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Flying the flag

Producers organisation Screen Producers Australia (SPA) recently led its first international delegation, travelling to Hong Kong for FILMART. SPA’s International Market and Content Producer Cheryl Conway and members of the delegation generously took some time out on the final day of the market to share their impressions.

All smiles: members of the SPA delegation in Hong Kong

All smiles: members of the SPA delegation in Hong Kong

Conway is used to dealing with inbound delgations, especially those of producers visiting Austrlia to attend SPA’s annual conference, Screen Forever. The delegation to Hong Kong was SPA’s first outbound trip, with a very respectable 13 producers taking part.

Those making the trip and able to talk with SCREENZ were were Monica Penders (ScreenACT/Batavia Creative), Robert Macklin and Cindy Li (JIA Films), Lina Silva (Kreiworks), Andrew Marriott and Rohan Taylor (SilverSun Pictures), Aidan O’Bryan and Janelle Landers (WBMC). The delegation was a mixture of producers seeking to establish and/or enhance relationships with Asian producers and financiers.

Ahead of the visit to Hong Kong, SPA’s CE Matthew Deaner said the choice of FILMART for SPA’s first delegation recognised the importance Australian producers placed on building partnerships in China. Deaner also thanked Bonnie Shek, ANZ Director for FILMART organiser the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, for her interest in promoting opportunities for business development and co-productions between Australia and Hong Kong.

Some producers in the delegation had plenty of experience in China already. Of those who met with FilmInk, Cindy Li emigrated from China to Australia a few years ago. Prior to shifting to Canberrashe worked as a producer in Chinese film and TV for over a decade, including on a number of major international co-production and multi-national features such as Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and Mission Impossible 4.

Li and writer/producer Robert Macklin were advancing an Australia-China feature co-production, Aodaliya Gold, an English language film to be made with Chinese funding about bush rangers, and offering leading roles for two Australian and two Chinese actors. Li was also advancing several other co-production projects with Chinese and Japanese partners and sharing insight and practical advice with other delegates less familiar with China.

Macklin’s novel Juryman was adapted as Storyville (MGM), starring James Spader and Jason Robards. He’s also familiar with co-production around the region, having written and produced documentary films in 32 countries of Asia and the South Pacific which have aired on the ABC, BBC, NHK (Japan) and PBS (US).

Kreiworks’ Lina Silva was focused mainly on children’s content. An associate producer on Discovery’s Ana The Pirate and Prix Jeunesse nominee (Josefina in the Kitchen), Silva noted the importance of getting face time with people to establish relationships and told FilmInk she’d met Chinese, Korean and Malaysian compabies at FILMART who were interested in working with Australia.

Silva also said she’d found the trip valuable for getting a clearer understanding of the offer what was what around Asia – the growing amount of post work that’s heading to Thailand, for example. With that knowledge, Silva explained she had a better understanding of what works where, and how best to take advantage of those opportunities.

Director of ScreenACT, Monica Penders, is also a producer (The Secret of Moonacre). EP on the upcoming Australian Comedy/Horror, Me And My Mates Vs. The Zombie Apocalypse (which also employed the talents of other members of the delegation), Penders said, “People been very receptive. We’ve had good responses to an ACT initiative seeking to co-produce market-appropriate lower-budget titles. FILMART is a great market and not as daunting as Cannes. It’s easy to get around and make connections.”

Also from ACT, Andrew Mariott and Rohan Taylor (SilverSun Pictures) had a successful trip, more so than expected according to Taylor. Marriott said Silver Sun had brought nine projects with them, in various stages of development, and had started creating a new one with partners they’d met in Hong Kong.

Taylor also explained that it wasn’t just Chinese partners they’d been meeting with. They’d also had good meetings with American and European producers, who were wasier to connect with at FILMART than at markets such as Cannes.

Perth-based Aidan O’Bryan and Janelle Landers (Something in the Water , Son of a Gun, Wasted on the Young) also noted the access to producers from further afield. O’Bryan said he’d found FILMART “a bigger, more mature and more sophisticated market than I expected”.

Although one project they’d been developing with Chinese partners had fallen over while they were in Hong Kong, O’Bryan and Landers were advancing other projects with other partners from elsewhere in the region.

O’Bryan said that being part of a delegation had been a positive experience, not only for the support and perception of legitmacy but also because he felt it was “good for the perception of australia in the region”.

“There’s definitely an heightened awareness of Australia’s participation in the market,” said SPA’s Conway.

“It’s 1 + 1 = 10,” claimed Penders. “People certainly know the Aussies are here,” she added, drawing laughter from other delegates.

SPA’s Conway wrapped it all up, saying, “The unified delegation under Screen Producers Australia to FILMART has clearly signaled that Australian producers are seriously looking for partnerships, co-production and co-finance opportunities in Asia.”

Also travelling as part of the SPA delegation were Joyce Smith (Content Corner), Pauline Chan (Darkroom Films), Deidre Kitcher (Filmscope Entertainment), Ian Hart and Jun Xiao (Peace Mountain Productions).

FILMART (23 – 26 March) ran as part of the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo. Other events included the Hong Kong Asia Financing Forum (HAF, 23 – 25 March), the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF, 23 March – 6 April) and the Hong Kong Film Awards (22 April). The Asian Film Awards (AFA) ran 25 March in Macau.

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