Post-SARS, mart bounces back

HKTDC considering expo expansion

HONG KONG — Though bumped from its original June slot due to SARS, this year’s Hong Kong Intl. Film and Television Market (Sept. 24-26) could end up bigger than last year’s.

Organizer, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has potential exhibitors on a waiting list as it considers taking up more space at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, where the trade fair will take place.

“Companies are taking bigger booths and putting more effort into marketing, which shows people are positive about the Asian film market,” says Natalie Chan, assistant manager of the HKTDC’s services promotion. “The response has been overwhelming.”

The council had already planned to increase the space of the Filmart venue by 50% this year, but it’s finding that’s hardly enough. Chan says recruitment momentum picked up when the World Health Organization’s SARS-related travel advisory was lifted in May. The July announcement of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), a free trade agreement between Hong Kong and China that will affect the local film industry, was also a factor.

“CEPA aroused overseas interest in partnerships with Hong Kong — in its expertise, and in (the) advantage (of being first) to enter the China market,” says Chan. “China is also interested (in partnering) with Hong Kong players.”

This year’s market will see more television exhibitors, which Chan attributes to the cancellation or postponement of television events elsewhere in Asia. Hong Kong animation studios and post-production companies will also come in greater numbers.

Filmart is trying to improve the market by offering more services — this year sees the launch of an online trailer site and legal and finance consulting services.

Chan says the council is looking for opportunities to premiere a closing film, preferably one with a Hong Kong angle.

She added the council will continue to solicit views on the best time of year for future Filmarts, given shifting schedules of other trade events, such as that of the American Film Market.