Directors need more city backing, film chief says

Financing of local movies is nothing compared with the money Taichung gave to Ang Lee, film development council chairman says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 5:50am

Multimillion-dollar backing from a Taiwanese city for Ang Lee to produce his Oscar-winning Life of Pi has prompted a call for Hong Kong to offer similar direct support to its top film directors.

Film Development Council chairman Jack So Chak-kwong said Hong Kong's support for movie projects was "nothing" compared with the NT$50 million (HK$13 million) raised by the government of Taichung for Lee.

Taiwan-born Lee, who was named best director, thanked Taichung for raising the money to help build the site where most of Life of Pi was filmed.

"Our funding for film production projects is HK$2.7 million on average, but compared with Taiwan's one-off support for Ang Lee, it is nothing," So said.

"I hope the government can provide more support for Hong Kong's film industry by directly supporting renowned directors' local productions.

"It might involve great risks, but if it succeeds, it can drive the development of other industries, bringing tourism and [increasing] local consumption. The filming location [of Life of Pi] has already become a new tourist destination."

His council funds small and medium productions through the Film Development Fund.

As of June last year, the fund had HK$113.7 million, which is expected to be used up by mid-2015.

So, who will be leaving his post at the end of this month after six years, said that since an injection of HK$300 million into the fund in 2007, it had backed 28 projects at a cost of more than HK$70 million.

About 15 films had made it to the cinemas, he said.

The council yesterday unveiled details of its First Feature Film Initiative, an open competition for three new directors and their production teams to make their big screen debut.

One award of HK$5 million will go to a professional group and two of HK$2 million each to two groups from institutions of higher education.

So said the council had been supporting young filmmakers, and support for big names could be considered in future, either in kind or in cash.

Vice-chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok, boss of major studio Media Asia and the designated new Tourism Board chairman, said the support did not necessarily mean cash.

It is true that top directors won't have problems with fund raising, but support that facilitates their location filming and post-production here will help

"It is true that top directors won't have problems with fund raising, but support that facilitates their location filming and post-production here will help," Lam said, adding that he hoped filmmaking in the city would boost tourism.

He cited action star Donnie Yen Ji-dan, who failed to get permission to film parts of his blockbuster The Iceman Cometh 3D on the Tsing Ma Bridge.

Yen complained to the media that the government favoured Hollywood productions, offering the filmmakers access and blocking traffic for projects such as the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises.

So also said he hoped cinemas could be exempt from plot ratio calculations in commercial buildings to save them from closure because of high rents.

He said the number of cinema seats available in Hong Kong had fallen by a third since the peak three decades ago. "The mainland is getting four or five new cinema screens every day. Hong Kong is losing the race," So said.