Netflix's taboo-busting 'Naked Director' upends Japan TV industry
Nikkei -- Jan 19
Netflix, the streaming service that has shaken up Hollywood, has unleashed its brand of big-budget disruption in Japan's TV industry.

The sea change began last August, when Netflix released an original Japanese series that captured a global audience, "The Naked Director." Based on the true story of the rise and fall of porn director Toru Muranishi, the offbeat and often explicit tale is available in more than 190 countries and cracked the top 10 shows in South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

For Japan's actors, directors and other creative types, working with Netflix is an exciting new prospect. Not only does the U.S. company bring more money to the table than all of Japan's major broadcasters combined, it also offers more freedom to tell complex, dark, even risque stories -- and share them with a truly global audience.

This is why some call Netflix the "creative kingdom."

Kazutaka Sakamoto, executive producer of "The Naked Director," breathed a sigh of relief last summer when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gave his assessment of the series. It was well-made and entertaining, Hastings said.

Sakamoto had left a TV production company and joined Netflix in 2015, the year the company entered the Japanese market. He came across the book on which "The Naked Director" is based in early 2017.

A director friend had been trying to turn the book into a production but gave up. The friend hoped Sakamoto could make it happen, because of Netflix's reputation for bold, sometimes controversial programming.

While broadcasters must consider their sponsors' reactions, the bulk of Netflix's revenue comes from more than 150 million subscribers worldwide. These makes it easier to address taboo themes and produce subject matter that might appeal to niche audiences. With this freewheeling approach, the California-based company has produced a string of global hits -- from the comedy-drama "Orange is the New Black," about a women's prison, to "Narcos," a tense take on the rise of South American drug lords.

The first thing Sakamoto did after getting the green light for "The Naked Director" was to bring Jason George, a "Narcos" writer, to Japan. Sakamoto wanted George's advice on depicting an outlaw character who might be difficult for viewers to empathize with. He also wanted to make sure the racy scenes he envisioned would not come across as gratuitous or disrespectful to women.

The discussions proved so fruitful that Sakamoto enlisted George to help write the script.

News source: Nikkei
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