A new initiative to forge co-productions between Hong Kong, Asia and Europe is up and running. A panel at the market explored the opportunities and ambitions. 

\Hong Kong has opened its doors to international filmmakers looking to co-produce with the territory, and key figures behind a lucrative fund designed to foster collaboration with European filmmakers discussed opportunities on a panel at the Cannes market.

The Hong Kong-Europe-Asian Film Collaboration Funding Scheme is an extension of the existing Hong Kong-Asian programme, which launched at the beginning of 2023. The government-funded initiative is handled by the Hong Kong Film Development Council (FDC) and promoted by Create Hong Kong (CreateHK), which introduced the new scheme earlier this year.

“We recognised that it was time for [Hong Kong] to encourage more productions to work with other countries,” said Gary Mak, assistant head of CreateHK and secretary general of FDC. “The amount of financing a film could raise was getting smaller in Hong Kong. When you have a smaller budget, you cannot have a lavish set or elaborate choreography. As a result, the subject matter becomes more focussed on local issues and makes it harder for films to travel.

“In the 1980s and ’90s, Hong Kong films had a strong presence in Southeast Asia but now it seems the overseas market is shrinking. We thought it was time to encourage productions to work with outside companies and not just look inward.”

The initiative will be open to filmmakers from Hong Kong, European and Asian countries, and up to eight eligible projects will receive a grant of up to $1.15m (hk$9m).

Projects must involve at least one Hong Kong and one European or Asian film practitioner among the three key creative roles: producer, director and screenwriter. They must have also been awarded or nominated in an internationally recognised film festival or local award.

Six out of 10 production categories have to be filled by Hong Kong’s permanent residents, while at least 30% of below-the-line expenditure must be spent in Hong Kong. Calls for proposals will open in June.

“One of the reasons behind the scheme is to nurture local talents by working with outside partners, and they can learn from each other. This will expand their creative scope,” added Mak.

Franck Priot, chief executive and producer at France’s Ghost City, shared the European perspective on the panel. He said: “In recent years, I’ve seen a lot of energy coming from Southeast Asia. The growth is impressive. There’s also mainland China, with the biggest box office in the world. We need a place that can patch the two of them together. My hope is that Hong Kong, aided by this fund, can act as a bridge between these markets and Europe.”

Established Bangkok-based film producer and festival programmer Raymond Phathanavirangoon emphasised the importance of the scheme. “Hong Kong is trying to open possibilities so it is not just inwardly one market anymore, but to look outside,” he said. “I think that is an extremely important step.”

Chris Lo, director for France, Spain and Portugal at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, spoke of the growing appetite for Asia content and how his organisation was looking to increasingly leverage IP.

“More people are hungry for content from Asia and, at the same time, Asian content is becoming more varied,” he said. “Hong Kong has a very mature ecosystem, from financing to IP protection, from marketing to sales, from all our experience in production over the years.

“In terms of values, our experience and policy support, it is natural that Hong Kong can explore opportunities in terms of how creative IP can be facilitated in the Asia space. With all this growth and potential, people are looking for localised stories beyond what is offered in Europe and the US.” 

Presented by:

HK panel logos

Who: Hong Kong Perspective In Asia’s Film Market

Why: A panel exploring Hong Kong’s growing position as a central hub in Asia’s film market, with a focus on a new funding initiative fostering collaborations between Europe and Asia

When: Wednesday, May 15, 2024 Where Palais Stage, Cannes