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Foreign film producers encourage stories from Taiwan

2013/02/03 18:24:38

Taipei, Feb. 3 (CNA) Film producers from Hollywood and Hong Kong recently visited Taipei to seek stories that can be adapted into films, and encouraged local writers and publishers to publish stories with universal themes.

"The stories that really stood out for me are the ones that are universal," Jeffrey Sharp, president of the California-based Story Mining and Supply Co. and producer of the 1999 American film "Boys Don't Cry," told CNA on the sidelines of a forum in Taipei aimed at matching filmmakers with publishers.

A total of 25 stories were presented to representatives of the TV and film industries from Taiwan and abroad at the Taipei International Book Exhibition's second Book Meet Film Forum Jan. 30, while pair-up meetings were held the following day.

Evan Hayes, president of production of the same company, also told CNA that the titles he found most intriguing were ones that were not culturally specific to Taiwan.

He mentioned the 2012 Chinese comedy "Lost in Thailand" as an example of a Chinese-language film that has strong characters and emotions to which everyone can relate.

"Lost in Thailand" is about two Chinese colleagues who go to Thailand to find their boss. It has become China's most profitable domestic film of all time.

Hayes said romance, comedy and adventure films are among the types of films that his company is looking for in Taiwan.

"Those are the kinds of films that audiences want to see more of," he said.

Barbie Tung, producer of several of Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan's films, including "Chinese Zodiac" and "New Police Story," told reporters that she is looking for mystery films and films with a modern theme.

She said the strength of the Taipei forum is that it allowed her to listen to all of the story proposals. At a similar Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum, producers could only listen to story presentations by appointment, she explained.

Albert Lee, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong-based Emperor Motion Pictures, which produced the 2003 film "The Twins Effect," said finding the right script takes time.

"For film companies, it is a long road. It is difficult to find suitable items in one or two years," Lee said.

He added that many stories presented at the forum were focused on local themes, which could be difficult to sell to audiences outside Taiwan.

"We are still in the film business, so we need to see things from a market point of view," Lee said, noting that the scope of the Chinese-language film market extends from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to Singapore and Malaysia.

The CEO, however, said good stories are in high demand and that he came to Taiwan with the hope of learning about more stories.

Meanwhile, Sharp identified the areas in which Taiwan can improve.

He said that while Hollywood places a priority on strong screen writing and screenplay quality, "that level of attention to detail isn't necessarily part of the Chinese-language filmmaking tradition."

"Screen writers aren't necessarily valued as a singular profession (here)," he said.

Sharp, however, touted the creative energy in Taiwan and said the country could play an important role in China's booming movie market.

"There is a unique atmosphere here that promotes creativity in publishing, film and other arts," Sharp said.

"This is a golden age for Taiwan, a unique moment in history, to not only project its creative community onto the Chinese market, but also onto a larger global market."

A total of 280 pair-up meetings were held this year, up from 132 last year, according to the Taipei Book Fair Foundation, which organized the forum.

Representatives from Fox International Productions, China's Bona Film Group and Malaysia's TV operator Astro also attended the forum, according to the foundation.

Among the 25 stories proposed were Taiwanese illustrator Jimmy Liao's "Mr. Wing," which talks about a man with a pair of wings, and "Snapshots of a Small Town," by Chan Yu-hang, about the lives of people in the 1960s in eastern Taiwan.

(By Christie Chen)