Dialogue: Pang Ho-cheung
EmptyPang Ho-cheung is the hardest-working man in the Hong Kong film industry. A published author, film critic and radio talk-show host who has added screenwriting, directing and producing to his resume, he is currently developing four film projects as well as writing novels and showing beginner filmmakers the ropes as producer. Pang -- who made his name with "You Shoot, I Shoot" (2001) and gained international recognition with the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival competition entry "Isabella" -- also has ventured into film financing with "Trivial Matters," a collection of six stories paid out of his own pocket that is featured in the Pusan International Film Festival's A Window on Asian Cinema section and was presented in the Asian Film Market through Hong Kong's Golden Scene. He also is the producer of Benny Lau's directorial debut "Mr. Right," a short premiering in the Wide Angle sidebar. Chong recently took time to talk to The Hollywood Reporter's Karen Chu about his "cocktail treatment" approach to financing and juggling 10 things at once.
The Hollywood Reporter: How many projects are you working on now?
Pang Ho-cheung: I'm working on finding Korean distributors for "Trivial Matters" with the help of Golden Scene, and I'm planning the shoot of my 2007 Pusan Promotion Project entry, "One Day of Ibrahim," in Kenya, which is postponed because of the political instability there. Also, I'm trying to finish the script of "The Bus," a project which was presented in the Hong Kong and Asia Film Financing Forum; we are planning to shoot it in Thailand. In addition, I'm developing an unnamed family drama which will be a Hong Kong-China co-production starting at the end of 2008, which will cost around HK$15 million ($1.9 million). There is also another project that I'm working on which will be shot in Pusan, but the script is not ready yet. It will be backed by Korean and Hong Kong investors. Besides, I'm also planning a collection of short stories in Chinese to be published in Hong Kong, and I'll be the producer of Hong Kong singer Juno Mak's directorial debut.
THR: In the past six months, you've attended festivals in Hong Kong, Udine, Russia, Pusan and will be at the Tokyo Project Gathering next month. What is your strategy?
Pang: I try to go to as many markets as I can to meet more distributors. I never believe that a film should be made to serve one particular market. It is more important to bring a film to audiences in different countries.
THR: Do you also have a strategy in finding film funding to suit your projects?
Pang: I use a "cocktail treatment" to find backers for my films. I have to go for the film market and festival route, as well as to approach Hong Kong studios simultaneously. The advantage of finding investors in film markets and festivals is that they are more open to different kinds of films, but it's slow to get a project going. Whereas the traditional Hong Kong style of finding money for a film is much faster -- a project can be greenlit before the script is ready -- but a project must satisfy the taste of the local market or meet the requirements of the Chinese censors. So in order to get funding for my films, I go in from all directions at the same time.
THR: You used a different approach for your Pusan entry "Trivial Matters."
Pang: I wanted to try self-financing for this film, so I paid for a part of it myself and also gathered private funding from my friends. The film cost HK$4 million ($514,000), and even before distribution in foreign markets it has broken even with the theatrical and DVD release in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Through this project, I also learned more about financing and distribution. So it was a good experience and successful first try for me.
THR: You started your career as a filmmaker when the Hong Kong industry began its downturn, but you've managed to be prolific. What is the secret to your success?
Pang: I don't really have any special formula for success, I only believe I should try my best in everything I do. But going after different ways of finding investment certainly helped. Many Hong Kong directors don't go to film markets to look for funding; the traditional way was to go to a local studio with an idea and see if it'd be accepted. This approach only works in Hong Kong but not elsewhere. By going to film markets and meeting distributors, I understand why some Hong Kong films can't get foreign markets, and what foreign distributors look for in a film.
Date of Birth: Sept. 22, 1973
Films in Pusan: "Trivial Matters,"
"Mr. Right" (as producer)
Selected filmography: "Exodus" (2007), "Isabella" (2006), "A.V." (2005),"Men Suddenly in Black" (2003),
"You Shoot, I Shoot" (2001)
Notable awards: Hong Kong Film Awards best new director, "Men Suddenly in Black," (2003)