K2 Pictures Seeks to Break Japan’s System of Conservative Filmmaking

Kii Muneyuki, a former head of production at Japan’s Toei, is launching K2 Pictures, a company that aims to upend Japanese filmmaking practices. Its debut slate, with films by Kore-eda Hirokazu, Iwai Shunji and Nishikawa Miwa, will be unveiled in Cannes next week.

A key part of the new company’s strategy is the establishment of a film fund, K2P Film Fund I, that will invest in live action and animations productions. It aims to attract investors from Japan, other parts of Asia and the U.S.

The company explains that “most Japanese films today are made under a system found only in this country of ‘production committees’ formed by such organizations as film companies, TV stations, and publishers. Funding under this system comes only from sources with film-related know-how, making entry difficult and limiting returns to both producers and creators.”

Production committees are notorious for their risk-averse conservative choices and decision making that is both slow and opaque. The high barriers to entry they have created have also been anathema to cross-border coproductions.

“At K2 Pictures, we seek to create a new method, evolving this film ecosystem into one of ‘film production funds’ following an approach used in Hollywood and around the world. This new film ecosystem [..] will enrich film production by returning profits traditionally accruing to traditional film companies to both investors and creators. Internationally active creators who support this philosophy can participate as shareholders,” the company said in a statement.

Kii is joined in the venture by Koda and Fred Schmidt. Koda is a co-founder of Akatsuki and has relevant experience in marketing, film, games and publishing. Schmidt is chairman of Asia at BentallGreenOak (aka BGO), a Miami-based real estate investment management firm with some $81 billion of assets under management.

The slate reveal in Cannes is expected to include projects by: “Shoplifters” and Palme d’Or winning director Kore-eda who is this year part of the Cannes festival’s jury; Iwai Shunji, who previously directed pan-Asian hit “Love Letter”; Nishikawa, whose 20026 movie “Sway” was selected for Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight section; Cannes regular Miike Takashi (“13 Assassins”); prolific and wide-ranging director Shiraishi Kazuya (“The Devil’s Path”); and leading animation firm Mappa, which has credits including “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” and “Attack on Titan.”

Among Japan’s best-known directors, Kore-eda has in recent years been leveraging his profile to bring change to the sometime sclerotic Japanese film industry. He has instigated calls for the establishment of a new regulatory and funding body that operates like the French National Film Center (CNC) that would increase state film funding and allow creators to participate financially in their works. He has also backed feminist movements, calls for sexual equality and transparency in investigating instances of sexual abuse and workplace bullying.

“I have been making films for 30 years, and I was in the process of searching for ways to solve my doubts and concerns about the traditional way of making films, until I met the challenge of Mr. Kii and his team. If this challenge succeeds, a good wind will blow in the film industry and opportunities will open up for new talents. I sympathized with the passion to make such a future into reality, and I am glad to be a part of this project,” Kore-eda said in a statement.

“It’s clear there is growing interest in Japanese-related content around the world, so we are committed to making our local film industry more active, fairer and profitable in the global marketplace, while also building a robust content pipeline that promises to captivate audiences,” said Kii. “Our new fund will also stand as a beacon for innovation, combining risk mitigation strategies with a commitment to artistic excellence – and with our seasoned and highly experienced leadership team – we are positioned to make a significant impact on the global film landscape.”

“We participated in this project because we want to support K2 Pictures in their challenge. We are also looking forward to working with them as a partner in film production, while considering what we can do as an animation studio to the best of our ability,” said Mappa.

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