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FilMart: Artop Pitches Thai-Chinese Connections, In-House Produced Series

Bangkok- and Beijing-based Artop Media arrives at FilMart pitching rights to two successful TV series: “Fleet of Time” and “In Time With You.” Both are part of the company’s recent drive into in-house production.

The company was founded by Zhang Dong, who studied law and Thai at Peking University and took his first tentative steps into the entertainment business as the Asian Financial Crisis was raging in the late 1990s. He was involved in importing Chinese-made VCD players into Thailand and figured that he could add value by including the content. After a stint with China’s Han Media, Zhang found financial backers and struck out on his own in 2009.

The company positions itself as a local producer in both countries. But it is focused on the kinds of content that can travel easily between the two. That means Thai TV series that can be exported and dubbed or remade in China. And it means Chinese TV shows that can play in Thailand. Rights sales to broadcasters in Southeastern Asian neighbors, location services in Thailand, talent management and the representation of third-party film rights are further activities.

“There are lots of connections. Thai culture is very Oriental, and familiar to Chinese, everything from the standards of beauty, to landscapes and storytelling,” says Zhang. “Female-skewing drama and romances are a must.”

What was lacking was much knowledge of each other’s business practices. “Most Thai companies had no idea of Chinese regulations and censorship. And the same was true the other way around. That’s when we decided to move into production on our own account,” says Zhang. The sector got another boost four years ago when the Thai government allowed a raft of new digital TV platforms to begin operating. “Production increased, but there were not enough quality cast and crew, and there was a lack of quality new stories. That’s when imports increased.”

Where 10 years ago, Hong Kong movies were still a staple in Southeast Asia, today’s audiences in Thailand have diverged. Younger demographics have veered towards Korean content and shows that emulate Korean aesthetics, while older audiences skew more to Thai and Chinese content.

Starring Thai performers Bank (“Project S”) and Pattie (“Princess Hours”), “Fleet of Time” is a romantic drama featuring a man who recounts his good, bad and educational experiences of growing up in Bangkok in the 1980s. The four-episode show begins airing in Thailand on the GMM25 channel in May. It has been picked up for China by streaming platforms iQIYI and Bilibili. The original novel was a bestseller in China for eight months, and a film version starring Eddie Peng grossed $88 million.

“In Time With You” is a 24-part romance that gets its Thai broadcast debut in June on PPTV. It has been licensed to streaming giant Tencent for China. It stars Pae Arak(“My Girl,” “Slice”) and Mo Mochanok (“Bangkok Love Story”) in a story of a male-female friendship that over 14 years turns to love.

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