Yuri Akimoto, a producer for worldwide production and business development at Fuji Television Network, talks about making The Window, penned by acclaimed British screenwriter James Payne and produced by Boogie Entertainment in co-production with Fuji Television Network and ZDF Enterprises.
Broadcasters and platforms need innovative and high-quality series to attract viewers and subscribers, and The Window fulfills both requirements. The ten-part drama thriller provides a seldom-seen look at the behind-the-scenes deals and intrigues of the soccer world. Equally novel is how the project came together as one of the first collaborations on a scripted series between Europe and Japan.
TV DRAMA: When did you learn about The Window? At what point did Fuji TV become involved?
AKIMOTO: I personally got involved in the project two years ago, when I joined the business team at Fuji, but I heard that Fuji had been involved from the very beginning. In fact, the beginning of The Window was at a dinner meeting during MIPCOM 2017, when members from ZDF Enterprises and Fuji TV came up with the idea that it would be fun if there were a series [that was] a soccer version of House of Cards, and even more so if it was a collaboration between Europe and Asia.
TV DRAMA: This co-production was groundbreaking, wasn’t it? A European broadcaster and a Japanese broadcaster co-producing and co-financing a drama series.
AKIMOTO: Yes, it was a new challenge for both of us and probably the first time in the history of co-production! It always looks more challenging for anyone to do anything for the first time, but after you’ve seen someone do it, the hurdle becomes lower. We hope that our collaboration will inspire others and that it will activate the content market even more.
TV DRAMA: The screenwriter James Payne chose an interesting angle to explore the world of soccer. What appealed to you about the project?
AKIMOTO: Of course, we all know James as a talented screenwriter, so having him on board was already super exciting. In addition to that, although the series is about the world of soccer, the idea was how not to [focus on] scenes of the actual game. We wanted something that not only core soccer fans but also people not so familiar with sports could enjoy watching, so the idea to focus on the “behind the scenes of soccer” angle was very appealing to us.
TV DRAMA: How did Boogie Entertainment, Fuji TV and ZDF Enterprises share editorial decisions about the series?
AKIMOTO: We have had several meetings and kept each other updated on what is going on, and if anything happens, we discuss with open minds and respect! Before Covid-19, aside from many conference calls, we visited each other in person before the shooting in Tokyo and during the shooting in Belgium. It was an awesome experience to visit the set in Antwerp and to see the cast and everyone in person.
TV DRAMA: The series was shot during Covid-19. What difficulties did that present, and how did the production team overcome the problems?
AKIMOTO: In the summer of 2020, when the Covid situation became serious around the world, we were in the middle of the shoot. So, obviously, we had to postpone some shooting schedules during the lockdown in Europe. I heard that the cast members were communicating through SNS and kept each other company and their minds focused on the series. As soon as the regulation was relieved, we began shooting again, but there were many new rules that the production needed to clear. We had cast and staff members from all over the world, so adjusting the schedule according to each member’s travel availability and how long they needed to go into quarantine was definitely not easy. The production team was required [to come up with] a high level of creativity and optimization at the same time. For example, the cast, crew and staff wore different colored T-shirts to be thorough with zoning, and there were times when we also had to ask the cast to do their makeup by themselves because of hygiene reasons.
We, the team from Fuji, could not be there at the shooting [during] the pandemic. For us, it was hard, too, because we could not physically support the shooting, and we just had to trust each other.
TV DRAMA: Tell us about the popularity of soccer in Japan and how you expect The Window to be of great interest to viewers.
AKIMOTO: Soccer is one of the most popular sports in Japan. Many kids play soccer in school and after school, and being a pro soccer player is always among kids’ top ten dream jobs.
There are many pro soccer players who play overseas, such as Yuto Nagatomo, who played for Inter Milan, Takumi Minamino playing for Liverpool FC and Takefusa Kubo for RCD Mallorca. There is definitely a big soccer fan market here in Japan, but as I mentioned before, The Window is about the world of soccer, but at the same time, it is a thriller revealing what is happening behind the scenes of the gorgeous lives of the players that we see on the news as celebs and big money, with deceiving, lies and scrambles.
You don’t really have to be a soccer fan to be drawn into this series. I think it is human nature to want to have a peek at the dark side of things, and I think that is enough to love the series.
By the way, I am not a huge fan of sports, but I enjoyed watching it very much anyway!
TV DRAMA: How does The Window complement the rest of Fuji TV’s drama offering?
AKIMOTO: It is a good opportunity for the audience and the market to know the name of our company, especially in Europe, and to be acknowledged as one of the enthusiastic Asian broadcasters that is open to new opportunities, challenges and collaborations outside the country.