New Party Taipei City Councilor Chen Yan-po (陳彥伯) yesterday said that the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs handed out large subsidies for the production of films that were never screened, or those whose box-office showings failed to justify the funding.
Chen presented a list of 24 films made from 2011 to last year that were never shown publicly or were box-office flops at a Taipei City Council question-and-answer session with department Commissioner Chung Yung-feng (鍾永豐).
The movies were subsidized by the Taipei Film Commission, which is overseen by the department.
Two films — Shen Tong (神通) and Sai Mo Dian (賽末點) — were completed in late 2015, but have not been screened, despite each receiving NT$1.5 million (US$49,809) in subsidies, Chen said.
Another film, titled The Last Painting (自畫像), received NT$4 million and was finished six months ago, but has not been released yet, he said.
Chung did not answer when asked why the films subsidized by the department using taxpayer money were never shown, prompting the councilor to ask whether the production teams were making fake movies, like in Argo, a reference to the 2012 Oscar-winning movie.
The problem has persisted for years, despite repeated inquiries, Chen said.
He also questioned a department rule that says filmmakers who received subsidies, but did not produce films that screened pay back just 5 percent of the grant.
The department in 2011 paid NT$1.5 million for a film titled Ku Fan Tian (哭翻天), which was canceled, but the production team only had to return NT$75,000, Chen said.
At least seven films earned less than what their production team received in grants, while 11 earned marginally more, he said.
Dao Guo Yo Ming (島國遊民), a 2013 documentary, was given NT$2.4 million, but only earned NT$310,000 at the box office, while a documentary about Aborigines — which Chen refrained from naming — only made NT$8,000 in theaters, despite being given NT$1 million.
The department, the Taipei Department of Information and Tourism and the Taipei Department of Education should hold a news conference before sponsoring a film, inviting directors and actors to help the films gain publicity, Chen said, adding that promotion is the most important work to help a film achieve commercial success.
“There are also success stories,” Chen said, citing box office hits David Loman (大尾鱸鰻) and Zone Pro Site (總鋪師), both of which were subsidized.
Chen said he hopes that with the municipal government sharing the burden of promotion, a system that allows it to earn commissions from the films it subsidized can be created, which will enable the city to subsidize more filmmakers.
Chung said that the Cultural Affairs Department would review its subsidy rules.
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