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I want to solve the issues I see from my experience in the video field and as the president's secretary.
-Please tell us about your career to date, Mr. Hiraiwa.
I have dreamed of making movies since I was a child, and I joined Shochiku eight years ago as a new graduate hire. After joining the company, I was assigned to the Motion Picture Department, and for the first year I was in charge of sales to promote the secondary use of old movies. I was selling to broadcasters and renewing exhibits at the Tora-san Memorial Museum in Shibamata.
After that, you were in charge of publicity for new movies in the Film Advertising Department, negotiating with TV stations for in-program publicity and managing completion previews. Four years later, I was transferred to the secretary's office, where I am currently a policy secretary in charge of the president. At first, I felt as if I had changed jobs because of the drastic change in my job description, but as I worked in a position close to management, I gradually became interested in managing the entire business and creating a system. In film, you only think about the films you are in charge of, but I found it interesting to look at the entire business from a broader perspective and on a larger budget scale.
-That is what led you to participate in the Accelerator Program.
That is right. Since Shochiku is an entertainment company, each department is working on new things on a daily basis, but rather than that, the Accelerator Program was introduced to explore new things the company as a whole can do. I would like to resolve the gap that exists between the field and the management team, and the issues that arise from this gap, which I felt during my three years of experience as a policy secretary. As someone who understands both the frontline and management perspectives to some extent, I may be able to successfully bridge the gap between the two and change Shochiku. With this in mind, I voluntarily submitted my hand to the open call for project members.
Internal coordination for successful use of bottom-up and top-down
-I understand that you were in charge of three projects this time around. What exactly did you do?
There are five startups that have advanced to the demonstration test in this accelerator program, and I was in charge of three of them, the first of which is working with Realista, a company that provides tourist information to foreign visitors to Japan through "DIVE JAPAN," a one-minute video.
DIVE JAPAN wanted Shochiku's filming technology to improve the quality of its videos, and Shochiku wanted to promote itself to inbound travelers but was not able to do so. For the demonstration experiment, we teamed up with the Shochiku Video Center to create four high-quality tourism videos for foreign visitors to Japan.
The second company was ActEvolve, which provides the world's largest VR live platform, VARK. We examined the possibility of creating new experiential value by connecting Shochiku's real venues, such as movie theaters and theaters, with ActEvolve's VR space.
And the third company is working with Radius Five, whose cutting-edge AI technology can accomplish creative editing tasks in 10 seconds that used to take hours by humans. Shochiku had been manually correcting old films that had scratches or other damage to the film, and the demonstration experiment tested whether AI could replace this process.
-It seems like a lot of work to have three projects going on at the same time.
To be honest, it was extremely difficult to front three projects while holding the job of policy secretary, and I think I pushed the field quite hard.
The most difficult part of the program was that the field also had its own problems, such as "inbound PR is not being done" and "restoration of old films is difficult," so when we talked about it, they immediately agreed with us that it was a good idea, but they were very busy with their existing work, and it was not easy to get them to devote time to this program. However, the site was very busy with existing work and it was not easy to get them to devote time to this program.
I talked politely to find people who would cooperate, and ran around coordinating within the company to make the best use of bottom-up and top-down approaches by convincing management while motivating the people on the ground.
As a result, we were able to move forward with the demonstration experiment, and I was happy to hear that they eventually said they wanted to continue working with us. I thought it was worth doing the accelerator just to convey the enthusiasm and speed of a startup to the field, and I am glad that this was conveyed to them.
Finding "collaboration" instead of ordering and receiving
-What were some of the difficulties or obstacles you encountered in moving forward with the project?
It was difficult to find a point of collaboration to figure out how we could work together to solve the issues that Shochiku has not been able to solve and the issues that the startups have. In particular, in the case of Realista, if Shochiku simply made a tourism video, it could become an order-taking relationship where the startup would simply have it placed on DIVE JAPAN's platform. If that were to happen, there would be no point in having an accelerator.
We searched for ways to collaborate by taking advantage of each other's strengths, but since we would not know the results until we made the video, we started the demonstration experiment with the idea of "let's make the video first.
In the video department, where arrangements are said to be the most important thing, the idea of filming for the time being was in itself novel. Even so, with the cooperation of the people on site, we arrived at the idea of "a video that introduces how to see and enjoy Kabuki.
DIVE JAPAN had made videos introducing the location of the theater, but had not yet been able to go into the theater and explain how to see and enjoy it. So we thought that if we could combine DIVE JAPAN's expertise in inbound videos with Shochiku's expertise in how to see and enjoy Kabuki, we could leverage our mutual strengths.
So, when we actually produced and released the video, it reached approximately 300,000 people and was viewed approximately 90,000 times. Moreover, it was also being viewed in several countries that DIVE JAPAN had not been able to reach before. We were happy to discover new possibilities for both companies and points of collaboration through the demonstration experiment.
-It is of great value that we were able to establish a track record of collaboration with startups through this initiative.
Although we do not yet have any achievements to speak of, for Shochiku, which has been in the same business for over 120 years, creating something new together with a start-up is in itself very challenging. It is a great change that the field and management have recognized the necessity and importance of this project, and I would like to continue until this becomes a part of Shochiku's culture.
We want to create a culture that continues to create new things.
-This is the first time you yourself have worked with a startup. What have you grown and learned through this project?
What I think I have grown in is getting people involved in my projects. I think I have gained a new skill because I have never worked in a job where I had to involve people in my projects and propagate their enthusiasm.
In working with the startups, I learned how to narrow down what to focus limited resources on, and how to make choices between interesting ideas that have little chance of commercialization and a difficult future.
I was also inspired by the high aspirations of the startups to "make something really good" without setting any upper limits for themselves, even with a limited budget and time.
-Finally, please tell us about the ideas that are important to you in your work.
Never compromise on anything. I learned this when I was in charge of publicity for a film. How much you like the film and how passionate you are about it will affect the number of places you can get to promote it and the length of time you can promote it. The importance of being uncompromising and doing things in a muddled way was keenly felt in this accelerator effort, and I would like to keep this in mind in the future.
Initially, I joined Shochiku with the desire to make movies, but now I am filled with the desire to create mechanisms and take on new challenges. In the future, I would first like to make the projects I am in charge of become a business, so that people in the company will know that "Shochiku can also do this kind of thing. By continuing to collaborate with startups, I would like to foster a culture of continually creating new things at Shochiku.
He joined Snow Brand Milk Industry in 2000. He then worked for an advertising agency and as a sole proprietor before joining BizReach in 2012. Engaged in content creation, he joined NewsPicks in 2016 as an editor on the BrandDesign team, and is now a freelance writer and editor.