Partnering with right producer key to young directors getting exposure at festivals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:20pm

More young film directors are earning overseas exposure at international film festivals this year, but not everyone is privileged enough to enter this game.

Singer-actor Juno Mak Chun-lun, 29, will screen the world premiere of his directorial debut, the stylised horror film Rigor Mortis, at the Venice Film Festival's Venice Days section tomorrow.

His debut follows first-time director Flora Lau's entry in the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard section with the odd romantic drama Bends in May.

One thing Lau and Mak have in common is that both their films were produced by internationally renowned filmmakers.

Hong Kong veteran Nansun Shi produced Lau's first feature, while Takashi Shimizu, director of the global Japanese horror phenomenon Ju-on/The Grudge series, came on board for Mak.

Winnie Tsang Lai-fun of distribution company Golden Scene said partnering with the right producer and sales agent who knew how to pitch to festivals was the key to getting shown.

Mak said his film's international distributor Fortissimo submitted his film to the festival, and it was completely out of his hands.

Video: Hong Kong singer Juno Mak on his first directing experience

After its Italian showing, Rigor Mortis will travel to the Toronto International Film Festival and screen in the Midnight Madness section. "When I shot Rigor Mortis, I never intended to show it at festivals or try for any awards, but I am very happy about being able to compete in Venice and Toronto," he said.

In Rigor Mortis, Mak pays homage to the vampire films that dominated Hong Kong in the 1980s. The film reunites Chin Siu-ho and the semi-retired Anthony Chan Yau, stars of the horror comedy Mr Vampire, which earned HK$20 million at the box office and spawned two sequels.

"I'm really happy for my cast because they represent a certain golden period of Hong Kong," Mak said.

He said the key to a film's success lay in having a good script and telling a local story from a global perspective, as this would help it reach a wider market. "I try not to be narrow-minded and focus on one market," he said.

Meanwhile, despite being a first-time director, Lau gathered an ensemble cast including Carina Lau Ka-ling, award-winning cinematographer Christopher Doyle and art director William Chang Suk-ping for her film.

The 33-year-old said film festivals allowed her not only to share her work with international audiences, but also to exchange ideas with other filmmakers.

Bends will also be shown at Toronto in the Discovery section.