Director General, Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF & TIFFCOM)
Yasushi Shiina was born in 1951. After graduating from the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the Waseda University in 1974, Shiina joined Sumitomo Corporation Inc. He became a counselor of Sumitomo’s Media Division in 1987. In 1991, he was appointed Director, General Manager of the Film Division, Asmik, and assumed the position of Representative Senior Managing Director in 1998 before becoming President of Asmik Ace Entertainment in 2000. In 2004, he became President of Kadokawa Entertainment, and President of Kadokawa Pictures in 2009. He became Representative Senior Managing Director in 2011, and currently serves as Director-Executive Advisor of KADOKAWA Co., Ltd. He has served in a variety of positions in the Japanese film industry, including as Chairman of the Conference Group for Import and Clearance of Foreign Films in Japan.
CFM：Can you tell us about the preparation of the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF/ TIFFCOM)? What are the highlights worthy of attention at festival this year?
A: This year, the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) will be celebrating its 29th edition. Throughout my term with the festival, our motto has been “A Films-First Festival”. In my fourth year as Director General, I am ever more aware of the importance of this principle. TIFF aims to cultivate cultural exchange between filmmakers and film lovers. To do so, we have to be:
Firstly, a Communications Hub for Film. As a leading international film festival in Asia, TIFF functions as a hub that offers exceptional local and international films, and introduces talented filmmakers to the world.
Secondly, a Platform for Launching Filmmakers onto the World Stage. TIFF propels talented filmmakers into greater overseas recognition by introducing them and collaborating with other film festivals to screen their work.
Thirdly, a Locus for Developing Future Filmmakers and Fans. To nurture young filmmakers and fans, the key drivers in the film industry’s future, TIFF provides events and opportunities for greater exposure and appreciation. At last, a Festival that Everyone Can Enjoy.
By featuring outstanding films in a variety of genres, an extensive lineup of film-related events, and by accelerating the communication between filmmakers and fans, the festival becomes enjoyable for all audiences.
CFM: When you began your work career as Director General of TIFF/ TIFFCOM in 2013, you started a series of plans to reform TIFF, as improving the international reputation, more help to young filmmakers and so on. Now, it has been more than three years after that, how do you think about the results of reform? Is there any new direction for the future development of TIFF?
A: This is my fourth year as Director General, and I reflect on the fact that in the three years since I assumed this position, I have not yet outlined a clear path for the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF). Next year will mark the 30th year of the TIFF, and so I am determined from this year to define the future direction of this festival for the next 30 years.
The festival will once again highlight films that are Japanese in origin, but global in reach and reputation. The popular Japan Now section and Special Focus on Japanese Animation, which continues to be in great demand around the world, will return, along with the much-lauded Japanese Classics section, launched in 2015. We continue to hold programs focusing on “Present” and “Past” Japanese films and this year we established new Youth section to help cultivate the “next generation”. TIFF’s new Youth section will play an important role in the festival going forward, by nurturing new talent and cultivating new film audiences.
CFM: What is different about TIFFCOM this year? (For example, what have you introduced this year? Is there anything new that you have never done before?)
A: We have added on an extra venue this year, so JCS 2016 will be held at two venues in Daiba and Shibuya and for a period of four days. This means TIFFCOM 2016 will feature a more diverse array of exhibitors than previous years; in addition to movie companies and broadcasters, there will also be organizations for revitalizing local communities, VR-focused technology booths, and even talent agencies. Moreover, this year TIFF and TIFFCOM are working together and inviting 50 Asia Pacific Producers Network (APN) members, who are leading producers in Asia and working in the industry’s frontline. Additionally, we will assemble top producers from Japan, Europe and the U.S., and hold a range of events from seminars to pitching sessions. JCS 2016 will hold seminars once again at both the Daiba and Shibuya venues, with a focus on the high profile area of virtual reality (VR), as well as covering a range of genres including film, animation and music. Participants will have more opportunities to meet and hold productive business meetings with a greater variety of exhibitors than ever before. We envision the JCS to evolve into a forum for showcasing (disseminating) new contents. I am confident that all participants will fully enjoy and make the most of JCS 2016, Asia’s leading multi-contents market.
CFM: Now there are many film festivals in the world, what do you think will be the trend for the future development of the film festival?
A: I think the best film festivals are ones that skilfully combine artistic and commercial elements. Recent film festivals have been clearly divided into those that pursue artistic aspects and those that focus on commercial interests; and it’s hard to consider highly artistic film festivals as being successful. Rather, showcase-style film festivals more involved with the business side of movies seem to do quite well. People in the film industry appear to be keeping in mind the business aspect of movies and focusing more on the commercial side. Another major factor that distinguishes film festivals is the national- and city-level support they receive. I think, though, the trend is moving toward more showcase-style film festivals.
CFM: What are some biggest changes you have seen in Japanese content in the last five years?
A: As for anime, one of Japan’s leading contents, I would say that in the past several years it has been evolving rather than changing. Works strongly imbued with the creator’s spirit are being featured, and we are seeing more and more animation and live-action versions of manga. In contrast, there are less TV dramas being made into movies nowadays. There was a time when movie versions were made of very high-rating TV dramas, and the linking of TV and film brought with it commercial success. However, the diversity of contents on offer these days is seeing a shift in the focus of producers; this is mainly due to young people moving away from TV dramas, and probably also their changing preferences for content.
CFM: How do you think about the development of Chinese movies in recent years? What’s the difference between Chinese filmmakers and Japanese filmmakers in term of their ways of working?
A: A common feature of the Chinese and Japanese film industries is that both have predominantly domestic markets for industrial and production areas. However, China is aiming to expand its film industry overseas with joint productions. One difference between the industries is how the contents vary depending on the audiences’ enthusiasm. For many years, Japanese audiences have enjoyed the freedom of being able to see a wide range of international films, and so now they are bored with Hollywood films. Japanese producers have to show “something new” to these moviegoers that have had enough of films from abroad. Meanwhile, Chinese audiences have recently been able to enjoy films on the big screen; so it is a novelty to them, and they also still find Hollywood films appealing. It used to be the same in Korea, until suddenly there was a saturation of films there like in Japan, and its film industry developed rapidly. So although the Chinese film industry is still developing, we can expect many things from it from hereon.
CFM: What do you think is the key element of the success of a film festival and film market? How should the film festivals in Asia expand their influence in the world?
A: Both film festivals and markets are places for people in the industry to meet; but I think it’s important for these events to be more than just a venue, and also assist in matching people with projects. The key to ensuring successful film festivals and markets is using them to showcase (broadcast) the country’s new talent, productions and contents. For instance, the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) screens new Japanese films (world premiere) and features Japanese productions and creators that are currently garnering attention; these works are broadcast both domestically and abroad. The same can be said for other Asian film festivals. I think the ability of a country to showcase its own productions and contents eventually broadens the impact of its film festivals overseas.