Hong Kong looks to develop film culture

Film Development Council has $384 mil fund

CANNES -- Despite Chinese and Hong Kong cultures growing ever closer, some differences remain. Or so says Jack So, chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, who is in Cannes to talk up the latest film developments in the former British territory.

Speaking with THR, So emphasized the strong position Hong Kong occupies in the overall Chinese film industry, and spoke about continuing efforts to re-build and boost the Hong Kong film economy.

As part of that focus, the Hong Kong government established a Film Development Council in November 2007 of which So is also chairman.

"The Hong Kong government feels that the film industry is an important part of the local economy, not only for the film industry itself, but also in terms of the effect on the economy like tourism, or design," So said.

The Film Council was established at a time when the number of Hong Kong productions has declined sharply from 200 productions just a few years ago to 50 productions a year.

In response to the situation, the Film Council established a HK$300 million ($384 million) film fund last November providing equity financing for films that have a 50 per cent Hong Kong spend.

So far three films have been given the greenlight with a further dozen under consideration.

"The fund is very much a venture capital fund in that you can't guarantee success," said So. "But the government is willing to take that risk."As per So, there are a number of factors that have affected the decline in production, including piracy and Internet downloads.

"Still, we are making a comeback," said So. "The government is making an effort to facilitate this comeback and realizing this is important for the economy."

Another focus for the Film Council is to work on developing the relationship between China and Hong Kong, dealing with Chinese censorship issues and restrictions from the Chinese authorities, and getting the ball rolling with co-productions and beyond.

A major advantage Hong Kong has is an exemption from the quota of 24 international films allowed to be shown in China each year.