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Hong Kong Filmart 2010: the view from home

The NZ contingent at Filmart comprised a mix of gofficialh attendees, such as Film NZ, plus a collection of other interested parties, including Film Wellington’s Delia Shanly, director Alex Galvin, Shoot New Zealand’s Barbara Williams, Images and Sound, Intergrid’s Scott Houston, lawyer and EP Michael Stephens, plus teams from Agent Smith and Curious Film.

Everybody was there doing their bit for NZ in the Asian market, working and playing hard. As is usually the case, nobody wanted to talk in any detail about the specifics of their activities, with contacts made and discussions ongoing.

However, the Film NZ stand was busy throughout the first three days of the market and open on the fourth (which was more than could be said for a lot of the other stands on the last day). It received a good number of serious enquiries about working in NZ, which was one of the main purposes of taking the stand at Filmart.

Although difficult to quantify in reporting terms, the making, building and maintaining of relationships is of even greater importance in Asia than here at home, so being present at the market, being able to meet face-to-face with people and answer their questions directly is an important part of any strategy of engagement with the industry in Asia.

In general terms, the Film NZ stand also provided support for the other Kiwis present, providing a place to do very practical things like dump bags overladen with material from other attendees at the market, display and offer material from NZ service providers, and to present New Zealanders as a functioning, intelligent, and friendly bunch of people with whom to do business.

Spreading out from the stand, conveniently located near one of the cafe areas which no doubt increased foot-traffic past the Film NZ stand, the various market activities, including HAF and Asian Side of the Doc, were all within easy reach.

Michael Wrenn from Curious attended HAF (the financing forum) as well as Filmart, looking at the sort of work that’s going on and getting attention in the region.

Scott Houston and Michael Stephens both attended the Digital Entertainment Leadership Forum (DELF), Michael chairing one of the panel sessions. Scott’s Intergrid has an existing MOU with Cyberport, the HK government-funded facility which hosted DELF.

The team from Agent Smith was busy taking meetings to advance the in-development Cross the Great Water.

The general feeling from everybody this writer spoke to (who’d been to the market more than once) was that business was on the up again after a slow year last year, if not quite back at the level of two or three years ago. Deals seemed a little slower to close, but most people weren’t concerned whether or not they would close, only when.

One of things Kiwis commented on was the general level of awareness of NZ within Asia and specifically what people were – and were not – aware of.

Everybody knew of Lord of the Rings, although it is fair to say that the ‘LOTR effect’ seems to have mostly had its day. The great scenery was well-known, the ‘if Peter Jackson is working, NZ is full’ myth persists to a degree.

The Closer Economic Partnership between HK and NZ, being signed today, was not something that a lot of people were aware of.

Despite the fact that NZ is now one of the countries known for its technical expertise – most of the ‘knowledge’ being confined to the existence of Weta – the fact that Avatar was (largely) made here was not general knowledge.

Naturally, the brightest star in the NZ firmament was Weta’s Richard Taylor, much in demand at the cocktail party launch of the HK Entertainment Expo which preceded the Asian Film Awards (where he put in a cameo appearance ahead of the presentation of the VFX award) last Monday evening, at DELF on Tuesday 23 and at the launch of the Dr Grordbort’s exhibition on Wednesday.

Filmart’s own survey, conducted amongst the stand-holders (primarily a mix of production companies, distributors and location offices) was almost 100% positive about the immediate future of the industries in Hong Kong and China.

The expectation of increasing amounts of film, 3D and digital entertainment work received the most positive responses, with TV getting a more cautiously positive response.

Animation was more neutral, possibly because – according to locals – the market is becoming saturated with companies producing animation work. The recent demise of Astro Boy production company Imagi (throwing 300 animators out of work) sounded a warning in the sector.

Nobody from here had a bad word to say about the value of making the trip, and everybody was willing (circumstances permitting) to return. Even the returning international journalists, a notoriously cynical lot at times, were positive about this year’s market.

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