Industry professionals, including blockbuster producer Lee Lieh (李烈), yesterday proposed cuts to outdated film subsidies to reflect an increasingly cash-strapped treasury during a national forum held by the Ministry of Culture.
Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), said Taiwan will see 10 percent of its central government budget cut next year, while only 0.8 percent of the nation’s total budget goes to the ministry.
The annual film subsidies amount to NT$140 million (US$4.7 million), a ridiculously diminutive amount of money considering its aim is to support the film industry, Lung said.
“However, [budget cuts] make us think of ways to integrate our limited resources and to use them more effectively,” the minister said.
Lee said cash for Taiwanese movies whose box office takings reach NT$20 million should be scrapped. Another subsidy that came into being when Taiwanese cinema was at a low ebb includes allowances given to films that have theatrical releases, both Chen Hung-yuan (陳鴻元), director of Double Edge Entertainment, and Patrick Huang (黃茂昌) of Flash Forward Entertainment said.
“Many movies are now carried by American distributors,” Huang said. “The subsidy should be eliminated or limited to non-commercial works, such as documentary films.”
As to other reforms, both documentary filmmaker Yang Li-chou (楊力州) and film critic and curator Lin Mu-tsai (林木材) urged an evaluation system to review projects when they are completed.
“There are filmmakers who get subsidies each year and make shitty films,” Lin said. “There should be a supervisory committee to stop them from wasting taxpayers’ money.”
While many participants agreed that it is important to establish an official agency in charge of promoting Taiwanese films throughout the world in the same way Unifrance and German Films do, the issue of whether film subsidies should be used to support small projects by young filmmakers or rather support big-budget flicks drew contrasting opinions.
Long Shong Group chairman Wang Ying-hsiang (王應祥) said the funding should be limited to local films, since co-productions have no problems raising money. Chen said eliminating co-productions from the list would be “unwise,” as “co-productions between Taiwan and China have easier access to the Chinese market.”
Lin Wen-chi (林文淇), professor of the department of English at the National Central University, suggested “the industry-related side” of Taiwanese cinema be handled by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
“When the supervisory agency changed from the Government Information Office [the GIO, which was incorporated into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs amid a government reorganization plan earlier this year] to the Ministry of Culture, I think people started to deal with things from a cultural point of view,” said Lin, who is also editor in chief at Fun Screen, an online film magazine.