Taiwan’s major film organisations look set to make an aggressive push into the mainland China market, in a bid to develop a mainstream film industry to complement the country’s current output of low-budget indie fare.
Speaking at a forum organised by the Taipei Film Commission (TFC), local industry leaders said they were in talks with mainland authorities about allowing Taiwanese films to bypass import quotas, and that the discussions looked “extremely promising”.
“They said if we open the Taiwan market to mainland Chinese production, they will also open the China market to us,” said Frank Chen, head of the motion pictures department at the Government Information Office (GIO).
“We have to enter the mainland market, there’s no other way to grow the industry, and we hope local enterprises will help us as can’t do it all with government funds.”
At present, Taiwanese films are classified as foreign by mainland Chinese authorities and subject to the same narrow import quotas as US and other foreign films.
However, warmer cross-straight relations, following a change of government in Taiwan last year, are impacting the film industry.
Earlier this year, local mega-hit CapeNo.7 became the first Taiwanese film to secure a mainland release in 17 years. Taiwanese filmmakers are also hoping to increase co-production with mainland China, and enjoy the same or even greater market access as Hong Kong films.
“We’re aiming at the region around Shanghai as the language and culture is quite similar to Taiwan,” said Yong-ping Lee, CEO of the Taipei Film Commission. She added that collaboration has become easier since the introduction of direct flights between Shanghai and Taipei – and that the TFC is planning a big push at next year’s Shanghai International Film Festival.
The China push is part of a wider strategy to develop a commercial film industry in Taiwan, which is renowned for arthouse classics and low-budget genre films, and usually has a less than 5% share of the Hollywood-dominated market.
However, warmer cross-straight ties and CapeNo.7, which grossed $15m to become the territory’s biggest ever film, are injecting fresh confidence into the local film industry. The GIO recently announced a five-year plan to boost the industry including a package of incentives and subsidies totalling $228m. Some of the subsidy is being earmarked for international co-productions.
Meanwhile, the TFC, which was established in January last year, is striving to raise the industry’s international profile and lure overseas productions to Taipei.
The organisation has already supported eight local productions and international co-productions – including Arvin Chen’s Au Revoir Taipei, executive produced by Wim Wenders – and has a pot of around $1m to subsidise films that shoot in Taipei.