See the bigger picture on the film industry
Film Development Council's chairman urges policymakers to consider city's flagship creative industry in light of overall cultural development
The Film Development Council will review its funding schemes and draft new proposals for nurturing talent, but these won't be enough to move the industry forward if film development is not considered within the context of overall cultural policy, the council's new chairman has said.
"If we can't talk about cultural policy, problems with the development of Hong Kong's film industry can't be resolved," Ma Fung-kwok told the South China Morning Post.
Ma, who is also the lawmaker for the culture and sports functional constituency, said that cultural and creative industries, which under the government's classification include film and 10 other industries, should be incorporated into and synchronised with the city's cultural policy planning.
He cited South Korea's success, saying the country's holistic approach covering creative fields, talent training, research and development, as well as technology, was the key.
In Hong Kong, under the current policy structure, film falls under the remit of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, which looks at trade and commerce. Such segregation overlooks the cultural side of creative industries, Ma said.
He said the current set-up was proposed back in 2003 when the now defunct Culture and Heritage Commission, established by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, drafted a cultural policy recommendation report, which covered a range of issues from Hong Kong's cultural identity to arts development, creative industries, heritage and the West Kowloon Cultural District.
"In 2004, Tung accepted the proposal. But then, [the commission] was disbanded after he stepped down. Hong Kong went back to the old thinking. We missed the chance," said Ma, who was a member of the commission.
Ma said he hopes existing initiatives such as those providing funding for film productions can be kept and fine-tuned in the next few years. He said managing public expectations will also be important coming off the back of last year's audit report on the film industry, which lamented the low return rate of government-funded film projects and had given the public a negative impression.
"But this isn't right. If the market is okay and [filmmakers] can make money, they wouldn't have to apply for funding," said Ma, himself a former film producer and co-founder Media Asia, a local film industry powerhouse now owned by showbiz tycoon Peter Lam Kin-ngok.
Films should be judged by both their economic value and social value, which includes artistic value, impact on the industry and talent cultivation, he said.
A thorough review of the Film Development Fund will be needed, he added. The fund, which has supported film projects, events and screenings of local productions at overseas festivals, will be depleted next year. Since 2007 when the government injected HK$300 million into the fund, it has handed out HK$72.4 million for 26 productions.
While the First Feature Film Initiative, a competition of first-time filmmakers that offers a direct subsidy to the winning film project, will help train talent, Ma said he hopes more will be done for script writing and post-production talent.
Of the 50 Hong Kong films produced on average a year, few had post-production, such as editing and sound mixing, done here, Ma said.
Land policy is also seen as a factor. Ma said it has been hard for cinemas, bookstores and other outlets for cultural content to endure the high rents in shopping malls. "Some districts don't even have cinemas," he said.
A review of existing land resources should be done to set aside space for production sets and studios, Ma suggested.