HK earmarks HK$260M to revive film industry

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 16, 2020
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The Hong Kong government's Commerce & Economic Development Bureau announced on Monday that it will earmark around HK$260 million (US$33.5 million) under the Film Development Fund (FDF) to implement five major measures to re-energize Hong Kong's film industry hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.

A cinema reopens in Hong Kong on May 8, 2020. [Photo/VCG]

Edward Yau Tang-wah, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said, "As a result of social events and the epidemic, local film production and investment have shrunk, posing acute challenges to the trade and practitioners in the past year.

"The government is therefore committed to providing multi-pronged support to get through this difficult period and sustain the success story of Hong Kong films."

The five major measures are the Directors' Succession Scheme, relaxation of the Film Production Financing Scheme (FPFS), the Scriptwriting Incubation Programme, short-term advanced training programs, and enhancement of the First Feature Film Initiative (FFFI).

Under the Directors' Succession Scheme, qualified directors are invited to partner with young directors to co-produce films, with earmarked funding of around HK$100 million to subsidize 10 to 12 local film productions. Each film will be granted a subsidy of around HK$9 million.

Directors who have accepted invitations to join the first round of the scheme include Wong Kar-wai, Derek Yee, Peter Chan, Gordon Chan, and duo Mabel Cheung and Alex Law. They will partner with young directors Keane Wong, Ronald Zee, Wong Chun, Ralph Chau, and Norris Wong, respectively.

The relaxation of the FPFS helps increase the number of local film productions in the short term and provide relief to film practitioners. The Hong Kong government will increase the actual financing amount, grant priority to investors to recover half of their investment, and make the disbursement earlier. The measures will benefit more than 10 film productions, involving government financing of HK$100 million.

The Scriptwriting Incubation Programme encourages aspiring scriptwriters to join the profession and current scriptwriters to produce high-quality scripts. With the earmarked funding of around HK$8 million, about 40 quality screenplays will be incubated.

The Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers and the Hong Kong Film Directors' Guild have been subsidized with HK$20 million to organize in-depth professional training courses with tuition fees exempted.

In the 6th edition of the First Feature Film Initiative, the maximum number of winning teams was increased to six. The production budget for the Higher Education Institution Group has been raised from HK$3.25 million to HK$5 million. The production budget for the Professional Group has been raised from HK$5.5 million to HK$8 million. 

The 6th edition of the initiative saw a total of 55 applications, representing an 80% increase. The winning teams will receive funding from the FDF to implement their winning film proposals and make their first commercial feature films. They are required to complete the whole film production and sales process, which involves planning, shooting and distribution. The teams will be provided with ample opportunities to acquire practical knowledge in making a feature film.

"The measures respond to film practitioners' needs and provide platforms for them to showcase their talents, thereby injecting fresh impetus into the industry," said Wilfred Wong Ying-wai, chairman of Hong Kong Film Development Council.

The plan arrived just as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was forced to close its theaters once again due to a new outbreak of COVID-19. In the region, movie theaters were closed down from mid-March to mid-May, with the normally robust box office nosediving by over 70%.

The Film Development Fund was first set up in 1999. Over the years, it has funded about 60 film productions and groomed about 40 new directors and 19 new producers through various subsidy schemes. The productions have won more than 110 local and overseas awards. Since 2005, together with the HK$1 billion injection in 2019, the government has invested HK$1.54 billion into the FDF to support the local film industry along four strategic directions, namely nurturing talent, enhancing local production, expanding markets, and building the audience. 

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