - but these are always aimed at the local market.