Koshonin Mashita Masayoshi

March 7, 2005 • Film, News

(Kyodo) _ Japan’s first subway hijacking movie, now nearing completion, would have been derailed if it had not been for the efforts of local groups called film commissions, which help moviemakers find extras and locations.

The movie, “Koshonin Mashita Masayoshi” (Negotiator Masayoshi Mashita) is about the hijacking of a state-of-the-art Tokyo subway test car and is scheduled to be shown nationwide in May at movie theaters affiliated with Toho Co.

The scenes depicting the seizure of the subway car were shot on location in places outside Tokyo because the moviemakers were unable to get permission for filming from subway companies in the nation’s capital.

Local film commissions supported the filming of elaborate hijacking scenes in Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture, and Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture and won accolades from the moviemakers who said the project could not have been realized without their backing.

Established as nonprofit organizations centering on local municipalities since 2000, there are more than 100 such groups in various parts of Japan. They help video- and moviemakers find location sites, negotiate for permission to shoot, and arrange for extras to take part in movies and television dramas.

Film Commission is the largest among them and has some 4,200 extras registered with it.

Part of the hijacking seen was shot on location in the Sapporo City Transportation Bureau’s subway car installation in the middle of the day on Jan. 11.

The car, with extras riding as passengers, made repeated runs over the 900 meters underground between the installation and the nearest station as the camera crew shot the scene.

Meanwhile, 20 men acting as a special armed police squad ran through a dark side track.

Filming at subway facilities involves a lot of careful preparation. Even a little thing left behind at the scene of the shooting could obstruct normal operations of the subway system.

It took those concerned more than a month to discuss maintenance and inspection of subway cars and work schedules.

This time, some subway companies in Tokyo and other cities refused to cooperate with the making of the movie, saying the story about the seizure of a subway car was undesirable. Tokyo still has painful memories of the AUM Shinrikyo sarin gas attack on its subway system in 1995.

Toshihiko Inoue of Sapporo Film Commission liaised between the movie production company and the city’s transportation bureau since last summer. At first, transportation officials balked at having 300 extras at the subway installation. Inoue lowered the figure to 100 and persuaded the movie makers to agree to the cutback.

Rie Inomata of the transportation bureau lauded Inoue, calling him “precisely the negotiator.” Inoue remained modest, giving the credit to the moviemakers for gaining the confidence of officials.

The filming on location in Kobe took two weeks. Yoshihiro Kiyokawa of Kobe Film Office said he was helped by the fact that the popular TV “Dai-Sosasen” (Large-scale Police Dragnet) movie series, a predecessor of the new one, was popular with children of the city officials he was negotiating with.

However, since the story of the film concerns a crime occurring in Tokyo, the scenes filmed in Sapporo and Kobe show nothing of the two cities.

Inoue said hope for tourism cannot be expected by just offering sites for movie shooting on location in regional areas, unless local people’s interest in films heightens and relevant industries grow.

Kiyokawa, however, said Kobe benefited from the transportation and food costs the movie producers paid for the filmmaking crew of 1,300 and 2,000 extras.

Besides Sapporo and Kobe, West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) and Saitama Railway Co. helped in the making of the movie.

The South Korean movie industry was ahead of Japan last year in making a subway panic film — “Tube.” Seoul’s subway system lent itself to the movie from its planning stage. The picture included scenes of a shoot-out at Kimpo Airport.

Source: Kyodo News

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