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Revising the Hong Kong script

Filmart attendees stress screenplay polish

HONG KONG — The three-day Filmart wrapped up Friday, with an ACNielsen survey conducted over the previous two days showing that 65% of buyers want improvements in Hong Kong scripts.

Local moviemakers are notorious for churning out cheap films, low on storyline. Several bigger production outfits — many of whom did not exhibit at Filmart — have recognized the industry’s flaw and have spent more time on the writing. Others have stuck to the script, literally and figuratively.

Calls by French buyers for Filmart organizers to invite scriptwriters and technicians, alongside producers and distributors already at the market, were met with resistance.

Raise the standard

“Our weakness is scripts, so we want to raise the standard and then perhaps simultaneously invite the writers to Filmart,” said Alan Wong, director of services promotion of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Peter Poon, general manager of Fortune Star, a 6-month-old film production arm of News Corp.’s Star TV group, said he plans to release up to five films a year — considered a meager output by Hong Kong standards — in hopes of creating quality movies.

“We’re doing a road show in the next two months, presenting our lineup for the next two years to exhibitors and distributors,” said Poon. “So we’re producing for the market, addressing the industry before audience. The script is the most important thing.”

The theme for this year’s Filmart, organized by the Hong Kong TDC, was “Hong Kong Goes International,” referring in part to the 45% increase in the number of overseas exhibitors, from 20 countries or regions, and buyers, from 40 different territories. New delegations came from Mexico, Iran and Vietnam. More than 190 exhibitors were on hand, and 1,400 buyers wandered the carpeted halls of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.

“Filmart has become a platform to connect the international community and the blooming China market, with Hong Kong filmmakers serving as dealmakers and risk managers, given their ample co-production experience in the mainland,” said James Hughes-Hallett, a member of the TDC, at the opening of the market.

Market misfires

It did have glitches. Non-Chinese attendees were confused by the poor translation and the wrong time posted for one seminar, and another dual-language seminar failed to provide any translation at all.

But Filmart was international in other ways. Panelists at seminars debated how to make movies bigger and better. Expanding Asian distribution, co-production opportunities with Canadian companies and financing methods were among the other topics.

At the panel on expanding Asian distribution, Kurt Reider, managing director of Singapore’s Golden Village, emphasized the need to target different ethnic groups in fragmented countries and territories. “You need momentum to enter a new territory like film festivals, which require no commercial commitment,” he said.

Region in action

Fortune Star’s Poon stressed that action movies will always sell across Asia, but comedies less so, an opinion reflected in buyers’ responses in the ACNielsen survey. Recent South Korean hits “My Sassy Girl” and “My Wife Is a Gangster” were noted exceptions.

The ACNielsen survey, which involved 94 exhibitors and 205 buyers, revealed the average price for Hong Kong films over the next year was a reasonable $122,370. The survey also showed buyers wanted to see more sophisticated productions and promotion strategies for Hong Kong movies. And the most difficult market for Asian films to enter was the European Union, followed by the U.S. and Japan.

But not all news was negative. The market outlook for the global film biz for the next year is positive, as was the attitude toward the China film market.

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