Upclose: Cora Yim
Fox International Channels has recently announced plans to make several original Hong Kong-based miniseries in Cantonese, English and Putonghua. Is Fox set to become the new Asian TV powerhouse? Evelyn Lok speaks to Senior Vice President Cora Yim about what’s in the pipeline.
HK Magazine: So, what have you got coming up?
Cora Yim: “Guilty As Sin” is currently in the pre-production stage. The story will take place in Hong Kong, in these past couple of decades since the handover. The tone is aimed to be similar to “Fight Club.” It won’t be about things like characters asking if you’ve had your dinner. It will use [more complex] narrative structures such as flashbacks and crossed timelines. For the English-language production, it will be an action genre series, similar to “24.” We are looking for non-Chinese talent: Especially as it will have more of an English-language and Putonghua emphasis.
HK: Why here, why now?
CY: What’s very interesting about Hong Kong in these past decades, as a society, is that it’s a place where a lot of stories happen. Even international studios are paying more attention to Hong Kong, such as with “Transformers” and “Batman.” Our main product is locally produced movies. And for high-concept, cinematic productions, Hong Kong’s creative talents are excellent. For example, Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai, Wong Kar-wai—they all started out in TV a long time ago. I personally really appreciate Hong Kong filmmakers as they are efficient and skillful, and have mature storytelling abilities.
HK: What’s the difference between western and Hong Kong TV?
CY: If you look at American series, they are in general more cinematic. The stories are more innovative. Hong Kong’s storytelling [in television] is more traditional. It’s quite a big problem. Characters, story, and even dialog tend to be very stereotyped. We hope to lend a stronger filmmaking hand to the production process.
HK: What gap do you hope these productions will fill?
CY: Generally, television companies may want to cater to a more family audience, or make the plots very obvious. Everyone is concerned by the tastes of their TV audiences. But nowadays it’s not like that—for example a lot of local housewives watch Korean and even American dramas. People may be underestimating their audience. For us, our film channel is regional—so our potential creative space is a lot greater.
HK: What’s so hard about putting together a quality show?
CY: In the Greater China area, we don’t have many versatile writers, and these talents are in great demand. Especially in Hong Kong, our writers in TV and film are generally quite narrow-minded. It was better before, back in the 90s. There were a lot of opportunities back then, where up to 200 films would be made a year—nowadays it’s 50 a year. Today, there’s also a concern to write topics for mainland audiences, not just Hong Kong. Naturally [producers] find mainland writers instead, as they need to cater to those tastes. Hong Kong writers lack the practice and opportunity, so it’s a vicious cycle. That’s also why we can’t film too much at the same time: it takes a long time to develop the story, and to find the right talents to work on it.
HK: What kind of TV do you watch?
CY: I love watching American shows—”House of Cards,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Newsroom,” a lot of these types of shows. They’re well written, well acted and you can watch them many times. These are the kinds of shows I would want to film. In Chinese-language productions, it’s uncommon to see humanity or societal issues being covered. It doesn’t have to be too heavy, but there is a lack of these topics being talked about in TV. As the media, you do have the social responsibility to get people inspired—whether to be encouraging or uplifting, or to review social and personal problems—this is what needs to be done.
Stay tuned for “Guilty As Sin” by Fox International Channels, expected to air spring of 2016. One of its platforms, Star Chinese Movies, has just acquired 860 hours of classic drama from ATV, ranging from “My Date With A Vampire” to “Central Affairs.” Catch them on NowTV channels 139 and 140.