“Almost no rest until 2 years from now” Non’s unique path The Johnny’s issue spotlights the issue of not being able to use “Nonen Rena”… Agent talks about 7 and a half years: J-CAST News[Display full text]

2023-09-30 00:00:00

In light of the sexual assault issue caused by Johnny’s Jimusho founder Johnny Kitagawa, who died in 2019 at the age of 87, human rights issues for entertainers are becoming a focus.

Under such circumstances, the issue surrounding actor Non (30) is once again attracting attention. Non-san, whose real name is “Rena Nounen,” made her breakthrough in the NHK TV drama series “Ama-chan” (2013), but she had problems with her independence due to her agency “Lepro Entertainment.” occurred, and the name was changed in 2016. There was a time when she hardly had any work, and some blamed it on “pressure from the entertainment industry.”

Despite this, Non continues to be active, and how did he carve out his own path? How will this situation surrounding Johnny’s Office affect Non-san? And will the entertainment industry change? We spoke to Atsushi Fukuda, president of the consulting firm Speedy, which serves as Non’s agent, in two parts. (Interviewer/Composition: Hiroshi Kudo, J-CAST News Editorial Department)

Atsushi Fukuda, president of the consulting company Speedy. Since April 2016, he has been acting as actor Non-san’s agent.

Lawyers who have seen Hollywood contracts are also shocked.

— Mr. Fukuda originally began his career in the film industry. Please tell us how he became involved with Non-san.

President Atsushi Fukuda (titles omitted hereafter): I have been with the Sony Group for 20 years. Originally, I wanted to be a film director, but for the first 10 years I was in charge of M&A and new business at Sony Pictures Entertainment. In the latter half of the decade, Sony Digital Entertainment was established as an internal company. 10 years of Hollywood, 10 years of Japanese tech. I don’t think there are many people who have this kind of career. Speedy was founded in 2017 when senior employees at Sony were reaching retirement age and thought, “I have to quit while I still have momentum.”
I first made contact with Non at the end of 2015, and I started working as an agent in April 2016, about seven and a half years ago. A friend of mine, who is a publishing agent, told me that “Japanese entertainment is having a lot of trouble,” so I met with him and found out that I couldn’t believe it. It’s a so-called slave contract, with low wages, no freedom of transfer, and the inability to use one’s real name. My lawyer has seen Hollywood contracts, and he was shocked by the content. As a matter of fact, when I told him, “Nonen-san, it seems like I can’t use your real name because you’ve already signed it,” he wrote “NON” the next day, and said, “If you write it in lower case, it’ll look like a smiley face emoji.” “I look like you,” so I said, “Please call me “Non”.” Seven years have passed since then. I still can’t believe that such terrible things can happen in the 21st century. I have a daughter around the same age. As a father of a child, and with a sense of justice, I felt that I could not forgive what was happening to Non.

Total of 55 clients, 28 ongoing.

— Even recently, the Johnny’s issue and the issue surrounding Non-san have been discussed in connection, with Democratic Party of Japan representative Yuichiro Tamaki mentioning it at a press conference.

Fukuda: With the recent Johnny’s issue and the rebroadcast of “Ama-chan,” people sometimes think, “Come to think of it, there was someone named ‘Non’,” or “This kid is still an actor.” There are some people who think, “That kid has caused some kind of problem and is being left out to dry.” But there’s nothing special about it. It is said that Non’s complaint that “I want to transfer because of poor working conditions” was met with a reaction from the previous agency, “Who do you think raised you?”
I would like to take this opportunity to summarize some of my most representative work since I started working as an agent. The movie “In This Corner of the World” (2016) was also well received. There are a total of 55 clients. Of these, 28 companies are continuing. We have almost no dealings with Dentsu or Hakuhodo, so all of our transactions are direct. At a TV station, programming and sales are completely separate companies, so as far as the sales side (selling commercial slots) is concerned, it doesn’t matter who is on the show as long as the money comes in. However, when it comes to the organization (who is in charge of the program itself), I can’t do it because I’d get glared at.

— In 2019, the Japan Fair Trade Commission conducted an investigation into allegations that Johnny’s Entertainment had pressured TV stations to prevent three former SMAP members from appearing on the show. There is a history of “warning” being given for “violating antimonopoly laws”. At the time, the website stated, “She has received many requests for commercials and has been able to appear in advertisements.However, she is an actress.Non has also received enthusiastic offers from the field, and has been on TV for three years, appearing in one drama.” Isn’t it too abnormal that this doesn’t come true?”, which became a hot topic. Has the situation changed in the last four years?

