Problems plague totalitarian-ruled industry

If film is a common language, some places fall outside the conversation.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been isolated from the rest of the world for decades, ruled by a repressive military regime intolerant of foreign ideas. During the local biz’s heyday of the 1950s and ’60s, Burma’s filmmakers were producing about 80 movies a year. Today, output has dropped to about 20.

The country is among the world’s poorest and its film industry is in a state of decay, says location manager Bill Bowling, who went there last month as a guest of the Myanmar Motion Picture Producers Organization to give two workshops on trends in international production.

In some ways, the business is in a time warp: Burmese directors still cling to 35mm film even as their financially challenged counterparts in other third-world nations have embraced digital technology, Bowling said. “It’s hard to comprehend, but they’re still using expensive film stock to make movies budgeted at $80,000.”

Plus, censorship is strict, piracy is rampant, profits are elusive, and theaters, plagued by power blackouts, have dwindled in number from 300 to about 100.

By contrast, in neighboring Thailand a well developed industry supports a strong domestic biz as well as major productions from around the world.

“There’s been a vast improvement in theaters here,” said Scott Rosenberg, a Bangkok-based writer who also reps the local film office and touts gains in building the film infrastructure in recent years.

Thailand has drawn big Hollywood shoots ranging from Oliver Stone’s 2004 “Alexander” to Todd Phillips’ upcoming “The Hangover Part II.”

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s industry struggles to survive.

Grace Swe Zin Htaik, a former actress who appeared in more than local 200 films, was Bowling’s main contact. Now a social activist, she wants to encourage more exchanges between Myanmar and the outside world — calling for co-prod deals, the exporting of Burmese content, and the donation of training and equipment from abroad.

She also asked that the world’s film community be willing to “donate cash or in-kind for health and education” to those continuing to suffer from the impoverished country’s social problems and frequent natural disasters such as the 2008 floods that killed as many as 140,000 people.

Bowling received a small stipend for his film workshops. He donated that money to an orphanage that Swe Zin Htaik supports, where the children are dressed in military fatigues – a stark reminder of the ongoing regimentation of Myanmar’s society.

Bookings & Signings

Sandra Marsh & Associates booked 1st AD Steve Andrews on Tony Gilroy’s “The Bourne Legacy”; and production designers Andrew McAlpine on Rupert Goold’s “Richard II,” Nina Ruscio on Fox’s “Family Album,” Dante Ferretti on Sergei Bodrov’s “Seventh Son” and Francois Seguin on Francois Girard’s and Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour.”

Paradigm signed line producers Christine Larson-Nitzsche (“The Paul Reiser Show”) and Beth DePatie (“Fame”), editor Tracy Adams (“Limitless”) and d.p.’s Mauricio Rubinstein (“In Treatment”) and Michael Watson (“Skyline”).

Agency has booked producer Peter Heslop on Andrew Douglas’ “U Want Me 2 Kill Him?”; UPM Richard Rothschild on Lifetime movie “5 for the Cure”; 2nd unit director George Marshall Ruge on Jon Chu’s “G.I. Joe 2″; and d.p.’s Giovani Lampassi on NBC pilot “Free Agents,” Michael Goi on ABC Family’s “Nine Lives,” Phillip Linzey on Cartoon’s “Level Up,” Phil Parmet on Frankie Latina’s “Skinny Dip” and Fred Schroeder on Nick Weiss’ “Veil.”

Montana Artists signed line producers Malcolm Scerri-Ferrante (“Eragon”) and Caique Martins Ferreira (“Love in the Time of Cholera”), editor Nicolas Trembasiewicz (Push”) and costume designer Angelina Kekich (“Human Target”). Montana also struck deals with production-services companies Producers Creative Partnership in Malta and Movie Makers in Brazil.

Innovative Artists Booked d.p.’s Rhet Bear on Jonathan Kasdan’s “The First Time,” Armando Salas on Daniel Hsia’s “Americatown” and Joseph White on Danny Roth’s “Tag”; and line producers Bob Simon on ABC pilot “The River” and Louis Friedman on Jon Hurwitz’s and Hayden Schlossberg’s “American Reunion.”

Gersh booked d.p.’s Oliver Bokelberg on ABC’s “In Crisis” pilot, Tim Fleming on ITV’s “The Jury,” Arthur Albert on ABC’s “Missing,” Shelly Johnson on NBC pilot “Smash,” Sharon Meir on ABC pilot “Subpurgatory,” Clark Mathis on NBC pilot “Grimm,” Edward Pei on NBC pilot “A Mann’s World,” J. Michael Muro on A&E’s “Longmire,” Teodoro Maniaci on CBS pilot “Person of Interest” and Patrick Cady on USA’s “A Legal Mind.”

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