Film commission seminar urges more incentives

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BUSAN, South Korea -- "Put your money where your mouth is" in terms of incentives summed up location expert Bill Bowling's advice Saturday to a gathering of film commission representatives and government officials from across the Asia-Pacific region.

The seminar, titled "The Movement of the Film Industry, from Hollywood to Asia," addressed tactics in drawing more film production to the region. The gathering was part of the Asia-Pacific Film Policy Forum running alongside BIFFCOM during the Pusan International Film Festival.

Listing countries with sizable incentive programs, such as Canada, Australia, Fiji and Spain, Bowling said, "The way a studio makes a movie is by doing multiple budgets -- and seeing which territory offers the lowest costs and best benefits."

Bowling, worldwide locations executive at Warner Bros. from 2006-08, put clear emphasis on cost offsets, with financial incentives, state support and cost-efficient platforms as the biggest draws for U.S. studios.

With the rise in co-production traffic and increasing Hollywood and European interest in the Asia-Pacific region, the Asian Film Commissions Network invited Bowling along with Michael Lake, a Hollywood veteran who sits on the Advisory Board of Film Commissioners International, to speak on co-production and location filming in Asia.

Lake noted the recent crop of co-productions, such as John Woo's "Red Cliff" and Park Chan-wook's "Thirst," which has Universal and Focus Features aboard a South Korean project, saying there is no reason Asia can't produce films for the international market the way Hollywood does.

"The big challenge is to make films that are relevant to audiences in each of the co-producers' territories," he said.

Other key points Saturday dealt with censorship and reducing state interference through the script-approval process required in many Asian countries. Bowling advised on developing more co-production treaties like the one recently signed by South Korea and New Zealand.

Ultimately, Bowling said, an increase in international productions is grounded in the health of each local industry. "The success of domestic and international productions go hand-in-hand," he said.

With South Korea undergoing a crisis in its local film industry, the ongoing issue of piracy in Asia and the current global credit crunch, the seminar drew a full house eager to understand the shifting tides. Last year, Asia was the only region in the world to suffer a decline in boxoffice gross, down 14% from 2006.
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