Fukuda: Back in 2019, we received scripts from various production companies (producing terrestrial TV programs) saying, “We’d like to do something like this with Non-san in the lead role,” but the scripts fell apart while we were considering them. But now it’s zero. There was also zero “I have a story like this”. However, we do have deals with online media such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and U-NEXT. We are always asked if we would like to try something new, and we have many new projects.

――While you are still unable to appear in terrestrial TV dramas, your career is opening up elsewhere.

Fukuda: I’ve always been a branding professional. The tragedy of the “product” “Rena Nonen” is that it was her real name, but she has successfully branded it by changing it to her stage name “Non.” I think it’s normal for a person to be able to appear in a terrestrial TV drama, but that’s not their goal, and we’re no longer in an era where appearing in a TV drama is considered a success. Some people say, “I feel sorry for not being able to appear in a TV drama,” but I don’t feel sorry for them at all. I have a lot of income and I’m doing what I love.

It’s been selling for a long time, so there will be almost no rest until the next two years.

Non-san. He often appears in commercials and PR events, and says he is “always non-stop for about two years”.

–I thought I was being fed cold rice, but that’s not the case.

Fukuda: The reality is that it’s been selling for a long time, so there’s no time to be sad about it because it’s always about two years from now.

— How do you perceive the situation you are in?

Fukuda: I’m very energetic. He is extremely mentally strong and has around 200% self-confidence.

――The management contract has been concluded between Non’s private office “Non” and Speedy Inc. as the agent. This is different from the traditional style of belonging to a talent agency.

Fukuda: At first, there was a way to “belong” to my company, but I thought, “It’s better not to do that now.” Even I don’t know when I’ll change my mind and make it a “slave contract.” That’s why adults don’t trust me. So, I signed an agent contract.
In America, actors are the best. For example, Tom Cruise has the most money, and has an accountant, general affairs, driver, booking staff, and attendants, so it is the “Tom Cruise Company.” An agent is responsible for promoting actors and purchasing original rights. Dan Nomura, who is active in the field of sports, is easy to understand. When there are great players in Japan, they go out and promote them.
In Hollywood, it is normal for the person in charge (the actor) to draw up the framework of the contract, and the rest is looked over by a lawyer, but in Japan, there are very few people who are trained in such matters. few. It was a surprising fact for me that if a talent didn’t know how to negotiate compensation, he wouldn’t be able to sign a contract. They bring in people who are not even old enough from the countryside and say, “Let’s train them,” but then they end up signing them into slave contracts. I think this is an abuse of a dominant position, which is extremely problematic in terms of fair trade.

–What are the advantages of using an agent system rather than an affiliation?

Fukuda: The idea is that Non will create his own company, and that my company will have an exclusive contract for a certain period of time, and if I don’t perform well during that period, he can fire me. I think that is fair trade. Unlike other talents, he is fully aware of how much his work pays and what it means, so he is full of energy. My advice is, “I don’t think you need to do a job you don’t like, but there are some big jobs that you should take some responsibility for, and even small ones that are important to society, such as raising awareness of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).” Let’s work hard at something that has meaning.”
In the LINE commercial, LINE executives were very supportive. It seems that there were calls from various parties threatening to stop using the commercial, but the client (LINE) said, “I think justice will prevail,” and that commercial was approved. Uniqlo’s commercial was developed in 18 countries in Asia by asking No. 2.
Because we were able to carve out our own unique path in this way, we managed to survive without being wiped out. I think that’s why the structure is such that every time the Johnny’s issue comes up, the Nounen Rena issue comes up as a side effect.

(Continued in the second half of the interview. Scheduled to be published on October 1st)

Atsushi Fukuda’s profile
Atsushi Fukuda Brand consultant, President Speedy. Born in Osaka in 1965. He graduated from Nihon University College of Art. After working at Sony Pictures Entertainment, he founded Sony Digital Entertainment in 2007. He founded Speedy Co., Ltd. in 2017. He works as a talent agent for actors and musicians such as “NON,” and also operates an art gallery in Los Angeles. He also serves as a visiting professor at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology Graduate School and Yokohama Art University. He has written many books and lectured.

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