Japanese Location Production Operation Launched by Toho, Country’s Major Film Group (EXCLUSIVE)

Japanese Location Production Operation Launched by Toho, Country’s Major Film Group (EXCLUSIVE)


Toho, Japan’s most powerful movie studio, is launching a production services offshoot intended to assist and grow foreign film and TV shoots in the country.

Toho Tombo Pictures is a joint venture with Japan-based producer Georgina Pope, who has worked with the top entertainment companies around the globe for more than 30 years.

The new company will be headed by Shimada Mitsuru, who currently serves as president of Toho Studios, as representative director of Toho Tombo Pictures. Pope, Ueda Koji and Toho Studios executive Sudo Tetsushi will serve as directors. Ueda is GM of international business of Toho and VP of U.S. subsidiary, Toho International, Inc.

Pope previously ran Twenty First City Inc. as head of production, establishing the company as Tokyo’s leading international production service company. She has supported production of Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult—starring “Equals,” the Japanese episodes of “Girls,” “Queer Eye We Are in Japan,” the Japanese episodes of “Mozart in the Jungle” and “Giri/Haji” for the BBC and Netflix. She was also on board Apple TV+’s “Invasion” and more recently served as a producer on ten episodes of “Sunny,” starring Rashida Jones and Nishijima Hidetoshi.

Toho says that “interest in filming in Japan has skyrocketed over the past decade,” and that it sees an opportunity “to create a suite of services that incorporates the expertise and expansive capabilities of Japan’s premier film studio, Toho Studios.”

While Japan has been a beacon of popular culture for decades and has a deeply-rooted and Oscar-winning film sector, meaning that interest in Japan is high, overseas film and TV production with the country has not always been straightforward. Many Japanese producers have worked within the “production committee” system which draws in capital from local media, ad agencies and investors, but also operates to minimize risk-taking. International co-productions are a relative rarity, given the country’s lack of bilateral treaties and the very low budgets.

International productions that are not Japan-specific, have also not flocked to Japan due to its lack of location filming incentives, tax breaks or rebate schemes, that would compete with other Asia-Pacific schemes in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Thailand. Less than a year before COVID caused disruption to the local filming sector, a pilot program in Japan was launched in mid-2019 by the Visual Industry Promotion Organization.

“By establishing a firm dedicated to the needs of international producers and directors we will assemble a workforce ready to support overseas creators while contributing to the Japanese film industry and in turn the tourism industry,” said Matsuoka Hiro, representative director and president of Toho, in a prepared statement.

Pope said, “I’m excited to collaborate with the Toho team on the launch of Toho Tombo Pictures. Toho is known as one of the most iconic brands in entertainment, both in Japan and beyond, and this new endeavor is sure to be of great service and value for both studio and independent productions looking to film in Japan.”

“Toho Tombo Pictures will make all facets of overseas production in Japan seamless by combining Toho’s narrative production functions and facilities, including Toho Studios, with Pope’s extensive knowledge and personal connections. Toho Tombo Pictures, at launch, will primarily support global entertainment brands seeking to develop movies and TV series throughout Japan, but will also offer services to companies producing commercials, documentaries and music videos,” the company said.

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