Island’s defining moment

Under CEPA, rules for HK prod'ns will be relaxed

HONG KONG — The film community is scrambling to come up with a definition for a “Hong Kong film,” in order to enjoy the benefits of a free trade agreement inked with China in June.

It won’t be easy.

At issue are the nuts and bolts of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, spun as a pact to benefit Hong Kong industry –including film — and announced by the governments of Hong Kong and China.

Although H.K. reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, by law, economic matters between the two remain separate.

The devil, of course, is in CEPA’s details, which cover everything from the nationality of film crews, cast and investors to censorship and a ratings code.

A number of local companies already work regularly with Mainland firms to gain distribution in China, which helps them circumvent China’s global film import quota.

Under CEPA, certain rules will be relaxed. For example, the proportion of Hong Kong cast and crew members allowed to work on co-productions has been increased

But some in Hong Kong worry that stringent censorship rules on the Mainland may prevent access for their films, while some in China see the rating system China is considering as providing too great a benefit to H.K.

Industry groups have been submitting their definitions to the local government, which will eventually be vetted for approval by China’s authorities — since it has to ensure its own film industry won’t lose out.

The Motion Picture Industry Assn. recommends the definition focus on investors, who should be from Hong Kong, with a majority of the cast and crew having permanent residency status on the island, even if they have a different nationality.

This point is crucial says MPIA chairman Woody Tsung, since many in Hong Kong hold overseas passports.

The Federation of Hong Kong Film Workers is focusing on cast and crew parameters. It suggestsa production company be registered in Hong Kong, and that 70% of the crew and main cast be permanent H.K. residents.

Natalie Chan, assistant manager of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which organizes Filmart (Sept. 24-26), says the announcement of CEPA is already benefiting the annual film and TV market.

“People want to see if they can get in on the action,” she says.