Geography lesson

'Wits' makers discuss co-production benefits

Filmmakers across Asia are examining ways to work closer together, the backers of forthcoming historical epic “Battle of Wits” said Sunday.

The list of nationalities for the pic’s cast, crew and investors reads like a geography lesson on Asia and the successful cooperation between countries on the pic could be a template for future projects in the region.

“Commercial success is important but how this film was produced is important also and this is a model for co-production in Asia,” Lee Joo-ick, CEO of Korean investment team Boram, told a producer’s workshop at the Pusan Intl. Film Festival. “This will lead to more favorable responses from investors,” he predicted.

Panel also discussed the positives of co-productions and how they could help create invaluable synergies; the “Wits” investment split was 35% Japan, 30% China with South Korea and Hong Kong putting up 15% apiece.

The crew is similarly cosmopolitan: Helmer Jacob Cheung and star Andy Lau are from Hong Kong while co-stars include Korean thesp Ahn Sung-ki, Taiwan’s Nicholas Wu, and Fan Bingbing and Wang Zhiwen are from China.

The pan-regional dimension extended to the making of the movie itself. It was shot in China and post-production was done in Beijing, Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Hong Kong’s Sundream Motion Pictures also put up coin, while also on board are Hong Kong- and Amsterdam-based sales agent Fortissimo Films and Japanese distrib Comstock.

Iseki Satoru of Hong Kong-based World Top, said the key to the project’s success was mutual trust.

“It’s too early to say if it will be a blockbuster but we’re very proud of the fact it’s an all-Asian production,” he said. ” ‘Battle of Wits’ was made the Asian way, with a relatively small number of contracts. Profits were divided according to investment and the investors in each region are also the distributors, so they are each working hard to distribute the film.”

Trust was all the more important on “Battle” as the pic did not have a completion bond. Instead, the producers created World Top especially to make the movie.

“The completion bond was not used and this is a great example of the Asian way. You can’t recommend the use of a completion bond every time because it involves subsequent issues. When you need to borrow money, you need a completion bond, but we had no trouble with the investment,” said Satoru.

Wang Zhonglei of Huayi Bros. said the investment model whereby the producers were also the distributors in their territories made the deal-making process.

“In this movie everything went smoothly because every one of the investors was participating,” said Wang, who will cooperate with other Asian nations on his company’s forthcoming pic, “The Assembly,” helmed by Feng Xiaogang.

Cooperation with Huayi Bros., which is increasingly powerful in China, made it easier for the pic to gain access to the Chinese market, which is growing in importance to Asian producers. This was particularly important when it came to piracy in China. The producers hope to get around this by launching the movie day-and-date in China and Hong Kong on Nov. 23.

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