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Hong Kong: from Suzy Wong to John Woo

New Zealand is moving towards a co-production treaty with Hong Kong. The next step along the way will be an arrangement, at the ministry to ministry level (rather than government to government level of a full-blown treaty agreement).

This is part two of a two-part article. Part one is here.

The non-binding arrangement, possibly to be signed as soon as November, will be for co-operation between the audio-visual industries. The Hong Kong government apparently isn’t fond of “meaningless bits of paper”, and is seeking to bolster the substance of the arrangement with reference to specific activities.

One of the advantages of a co-production treaty for New Zealand production companies will be the ability to access the mainland China market. In much the same way as NZ content on Australian TV is classed as Australian ‘domestic content’, HK-produced content accesses mainland China’s cinema and TV screens, bypassing the need to gain acceptance as part of the foreign material quota.

According to Chris Lipscombe of Ground Zero, who’s been working with Wellington-based Intergrid and Cyberport in Hong Kong, “As the appetite for digital content grows through the Asian region, the opportunities for New Zealand content creators grows too.”

There have been a number of projects over recent years on which NZ and HK have co-operated. Recently, John Woo’s Hong Kong Red Cliff had much of its post done at Park Road.

In March, a Memorandum of Understanding on Digital Entertainment Creative Business Collaboration was signed between a number of NZ and HK organisations: Grow Wellington, the NZ Institute for Screen Innovation (NZISI), the Internet Association of HK and Cyberport.

The memorandum is not a formal part of the process of moving towards a treaty, but supports the push towards one by demonstrating existing activity and co-operation in the screen industry sectors, and has been put in place to drive some specific commercial and training outcomes.

Following the signing of the MoU at the Digital Entertainment Leadership Forum (DELF) at Cyberport in Hong Kong in March, a Hong Kong delegation will visit Wellington at the time of the AnimFX conference in November. It is hoped that the leader of the delegation, Mr. Duncan Pescod, Hong Kong’s Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Communications and Technology), will address the conference.

There’s a strong interest in HK in the capabilities of NZ technical and production talent, not just the facilities of organisations such as Park Road, but also on an individual basis. Gary McKay, production designer for South Pacific Pictures’ Go Girls, has been working regularly in Hong Kong since 2004.

Jodi Smith and James Sweetbaum of AgentSmith are developing Cross Great Water, based on the true story the first Chinese man to arrive in Fiji and a Chinese nun who fell in love with a New Zealand missionary. Pitched at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June, the producers are investigating options to make it as a HK-NZ co-production.

Gibson Group is in development with Beijing Yechen Movie and TV Cultural Development Co Limited for a 26-hour international drama series, Gold Rush Revelation which interweaves the lives of the first generation of the Chinese migrants in New Zealand with the lives of their descendants living in contemporary New Zealand a century later.

An internship exchange is already in place between Cyberport’s digital media centre and Intergrid in Wellington, with the Kiwi intern shortly moving on from Cyberport to work at Shaw Brothers Studio.

As for the announcement of the signing of the arrangement for co-operation on audio visual industries, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and for Culture and Heritage and Commerce and Economic Bureau of the Government of Hong Kong, along with a number of other interested parties, are dotting the i’s at the moment and working out the protocol for who will announce what, where and when.

New Zealand has existing co-production treaty agreements with Australia (1986), France, Canada (1987), United Kingdom (1993), Italy (1997), Singapore (2004), Germany (2005), Ireland (2007), Spain and the Republic of Korea (2008). It has treaties under negotiation with South Africa, India and China.

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