While the mainland plays host to the biggest Hollywood stars tubthumping their latest movies, Hong Kong’s FilMart is all Asia: a trade market and film marketing platform that is more regional, more independent, and less about the American majors.
The biggest stars likely to attend the vast halls of Hong Kong’s Convention and Exhibition Centre over the mart’s March 23-26 run may be Thai martial arts ace Tony Jaa, multihyphenate Johnnie To and Wilson Yip, who wrote and directed the “Ip Man” film franchise and will be at FilMart as director of the upcoming actioner “Sha po lang 2” (aka “SPL 2”).
But what FilMart lacks in glamour, it makes up for in practical and business terms. “SPL 2” is not set for release until summer, but FilMart is the only pre-Cannes event where so much of the Asian film industry is gathered under one roof and receptive to volleys of sales pitches, launch events and promos.
“We can get a lot of meetings done in a short (period) of time, making it more productive than a single trip to Beijing, for instance,” says Ricky Tse, whose Bravos Pictures is both sales agent and distributor. “And we’ll be reminding buyers that not everything is China these days. There are lot of really strong Hong Kong movies. They are broader in terms of genre and freer of censorship limitations than the China-made titles.”
FilMart takes its strength from being literally and figuratively in the middle of things within Asia. The market enjoys high levels of participation from Chinese companies and that in turn draws visitors from Israel to Russia to North America. (Some 43 U.S. companies and 22 Canadian shingles are registered as exhibitors.) But mainland interests do not drown out all other voices, as they have a tendency to do at the newer trade shows attached to the Beijing and Shanghai festivals.
At FilMart, Chinese companies sit alongside Taiwanese, Japanese, Thai and Malaysian sellers. Film plays alongside TV. And at the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), now one of the oldest co-production markets in the world, projects are sourced from India and Indonesia to Afghanistan and Japan.
HAF also has a Fox Intl. Prods.-sponsored sub-section to nurture Chinese-language screenwriting talent.
FilMart takes place alongside the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival and HAF, and a cluster of other events including the Digital Cinemas and VFX Summit, the IFVA festival, two pop music events and the Hong Kong Film Awards to create a nexus of events known as Entertainment Expo.
Over FilMart’s 19-year existence, participants have learned how to make the event work for them. While the larger European sales agents take their own booths in the market, the smaller ones have a highly developed support system channeled by European Film Promotion and Creative Europe-Media Program of the European Union, German Films, the Danish Film Institute and Istituto Luce Cinecitta. The European Pavilion expects to host 20 sales companies, including six newcomers. The majority of them will receive cash support from EFP’s Film Sales Support scheme for the marketing and promotional campaigns of their films.
The U.S. Commerce Dept. and the American Consulates in Hong Kong and Guangzhou will again be putting on a finance seminar, and an outreach program that aims to connect American companies with those in the rich Cantonese-speaking Guangdong region of China that is geographically adjacent to Hong Kong.
“This met with a lot of enthusiasm last year by U.S. companies exhibiting at FilMart, and resulted in several deals,” says Jericho Li, a senior commercial specialist at the Guangzhou consulate.
They will also be bringing in buyer delegations from the region to introduce to U.S. exhibitors at FilMart, and have a booth there to answer questions about exporting U.S. content to Asian markets.