FILMART Seminar: Opportunities for Documentaries
16 March 2017 – Documentary filmmakers have better access to funding, broadcasters and technical backing with the emergence of a framework of institutions to support their endeavours, according to panel discussion during the HKTDC Hong Kong International Film and Television Market (FILMART) (13-16 March).
This year’s FILMART has, for the first time, made documentaries a key theme of the annual event. The “Opportunity for Documentaries in Asia” seminar (15 March) offered an insider’s view on the mechanics of making documentaries across the region.
The seminar was moderated by Ruby Yang, an Oscar-winning director, academic and project director of the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative, www.hkdocumentary.com. The group funds, develops and teaches filmmaking.
The confluence of better technology, smaller cameras and crowd-sourced funding meant that individuals had the resources to create documentaries and have them seen by audiences on platforms with a global reach, such as YouTube. The emergence of pitching forums tailored to Asian filmmakers as well as festivals specifically designed for documentaries and educational opportunities had all emerged in the past five years or so, she said.
Buyers were focused on universal themes that often had strong personalities and told intimate stories well. “The opportunity is out there but I think it’s a question of, can you film? There needs to be a clarity of message, a refined process, and you need to be able to say ‘what do you want to do with the film once it is finished?’” Ms Yang said.
One of the speakers, Ruby Chen, is the Chief Executive and co-founder of CNEX Foundation Limited, www.cnex.org.hk, an organisation founded 11 years ago to help develop documentary filmmaking in Greater China, an area that includes Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. Her organisation funds and develops documentaries, stages smaller scale film festivals for independent film-makers and delivers streaming content. Most recently, CNEX has had international success with the co-production of The Chinese Mayor, a 2015 documentary following the mayor of the mainland city of Datong that has been seen at more than 50 film festivals around the world and claimed a Golden Horse from the Taipei festival of the same name.
Ms Chen spoke of the importance of understanding distribution and called on filmmakers to be involved in the industry’s traditional venues for communication, such as pitching forums and conventions.
“About 30 years ago, the thinking was that there seemed to be a need to connect distributors and filmmakers in a different way,” Chen told the panel. “Pitch forums were very efficient. Like matchmaking, the buyers get to see what’s in progress and to think about what they can commission.”
Pitch forums still had great value, she said, because they now involved investors and it taught filmmakers the discipline of refining their storytelling. Ms Chen, herself a commissioning editor, spoke at length about issues surrounding rights and distribution, before commenting on the mainland market, which she said had boomed over the past seven years.
“The documentaries that work well in China are certain types of films,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities but you have to find ways to get in front of commissioning editors and curators, and they are all here.”
Takahiro Hamano, a Senior Producer for the programming department of Japanese public broadcaster NHK Corporation who has co-produced more than 30 titles, said: “I always take advantage, of being somewhere like here (FILMART), to pitch wherever I can. I think there is no one specific way to pitch but if you are always thinking about your project, you can pitch whenever you can.”
The emergence of pan-Asian co-productions meant that, if filmmakers could increase their visibility, and their story was well constructed, funding could be arranged. “It’s not easy to get money for documentaries and so broadcasters like to collaborate on interesting pitches,” Mr Hamano said. “Often they talk after the pitch. We don’t have a lot of money but we can share the pot of money.”
Another speaker, Jeong Joong Kim, Director of Acquisition and Chief Producer for South Korean broadcaster KBS, said global stories with a local angle were appealing. However, he suggested that the South Korean mass market was not ready for content produced overseas.
“We want to show the audience what’s going on around the world and that’s my priority,” he said. “When we look at it closely, the local audience is looking for something more global. By showing the global surroundings we can show the audience the whole world.”
FILMART Website: http://www.hktdc.com/hkfilmart
The “Opportunity for Documentaries in Asia” panel discussion at FILMART offered an insider’s view on the mechanics of making documentaries across the region.
From left to right: Ruby Chen, Chief Executive and co-founder, CNEX Foundation Limited; Takahiro Hamano, Senior Producer, Programming Department, NHK Corporation; Jeong Joong Kim, Director of Acquisition and Chief Producer, KBS; and conference moderator, Ruby Yang, Project Director, Hong Kong Documentary Initiative.
|This year’s FILMART positioned documentaries as a key theme. “Opportunity for Documentaries in Asia” was the first time FILMART has held a dedicated panel session on documentary filmmaking, moderator Ruby Yang told the audience. Ms Yang is an Oscar-winning director, academic and project director of the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative|
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