Entertainment Industry Leaders Discuss Adapting Anime IP and Collaborating With Chinese Filmmakers at the FILMART Variety Lounge in Hong Kong

Entertainment Industry Leaders Discuss Adapting Anime IP and Collaborating With Chinese Filmmakers at the FILMART Variety Lounge in Hong Kong

The Variety Lounge at the 2024 Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART) emerged as a dynamic hub of creativity and insight. The studio played host to a series of illuminating interviews featuring prominent figures in the global film industry including European filmmaker Cristiano Bortone, producer and co-founder of boutique studio S11 Partners Ltd. Cora Yim, executive vice president of business and head of CreAsia Studio Jessica Kam-Engle and filmmaker and producer Raymond Phathanavirangoon.

Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) the gathering brought in more than 7,300 industry practitioners from production, distribution, sales agents, service providers and investors from 41 countries and regions for a weekend of sourcing and relationship-building in the backdrop of conversations held around Asian-led media. This four-day content marketplace also served as a platform for the Variety Lounge where moderated conversations with Variety’s Asia editor, Patrick Frater explored the emerging trends in the global entertainment industry.

The discussions included what goes into creating live-action films from anime IP, bridging the gap between Chinese filmmakers and those in Europe and the U.S. and whether there is a glass ceiling for women in the Asian film industry.

The expo was held on March 11-14, and you can watch all 4 conversations below.

Raymond Phathanavirangoon, Hong Kong-Born, Bangkok-Based Indie Film Producer

Raymond Phathanavirangoon, a seasoned producer with a diverse background in the film industry spanning multiple continents, shared his journey from a computer engineer in the US to his current role as an indie film producer based in Bangkok.

Discussing the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), Phathanavirangoon ascribed its significance as a platform for filmmakers to pitch projects and seek financing, emphasizing its role in fostering relationships within the industry. He highlighted the importance of project markets in refining scripts and facilitating collaboration between filmmakers and potential investors.

“I think it’s not necessarily the main point [but the HAF can be used] to meet interesting people that can actually get you connections to possible actors, possible crew,” Phathanavirangoon said. “There are many other things that you can get outside of just saving money.”

Phathanavirangoon also teased his upcoming project, tentatively titled “Walt City.” Set against the backdrop of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003, the story will capture the essence of Hong Kong’s resilience during the crisis, portraying it as a love letter to the city’s spirit.

Reflecting on his experience running the CFIC Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab, Phathanavirangoon emphasized the need for enhanced development opportunities for Asian filmmakers. He lamented the industry’s tendency to pigeonhole filmmakers into commercial or art house categories, advocating for a more unified approach to talent development. He underscored the significance of recognizing and nurturing talent within the Asian film industry, echoing shared sentiments of collaboration and innovation throughout the discussion.

“I really do believe that there’s a lot of talent in Southeast Asia and also in East Asia in general. But development and understanding what development is is still rather lacking,” Phathanavirangoon said.

Watch the full conversation above.

Cristiano Bortone, European producer, director, screenwriter and founder of Bridging the Dragon 

Cristiano Bortone, European producer, director, screenwriter and founder of the networking association Bridging the Dragon, spoke about his work encouraging co-productions between Western and Chinese filmmakers.

In late 2001, Bortone’s film “Red Like the Sky” premiered in China, and because he spoke the language, he was asked to stay and teach film. It was through this experience he was inspired to start his collaboration platform.

“Because I happened to speak some Chinese, I was invited. I spent some time teaching at the Beijing Film Academy, understanding how this incredible market was emerging in its modern way at the end of 2000. Eventually, the local government convinced me to open a company. So, in principle, I’m a Chinese producer,” Bortone said.

Ten years later, Bridging the Dragon was born. By recognizing the desire of Americans and Europeans to collaborate with creators from China, he developed a space where individuals from across the globe could speak, share and create films together.

“In those years, China was on everybody’s agenda, and we remember also in Hollywood everybody wanted to work with China. But how? With whom? That was the issue. So, our intuition was quite simple. ‘Let’s create a platform where people can connect, meet each other, build trust, understand each other hopefully, and eventually, make movies’,” Bortone said.

Watch the full conversation above.

Cora Yim, Co-Founder of S11 Partners Ltd.

Cora Yim, co-founder of S11 Partners Ltd., discussed the boutique studio she runs in Hong Kong and Taipei.

“I think everyone looks for good stories and good talent,” Yim said. Taking stock of the changes over the last few years, Yim warned of changing tastes stating that superheroes may not be as good at performing as they used to be. “I think everyone’s thinking of the new strategy, new stories, new talents and how to consolidate all this into a successful formula.”

Yim also discussed the representation of women in the film and TV industry in Asia.

Watch the full discussion above.

Jessica Kam-Engle, Executive VP and Business, Head of CreAsia, Former Disney, HBO Executive

Jessica Kam-Engle, an executive with vast experience in film and TV production, has had a career whose trajectory has seen her transition from independent producer to roles at major multinational corporations like HBO and Disney. She has also launched her own production company under the Banerjee umbrella.

“Every job in this industry is not that typical… I’ve been pretty lucky to ride through different waves and have some golden times through the golden ages of different cycles,” Kam-Engle said.

Kam-Engle reflected on her journey, emphasizing the diverse experiences she gained during different industry waves, from the boom of Chinese film production to the rise of streaming platforms. She highlighted the significance of local productions for multinational companies like HBO and Disney, noting that Asian audiences strongly prefer content in their native languages.

Kam-Engle acknowledged the disruptive nature of streaming on traditional TV models and the importance of profitability in the streaming landscape. She emphasized the need for a more measured approach to content production amid industry corrections, especially concerning intellectual properties.

“For a company like Warner or Disney, keeping the IP and having potential ways to monetize them in the future is important… Why not develop your own IP so that you can monetize for a long time?”

Addressing the glass ceiling for women in the Asian film and TV industry, Kam-Engle expressed her positive experiences, citing the opportunities provided by companies like Disney and Warner Bros. for women executives, going so far as to express that she has “never seen it myself.”

Looking ahead, Kam-Engle sees potential for Chinese content to achieve global success, citing recent successes like the television drama “Blossoms Shanghai.” She also highlighted the diversity of genres emerging from different Chinese-speaking territories, from action in Hong Kong to romance in Taiwan.

Watch the interview above.

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