Although Filmart felt quiet on its first morning, with many attendees glued to their phones watching the Oscars, it soon turned into a reasonably vibrant market, with sales companies locked in back-to-back meetings, new project announcements and a few star appearances to liven up proceedings.
With some large country pavilions deciding to skip the event, the trade show floor in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre had a lot of wide corridors and some empty spaces. But there was enough foot traffic and meetings activity to make it feel like a busy market.
MakerVille CEO Lofai Lo Talks Push Into Movies & Premium Series; Unveils 'We Twelve' Starring Mirror, 'Three Destinies' Produced With Johnnie To – Filmart
“With two record-breaking Hong Kong films before and the historical Oscar wins during the market, this Filmart had a lot of hopeful energy,” says WME Independent’s Nelson Mok. “We found there were many co-production and financing opportunities that are going to pave the way for meaningful collaborations.”
Sales agents were welcoming the return of in-person meetings with buyers from mainland China, for the first time in three years, many of whom had made a last-minute decision to travel to Hong Kong following the removal of Covid restrictions on both sides of the border.
“Our sales agents are saying the Chinese companies they’re meeting are serious buyers,” says European Film Promotion’s deputy managing director Jo Muhlberger. “Although they’re not signing contracts yet, they’re really starting to get back into business.”
Muhlberger added that the Europeans were also meeting a healthy number of buyers from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and even a few from Middle Eastern countries. “They’re saying there were very few no shows, and if one company didn’t turn up, another would would drop by and they’d end up having a productive meeting.”
Speaking off the record, sellers from Europe and Asia also say they’re feeling optimistic about the changing of the guard at the China Film Bureau, which may result in more films being imported into the country this year.
Not many sales deals were announced during the market’s four days (March 13-16), but that was usually the case at Filmart even before the pandemic, with the event acting as an Asia-focused bridge between Berlin and Cannes (Busan’s Asian Film and Contents Market plays a similar role in the autumn season).
Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Chinese companies were using the occasion to launch new titles, often with stars in tow, which injected some energy into the event. Hong Kong’s Emperor Motion Pictures (EMP) had a splashy showcase of new titles on the market’s second day, where it announced actor Nicholas Tse’s directing debut, New Police Story 2, in which Tse will also star with Jackie Chan. Tse will also star in new projects directed by Derek Kwok and Dante Lam.
A surprise visit by all 12 members of Hong Kong boy band Mirror and Korean star Lee Je Hoon created a huge amount of excitement on the market’s third day. They appeared as part of a presentation of new projects from MakerVille and streaming platform Viu, both sister companies under PCCW Media Group.
Mirror are starring in feature film We Twelve for MakerVille, as reported by Deadline on Tuesday, and Lee came to talk about Viu Original Taxi Driver 2, part of an expanding slate of Korean, Chinese and Southeast Asian originals from the pan-regional streaming platform. Viu also announced a series of fan events across Southeast Asia, called Viu Scream Dates, that will include appearances by Lee Je Hoon and Lee Seung-gi, among other Korean and Southeast Asian stars.
Filmart also looked to the future on the third day with a seminar on ‘Uncovering the Application of Web3 in the Entertainment Industry’, with speakers including Lionsgate EVP and Head of Global Products & Experiences, Jenefer Brown; Animoca Brands’ Evan Auyang, Gusto Collective’s Lucas Cheung, and EST Media and OP3N founder Jaeson Ma.
Defining Web3 as a new iteration of the internet that encompasses ownership of content, rather than just reading or publishing, the panelists discussed how film and tech companies are using the technology to co-create and develop deeper engagements with fans and consumers.
EST Media’s Jaeson Ma explained how he’s used a blockchain-powered platform OP3N to crowd-fund a $6m musical film featuring members of Now United, the global pop group launched by American Idol creator Simon Fuller. Jenefer Brown, Lionsgate’s EVP and Head of Global Products & Experiences, described how fans of the Saw franchise were gifted with digital wallets for a set visit to Mexico.
While tech giants like Meta, Bytedance and Tencent appear to have been rethinking their Web3 ambitions, the speakers said this wasn’t slowing down development at the start-up level. According to Gusto Collective’s Lucas Cheung, Shanghai still has Web3 development projects, despite China’s clampdown on cryptocurrency trading. Hong Kong’s recent introduction of a more relaxed regulatory environment for cryptocurrencies has led to hopes of a similar thaw in Beijing.
“The bottom line is that China doesn’t want speculation around digital assets, so is trying to regulate secondary market trading, but both state-level and central government seem to be very pro evolution of the Web3 space,” said Cheung.
Also on the third day of the market, Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) wrapped with an awards ceremony that gave out 20 cash and in-kind awards worth more than $170,000. Hong Kong filmmaker Sasha Chuk was the big winner receiving an unprecedented four awards – the Heaven Pictures Young Director Award, the CCG Grand Award, the mm2 Award, and the WIP Award – for her Stanley Kwan-produced project Fly Me To the Moon.
While Michelle Yeoh’s Best Actress Oscar win had everyone celebrating on the first day of the market, Hong Kong had its own glamorous awards ceremony on the night before Filmart opened, with the Asian Film Awards also returning as an in-person event for the first time since 2019. Stars at the event at Hong Kong Palace Museum included Best Actor winner Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Sammo Hung, recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Next up, Hong Kong International Film Festival kicks off on March 30 and the Hong Kong Film Awards takes place on April 16.
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