At ScreenSingapore/ATF, producers from Japan, South Korea, China and Singapore talked about the rise of regional finance and markets while identifying primary audiences and developing local stories.

In his keynote address on the morning of December 4, China’s Bona Film Group CEO Yu Dong forecasted “the China market will be able to bypass the US film business in the next ten years” noting the growth of the past ten years in which China has become the second largest market in the world.

“The audience base in China is huge while the number of films and screens has not yet reached the saturation point. By 2018, my prediction is that the China film industry will overtake the US industry,” he said.

“We probably can never compete with Hollywood budgets but where we can compete is with our stories,” he said, encouraging Asian filmmakers to go for “real honest values and subject matter and stories that are true to themselves and our culture.”

In a Southeast Asia Film Financing panel talking about co-productions, Ng Say Yong [pictured], managing director at mm2 Entertainment of Singapore, said, “We are trying to make better movies that have a local appeal, but we can’t focus exclusively on that which is why mm2 is looking for other packaging as well. But local has to be the primary base. We believe if it is done locally, the market appeal is better. We focus on Singapore, then maybe remake for Hong Kong for extra TV series with local actors and so on.”

Choi Yeonu, vice president of International Film Financing and Production at CJ Entertainment, South Korea, agreed, “I would recommend to first find that primary market and that should ideally be able to cover the budget. If you don’t have a primary market it’s not going to work in the rest of the world. When we’re working with Southeast Asia, we have to consider what’s the content of the primary market – which language? Mandarin or other local Southeast Asian language or English?”

She gave the example of mainland China box office success Wedding Invitation, a Chinese-language remake of a Korean film that CJ did with a Korean director and Korean DoP.

“But every other cast and crew were Chinese. It aimed for the Chinese market, and global was a bonus. Our strategies worked out well in this case,” she said.

On selling original content for remake, she said the success of the original was key.

“Korean is only spoken in Korea. If you want a Korean film to extend to a Hollywood version, then they want to know what it is based on, the same as for Japanese manga or novels. It’s the same for CJ, if it worked in the local market, then it appeals to us as a studio. We are looking forward to future collaboration in this region, too.”

Shinjiro Nishimura, producer at Nikkatsu, Japan, explained his company’s motivation for moving into Southeast Asian co-productions and his participation at ScreenSingapore: “The Japanese market is different from most. About 60% of box office is from domestic films, but still the population is going down. The market is still big but we have the opportunity to expand business and that’s why Nikkatsu is trying to get into new markets. I have experience with Indonesian directors and actors, and I’m here to meet directors, producers and financiers as it’s hard for Japanese to get into new markets.”

He spoke of the rise of regional financiers compared to Japanese: “For international co-productions, we are getting better opportunities to get more financing from new investors. I think compared to two years ago, the domestic market in Japan is getting worse than before but internationally we have more opportunities. For example, investors from other countries, especially Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand - they are growing up very fast and their economy is going to be very big, so I [hope] investors from outside the film industry will be interested in investing money, too.”

Mentioning working with The Raid director Gareth Evans, he affirmed, “There are so many good directors and creators growing up in the Southeast Asian region. Of course many Korean filmmakers are going to Hollywood, but I’d like to take Southeast Asian filmmakers to Hollywood, too.”