Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Focusing on film policy reform

The government is getting behind Taiwanese filmmakers with a set of new policies to encourage investment and a stand at the Cannes Film Festival

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Director Lin Cheng-sheng and his actors leave for France and are presented by the GIO with a big white radish, representing good luck. Form left to right, Leon Dai, Yang Kuei-mei, Lin Cheng-sheng, GIO Deputy Director-General Hung Chung-Chuan and Central Motion Picture Corp general manager Chiu Shun-ching.

PHOTO COURTESY CENTRAL MOTION PICTURE CORP

"I don't aim to win awards. I just hope that Taiwanese films can have a wider international market," said filmmaker Lin Cheng-sheng (林正盛), upon leaving for France and the Cannes Film Festival.

Though Lin was being modest, his statement reflects the long-standing problem of Taiwan cinema -- quality, artistic films, but poor commercial performance.

"Our films are often nominated at major international film festivals (Cannes, the Oscars, Venice, Berlin, etc.). We only make around 20 films every year, but these films enter various international festivals and the rate of Taiwan films being nominated, or winning awards, is 47 percent," said the Director of the Department of Motion Picture Affairs (電影處) at the Government Information Office (新聞局, GIO) Peggy Chou (周蓓姬).

Sadly, however, whenever a Taiwanese film wins an award overseas, local cinema proprietors begin to worry if this is another art-house movie with little marketability. According to GIO statistics, Taiwan produces 20 films annually, fewer than most Hollywood studios. The market share for local films is 2.21 percent and some 96 percent of the market is taken by Hollywood blockbuster movies. The rest is comprised of European and Asian films.

This has been the case for the past 10 years, but now the GIO is ready to present a remedy for Taiwan's struggling film industry, a set of projects and legal amendments that should give the industry a commercial stimulus, Chou said.

One major step forward is a proposal to amend the Motion Picture Law (電影法), for which the GIO proposes to add a tax-reduction article to encourage investment in films. The amendment will give individuals or enterprises investing in local film an income tax or business tax deduction of up to 20 percent of the budget of the film.

"The film industry is like an engine in the cultural/entertainment business. It can take the lead and help boost industries involved in audio-video products, broadcasting, publishing, fashion, toy manufacturing and tourism," said Hung Chung-chuan (洪瓊娟), deputy director-general of the GIO. "Our role is to build up a good environment and to let money comes pour in to the pool and to stimulate more production."

In the past, one of the main government funding systems for filmmaking was the "Guidance and Assistance Fund for Motion Pictures" (電影輔導金), a cash prize given directly to film directors. A feature-length film, for instance, could be offered up to NT$10 million (US$300,000). But in the past 10 years many filmmakers have used the money to cover the entire budget of the film, leading to low-budget domestic releases.

Partly as a result, the majority of Taiwan films lack a sales and marketing strategy because most of the money has been spent on the film. Hence, Taiwan's reputation for producing good art films but a shaky distribution system.

"Now, by rewarding investors in film, we hope to encourage Taiwan's private sector. But, with the guidance and assistance fund for filmmakers, a means to support creativity will still be in place," Chou said.

The amendment to the Motion Picture Law, however, is just one part of a series of new projects, according to the GIO. There are plans to help fund film marketing, financing and international co-production projects.

Another aim is to increase the marketability of Taiwanese films. At the Cannes Film Festival, Taiwan has for the first time set up a Taiwan Film stand, taking 49 films made in Taiwan from 2001 to 2003 to the Cannes Film Market. There are two pamphlets to introduce the 49 film projects and information on Taiwan's film companies.

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