Asia Film Policy Forum bashes mainstream

Hollywood’s dominance of global cinema screens came in for plenty of bashing Saturday at the first running of the Asia Film Policy Forum. But the confab in Pusan was also the setting for a well-attended and pragmatic seminar on how to attract Hollywood movies to use Asian locations and facilities.

Most entertaining Hollywood putdown came from Bill Chang Yu-jang, deputy director of Taiwan’s Government Information Office. Announcing that local film “Cape No. 7″ has now passed the $9 million box office landmark to become the highest-grossing film of the year in Taiwan, he said this was a “wonderful development,” and pointedly read out the grosses of the next ranking U.S. movies.

Producer Michael Lake said in recent years Asia has been a significant exporter of talent, ideas and remakes to Hollywood, but that this trend is slowing.

“Hollywood is now looking at partnering up and going more local,” he said, citing talent agency tie-ups, the decision to shoot “Beverly Hills Ninja 2″ in South Korea and Universal’s recent commitment to Park Chan-wook’s “Thirst.”

Lake, former executive VP at Village Roadshow and now prexy of WWE Studios, also pointed to a reversal of past migrations, suggesting that John Woo is not the only talent to return from Hollywood to work in Asia. “The next trick will be to find productions that work in Asia and the U.S.,” he said.

Veteran location manager Bill Bowling said new technology could propel Asia up the ladder within the global film industry. “Think digital for production, for distribution and for post-production and make films for multiple media,” he said. “Films made in studios with green screens like ‘300’ and ‘Speed Racer’ could have been made anywhere in the world.” (They lensed principally in Montreal and Berlin, respectively.)

Bowling described visual effects and financial incentives as “two tsunamis” that could fundamentally change which international movies are produced in the region. “Asia needs to get on the incentives map,” he said, adding that the very highest level of visual effects talent is Hollywood’s greatest need.

But Bowling also pointed out two problem areas — censorship and protection of intellectual property — that Asia needs to deal with if it is to attract more location work. Addressing heavy-handed government censorship and script approval requirements in some Asian countries, he said, “Movies are not just about tourist attractions. Audiences want engaging topics,” and that Hollywood films need “reasonable freedom” to make films the way it wants. Bowling appeared to point to the Malaysian approach as a fair one. “There is lots of freedom at the shooting stage. Censorship comes at the distribution stage, when a film is re-imported.”

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