Spotlight on Toho Studios

Mitsuru Shimada, president of Toho Studios, speaks to KFTV about the future of Toho beyond Godzilla, and how he plans to attract international productions to the studio

By Gabriella Geisinger 22 May 2024

Spotlight on Toho Studios
Mitsuru Shimada, President of Toho Studios; Courtesy of Toho Studios

Toho Studios may be best known for creating and making 30 Godzilla films, with its recent hit Godzilla Minus One winning an Oscar for best visual effects. It was a critical and box office hit, proving the studio can offer support to Academy-Award-winning Hollywood films.

Off the back of Godzilla Minus One’s success, as well as Toho’s investment in US-based production and distribution company Fifth Season, it’s clear that “Toho as a company is heading towards being the hub for international productions,” says Toho Studios president Mitsuru Shimada.

The biggest support Toho can provide is through its new subsidiary Toho Tombo, led by Georgina Pope. “Until now, a lot of Japanese studios, including Toho, didn’t have a person who had the know-how of international productions as well as language skills and the basic filmmaking skills to work on international projects,” says Shimada.

Having Toho Tombo on-site provides international producers with a bridge between the Japanese studio complex and its way of working and their own incoming international workflow and processes.

With this key development, Shimada is free to focus on two factors that — for him — are high priorities for international productions: sustainability and convenience. “Toho is one of the closest studios from the centre of Tokyo and close to one of the highways, so it’s easy for the staff and actors to come into the studios from wherever they are staying,” Shimada says.

“Starting from this October, we will incorporate solar power and try to make the studio as green as possible,” Shimada adds.

Toho underwent renovation in the early 2000s making it a more “modern and clean” option “compared to other studios in Japan”. And they have proven that their post-production and VFX studio and crew are very skilful. “You can edit and work on the sound too — it’s a full post-production suite that we can provide within the studio.”

Godzilla Minus One; Credit: Toho Studios

Shimada also sees the new location incentive, managed by the Ministry for Tourism, Economy, and Trade (METI), as paramount to international productions. “Japan is one of the most underdeveloped countries for film incentives, so we understand the need for a proper system to be brought in place,” he says.

“As a company, we’re working with the government to create a proper support system.”

On the horizon is a ‘one-stop shop’, says Japan Film Commissioner Ruriko Sekine, to connect incoming producers with the requisite departments, balancing Hollywood’s speed with Japan’s bureaucracy.

Future plans

For now, Shimada’s eye is on pushing Toho further, with goals of introducing immersive sound for large-format productions, such as Dolby Atmos, and keeping up with the latest technology including virtual production LED walls and more.

With the advances he’s made so far, Shimada has high hopes for what Toho can offer in the future. “We expect there will be more and more high-end TV and movies, and there will be more need for the use of the studio, and everyone involved will want to facilitate that.”

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