Panel: Co-prod'ns rely on quality

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HONG KONG -- The perennially hot topic of international co-productions led off this year's Hong Kong Filmart on Monday, as panelists emphasized the importance of movie quality over financial considerations.

"We believe that co-productions should begin with co-development,” said Jonathan Olsberg, chairman of Olsberg/SPI, U.K. "If the reason for a co-production is solely financial, the greater the chance the film will be substandard."

Lee In-ah, a producer for the German Greenskyfilms, said that none of her films could have been made without co-productions, adding that co-productions need expertise to be useful. "Information is key," Lee said. "Many co-productions don't happen because people don't look for them. They don't know. You need to know your local region well. You have to do your homework."

Buddy Marini, managing director at Avex Asia, said that international co-productions were a way his young movie company would compete with the entrenched media in Japan.

"Our goal is to become a producer, not just a financier," Marini said. "We believe in an integrated Asian market. Of course, each country has its own history, but if you look at Asia as one market, we believe there are more opportunities than just in Japan."

Marini also pointed out that though the "Korean Wave" has crashed in Japan, its lingering effects are very positive. "The structural changes are here to stay, like Japan's openness to Korean talent," Marini said. "I think down the line, the same thing will happen with China."

Commercial appeal was another important part of many panelists' considerations. "No one should be in the business of making films just for challenging China's cultural norms," said Ted Perkins, production executive at International Data Group, the world's largest technology publisher, which has branched out into venture capital and cultural content. "It's not our job to challenge cultural norms. I hope we never run afoul of the authorities. We follow the rules and have no intention of challenging those rules."
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