Film producers from Hollywood and Hong Kong recently visited Taipei in search of stories that can be adapted into films, and encouraged writers and publishers to publish stories with universal themes.
“The stories that really stand out are the ones that are universally appealing,” Jeffrey Sharp, president of the California-based Story Mining and Supply Co and producer of the 1999 US film Boys Don’t Cry, said on the sidelines of a forum in Taipei organized to match 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 Meets Film” forum on Thursday last week, while pair-up meetings were held the following day.
Story Mining and Supply president of production Evan Hayes said the titles he found most intriguing were not culturally specific to Taiwan.
He cited last year’s Chinese comedy Lost in Thailand as an example of a film with well developed characters and emotions to which everyone could relate.
Lost in Thailand is a movie 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 were among genres that his company was looking for.
“Those are the kind of films that audiences want to see,” he said.
Barbie Tung, producer of several of Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan’s (成龍) films, including Chinese Zodiac and New Police Story, told reporters that she was looking for mystery films and films with a modern theme.
She said the Taipei forum allowed her to hear all of the story proposals.
At a similar Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum, producers could only listen to story presentations by appointment, she said.
Albert Lee (利雅博), chief executive officer of the Hong Kong-based Emperor Motion Pictures, which produced the 2003 film The Twins Effect, said that 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 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, adding that the scope of the Chinese-language film market extends from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China to Singapore and Malaysia.
Lee said good stories are always in demand and that he came to Taiwan with the hope of learning about more stories.
Meanwhile, Sharp identified the areas in which Taiwan could improve.
He said that while Hollywood emphasizes strong screenwriting and screenplay quality, “that level of attention to detail isn’t necessarily part of the Chinese-language filmmaking tradition.”
“Screenwriters aren’t necessarily valued as a singular profession [here],” he said.
However, Sharp touted the creative energy in Taiwan and said it 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,” Sharp added.
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 (廖福彬) Mr. Wing (幸運兒), about a man with a pair of wings, and Snapshots of a Small Town, by Chan Yu-hang (陳裕亨), about the lives of people in the 1960s in eastern Taiwan.