For the past two days, I was attending a seminar on the film industries’ models in Asia and Europe. Surely this is not a seminar to discuss what waistlines and hiplines and bosomlines film actors and actresses should have to qualify as a model in Asia or Europe. It is a seminar to discuss how the state/government can do to help the fragile film industry. As the speaker from Korea, Mr. Kim Hong-Joon said, it’s like a forum to discuss guerrila war tactics against the Hollywood domination.
Some very interesting thoughts and facts were presented, if you care about the film industry. Will talk more about this later.
The seminar was organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF). You can get more information on the programme and seminar outline from their website, or you can click here for a shortcut.
If there is one thing that screamed out in this seminar, it is this: the national film industry at least for countries in Asia and Europe needs help (yes, even the Koreans have a quota system to protect its industry). Something has to be done. Well, this is not something new, by the way. The film industry was lucrative in its early days, but surely not now. Even in Hollywood, the average rate of return for investment in feature films is about minus 5%. According to a Hollywood financier, only 3 out of 10 movies will do well and one will hit the jackpot. The rest are losers. So one wonders why people still bother to make films. I am not going into that here but it’s food for thought for you, if you have not been thinking about that already.
I am waiting for some slides from the seminar to be able to properly talk about the various schemes and models each country represented used to help their national film industry. In general, we see in Europe the establishment of film funds to provide financial assistance to the film makers. Some of these funds are actually used as grants and do not need to be repaid even if the producers have recouped their investment, as in the case of Sweden.
Oh well, while waiting for the slides to come in, I might as well state some facts here for your interest.
1. In South Korea, as I mentioned earlier, the government protects the film industry by making it compulsory for each screen (mind you, not each location) to play a Korean film at least 146 days out of 365 days.
2. In France, 36% of the film production cost is financed by TV stations. The logic is really this: with the advent of TV, the cinema suffered and as a result, TV should contribute back to the film funds. Something like that. Furthermore, there is a quota for French TV stations as well. They must show 60% European content out of which 40% of them must be in French. Poor TV people….
3. The Swedish film funds actually provide grants of up to 75% of the production cost and these money need not be repaid. The percentage of the grant depends on how big the film is. The smaller the film, the bigger the grant, so a lot of producers actually make small films and earn more money than those commercial people. As Mr. Eiffel Mattsson, the representative from Sweden whom I conversed with during lunch, people are exploiting the fund and new regulations are now being studied to remedy the situation. He also commented on the state of the film industry in his country and is now despearately looking for the next Ingmar Bergman (surely you must have at least watched <Wild Strawberries> and the <Seventh Seal>?)
4. According to the UNESCO stats, 3.6billion people watches Bollywood films while 2.6billion people watches Hollywood films. The Indians actually produces and screens an average of over 1,000 films a year.
5. Thailand do not really have an organisation (like CNC, KOFIC or FINAS) to take care of its industry but plans to do so. However, the government allows up to 8 years of tax free period if films are produced/shot in Thailand. It is interesting to note that the Thais used to produced over a hundred films before 1990 but dropped to 8 films in around 1996. How they have improved now….
I just wonder, if the film industry needs such an enormous state financing, it will cease slowly to be an economic enterprise because it exists not because people want to watch their national movie, but the state deems it important to protect some sort of a cultural heritage. I have always believed that to be able to have a sustainable film industry, it has to be market-drive. State support can only do as much as providing, at most, a quota for the exhibitors to screen national movies and granting repayable, interest-bearing loans of up to say a maximum of 50% of the production cost, but I don’t think giving money by way of grants and subsidies to filmmakers will work in the long term.
There is an envy-hate feeling towards Hollywood films just because they are doing so well and is eroding their national films. [The only two countries that has a 90 over percent share of its film market is the USA and India]. But in the first place, why would Hollywood be so powerful? The answer lies in the their genius in enterprise and the many years of hardwork to establish their network. They control everything from production to the distribution and marketing of the products. They nurture their stars. They make movies that the general public enjoy. And they are conglomerates, controlling various media platforms that acts synergistically to give their product maximum exposure, and also window to recoup their investment. In short, they are agressive people, working very, very hard to survive in a market-driven, competitive environment. Only in this way would any industry, not only the film industry, thrive.
Before I end this post, I would like to share with you here something about this powerful Hollywood sexopoly.
If you really care that much and want to know more about this Hollywood business, you can read this.
Now, if all these cannot satisfy your appetite still, read this: Why Hollywood Rules the World, and Whether We Should Care.