HBO Asia Exec Predicts Asia Will Create Its Own 'Game of Thrones' Within 10 Years

Courtesy of HBO
'Game of Thrones'

Asia has stories and talents, but it will be a learning curve to be able to target the global audience.

On the back of the global phenomenon that is the concluding season of Game of Thrones, head of HBO Asia original production Jessica Kam-Engle said that Asia will be able to produce a series of the sprawling scale, world-building ability and worldwide influence of the cable channel’s crowning glory within a decade. 

"Asia will potentially create Asia’s own Game of Thrones within 10 years. As we see now, there are more big-budget TV shows, for example in China, that have high production value," Kam-Engle told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview at APOS in Bali, Indonesia.

The challenge right now is not the lack of culturally significant stories nor individual talents, but showrunners who can oversee a large-scale production that sees filming taking place simultaneously across continents.

"In terms of stories, there are a plethora of Asian court power struggle dramas, add to that a few dragons, and then we’d have something in the vein of Game of Thrones," she said. "So there is no lack of stories we can tell here. Do we have the similar caliber storytellers, scriptwriters, producers, directors and actors? We have more in some fields than others, but we certainly have good actors, directors and creativity."

She also added: "Writers that can command an overarching structure, we might not have a lot, but we do have them. What it is scarce is showrunners that can oversee the whole machine. Game of Thrones had different productions on the same day in perhaps four countries. We might not have that kind of showrunners. We might have to import them."

Just as importantly, Kam-Engle explained that it’s the impact that can transcend cultures that is an obstacle. "If we want to create an Asian Game of Thrones, it means a franchise that is an Asian property that targets the worldwide audience. Are we ready for that?" Kam-Engle asked. "I think we still have some way to go. Our primary focus right now is to satisfy and appease our Asian audience, which is sizable in itself with over 20 countries in total. The audience in Asia has its own needs, but if we bypass their needs and plan a Chinese or Japanese show that can woo the world, we might lose our local audience. That is not a wise path to take. We have to take care of our home turf first."

"It’s also about the mindset to target a global audience. China has a lot of money to create something with a high production value, and India makes hundreds of films a year. But they don’t travel because they are not made with a mindset to target the global audience. So it’s a learning curve for us," she said.

She added: "To create a show like Game of Thrones, it’s not the efforts of one or two people, but the expertise of thousands of people. It takes the ability to focus on the global audience ... In Asia, we have a very fragmented TV market, and traditionally experts are trained to serve the local market. They are well-trained to focus on the local audience, but at this stage, we don’t have enough professionals trained well enough to target the world, And we need a lot to get there." 

HBO Asia launched four new titles in March, including Food Lore with Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo as showrunner, and has recently released the highly acclaimed Taiwan-set crime/psychological drama The World Between Us across Asia. The film has an IMDb rating of 9.5, which is the same as Game of Thrones — but it was also besieged by piracy in China.

The show has been planned for release on the country’s leading online video platform Tencent, but with no release date confirmed. Yet in mid-April, the whole series, including the last two episodes that haven’t been broadcast at the time, was pirated online via a Chinese website. HBO Asia, along with its co-producing partners, Taiwan’s national broadcaster PTS and entertainment conglomerate CatchPlay, took immediate action. A second season of the show, with a new and undisclosed cast, has been announced by PTS.