Asia’s largest film market is now open. Several players spent the days leading up to the event indulging in a little pre-market positioning, hoping to gain some early cut-through with 760 exhibitors plying their wares.
Organisers are, naturally, equally keen to position their event favourably in the minds of attendees, to remind them that it’s even bigger and better than last year, and to bid both old friends and new visitors an equally enthusiastic welcome. While Hong Kong’s Entertainment Expo umbrella, which turns 10 this year, has shrunk the number of events travelling under its banner, the Asian Film Awards is the only absentee likely to be missed by international guests.
By the Numbers
A record 772 exhibitors display their wares on the convention hall floor. Within that number, a record 155 are from the Chinese mainland, and a record 92 from Japan, with the Japanese presence double the size it was last year.
Last year, the market held 360 screenings, up over 400 this year. The number of world premieres remains similar at around 80, this year including the world (market) premiere of David Blyth’s Ghost Bride.
Happily, for that record number of exhibitors and product on offer, there’s a record number of buyers too: over 6,500. Buy is good.
Jockeying for position
Sessions seeking to cheerlead, clarify, exploit or just understand the brave new world of online distribution have featured on the conference programme of every major market or festival for the last few years. Filmart is no exception, although next door is a market that plays by slightly different rules to most.
What was beginning to look like a successful model for online distribution of international TV shows into mainland China will now change. Players were told late last week by the Beijing government that streaming video will now come under the censorship purview of SAPPRFT, in the same way that material for theatrical distribution and television screening does.
While Hong Kong attracts a lot of business as a gateway to the mainland, some of Hong Kong’s own understand that the mainland is not always the right, nor only, partner of scale and substance in the region.
Hong Kong-based major distributor and producer Media Asia last week filed suit against mainland company Zonbo Media, claiming cUS$3 million in unpaid monies owing from 2012’s Dangerous Liaisons. Media Asia also travelled to Japan’s Okinawa International Film Festival, where the company signed an agreement to develop regional projects with new partners Content Land and Yashimoto. The trio will form the derivatively-monikered Yoshimoto Media Asia Content Land Inc as the development and production vehicle.
Ignoring its involvement in Dangerous Liaisons, Media Asia is perhaps still most recognised internationally for Internal Affairs (remade in the US by Martin Scorsese as The Departed). It was more recently the major investor involved in one of the openers of last year’s HKIFF, Johnnie To’s Drug War.
Malaysian production house KRU and its sales and distribution arm United Studios attend Filmart this year to promote their upcoming animated feature Ribbit, made with the assistance of the country’s funder MDeC – itself a longtime exhibitor at Filmart.
While being the most recent in a long line of Asian animated features is rarely the stuff of eye-catching press releases, successful territory sales (80 to date), known names in the voice cast (including Lord of the Rings’ Sean Astin and Rocky Horror’s Tim Curry), and the multi-national nature of the production set Ribbit apart from the pack and make for a good fit with Filmart and Hong Kong’s “Asia’s world city” vibe.
The feature is written and directed by Chuck Powers, an American. Over a decade ago Powers founded Voiceovers Unlimited, which dubs foreign language animation programming into English, including the long-running Yu-Gi-Oh! and Digimon series.
The animation production for Ribbit was done in Malaysia and India, the rendering in Hong Kong, and the voice recording (in English) in the US. South Africa’s Triggerfish modeled a similar approach for features Zambezia and Khumba, albeit with less government money. The Triggerfish titles are repped at Filmart by US distributor Cinema Management Group.
This writer is lucky to have been a regular attendee at Filmart for its last five editions. Apart from 2011, when market events the world over suffered a serious dip in attendances and attendant business, Filmart has grown consistently.
The growing US presence, which expands each year, is a contributor to that growth. The strong ongoing relationships with UK and European (especially French) exhibitors also contribute.
One remembers the practical stuff: the walking route from the hotel to the venue affording the least amount of exhaust fumes, where to get a good caffeine hit and free wi-fi when pushing a late-night deadline, in which bars on Lockhart Road supporters gather ahead of the Hong Kong Sevens. (All of them, by the end of the week!)
On the Filmart floor, there are other constants: the strong support for the event by local broadcaster TVB, which runs its stable of celebrities through the stand almost continuously for three days. Hong Kong supports Filmart, its companies turning out to exhibit and promote, even when there’s nothing new to promote in some cases.
Equally dependable are the posters promising Hong Kong actress Chrissie Chau in the upcoming feature Bauhinia Heroine. Since 2010 its producers have optimistically taped a new date on to the original posters. “Coming in 2014” … maybe.
FilMart runs 24 – 27 March, as part of Hong Kong’s Entertainment Expo. The Expo also includes project market HAF, the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF), the Asian VFX and Digital Cinema Summit, the Digital Entertainment Summit, and concludes in April with the Hong Kong Film Awards.