Experts urge film industry cooperation
Cooperation among key players can lead the Asian movie industry, which already boasts impressive production and viewership figures, to greater heights, according to experts.
Dal Yong Jin, distinguished SFU professor and graduate chair at the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said, "Cross-regional cooperation in Asia is crucial for the growth of the continent's film industry.
"When (filmmakers) work together, they can reduce production costs and make a film in two or three different languages simultaneously."
Noting that Asia has become a leader in the international film market in terms of production and consumption, Jin said this does not mean that the quality of its films can be compared with those made in Hollywood.
Fu Yalong, deputy general manager of the Solutions Department at market observer EnData in Beijing, said cooperation among the film industry in Asia will play an important role in improving domestic film production and market size in different countries, in addition to promoting regional cultural communication.
The development of such cooperation is still in the early stages, and mainly involves distribution, including taking domestically-produced films overseas and introducing high-quality movies from another country to local audiences, Fu said.
"As China is now the world's second-largest film market, it has become an increasingly important regional market for films made in other countries," Fu said, adding that movies from nations such as Japan and India have done well at the box office in China.
For example, the award-winning Shoplifters achieved record-high box office revenue of about 90 million yuan ($12.7 million) within two weeks of its release in China, making it the highest grossing live-action Japanese movie shown in the country.
Jin said one of the most significant forms of regional collaboration is through movies co-produced in Asian countries.
"Through co-production, new funds, new markets and new stories can be found," Jin said.
In December, the Singaporean government launched a $14.7 million initiative to find partners to jointly fund television content and film projects in Southeast Asia, according to The Straits Times.
Raymond Phathanavirangoon, executive director of the Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab, or SEAFIC, said a huge gap in Southeast Asia needs to be bridged in terms of cinematic knowledge, co-production and best moviemaking practices. He noted the increased regional cooperation achieved through initiatives such as that launched in Singapore.
SEAFIC is a nonprofit organization based in Bangkok, Thailand, that aims to strengthen the quality of feature-length films produced in the region by assisting moviemakers to advance scripts and develop projects. Each year, it selects five filmmakers to help develop in this way.
Phathanavirangoon said scriptwriting in Southeast Asia, and even in East Asia, is still lacking in some fields, especially when compared with North America and Europe, where "very clear systems" are in place. His organization has held talks and lectures on scriptwriting in 13 Southeast Asian cities, bringing together leading filmmakers from around the world.
"In Southeast Asia, our markets are pretty small, but there is a lot of potential to work together and see ways to collaborate and open possible markets to new audiences," Phathanavirangoon said.
Fu, from EnData, said the China-led Belt and Road Initiative, which promotes connectivity among countries and regions, can provide opportunities for cooperation in co-production, fundraising, copyright and distribution.
For example, China has signed film co-production agreements with more than 20 countries, including South Korea, India, Singapore, Kazakhstan and Japan, according to the China Film Co-Production Corporation.
Last year, 94 feature film co-production projects were approved, the highest number for five years. Movies such as Enter the Girl Dragon, a co-production with India, and Shouliezhe 12(Hunter 12), a co-production with Malaysia, are expected to be released this year, according to China Film News.
Jin, from SFU, said that as the initiatives grow, cultural creators in Belt and Road countries will have more opportunities to work together, adding that it is critical to respect each nation's media environment.
BRI countries need to expand agreements on film cooperation, both financially and legally, to produce mutual benefits, Jin said.
The coronavirus pandemic will cause significant harm to global entertainment, including the film industry, as moviegoers cannot go to theaters and filmmakers may be unable to resume production for a while, Jin said.