Hong Kong puts faith in veterans

$300 million film fund goes to proven talent

HONG KONG — Hong Kong put a surprising emphasis on experience over youth Tuesday when the new Film Development Council unveiled plans to dish out government cash to the movie industry.

At a press conference, FDC execs said that main purpose of the HK$300 million ($38.5 million), approved by the government in April (Daily Variety, April 15) was to encourage production of movies with commercial appeal.

“It is most important to resuscitate the Hong Kong film industry, therefore priority has to be given to more experienced filmmakers,” FDC chairman Jack So said. “We can’t risk too much experimentation.”

Young talent can still access the fund by teaming with an experienced producer.

To qualify, applicants must be a Hong Kong registered company, helmer or producer that has produced and released at least two films in ten years.

Movies must have budgets of less than $1.55 million and can receive a maximum of 30% of their budget from the fund. Three of the five key creative elements — director, producer, scripter, male lead, female lead — must be permanent Hong Kong residents.

Applications can only be made by projects with a completed screenplay and other elements in place, such as post production contracts or 50% of budget sourced from private sector.

While FDC members made it clear that funding is to be considered an equity investment, they were vague about terms of investment, profit participation and whether proceeds would be repaid back into the common funding pool.

FDC said that secondary purpose of the fund will be more general measures to support the Hong Kong industry.

These include “promoting Hong Kong films on the mainland and overseas; initiatives to train talent in the various aspects of the film production and distribution; and measures to enhance the interest and appreciation of the HK films by the local audience.”

In addition to the main fund vetting committee, FDC said it has established a support services committee and a mainland market committee.

Mainland efforts will promote distribution of Hong Kong’s small and medium-budget movies beyond the neighboring Cantonese-speaking Guangdong province.

Coming two days after the closure of the historic Queen’s Cinema in Central District, FDC said that it will encourage private sector and real estate developers to preserve old cinemas.