Taiwan’s film industry capitalizes on China’s new interiority – The Hollywood Reporter


China’s increasingly unwelcoming stance towards the US film industry is causing many headaches for Hollywood distributors, but the Taiwanese film industry sees this trend as an exciting opportunity.

“Things are tightening up in China, but interest in Asian content continues to grow,” says Joyce Tang, senior director of the Content-Lab at Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA), a government-backed organization established in June. 2019 to help Taiwan’s creative industry expands its global reach.

As barriers to entry and engagement in China’s huge entertainment industry continue to rise, the Taiwanese industry is capitalizing on the moment by presenting itself as a welcoming and creative alternative for directors, studios and international streamers who want to tell stories in the Chinese language.

“As long as your film or story is specific to Chinese culture, or Asian culture in general, Taiwan is a very good choice of venue and production partner, as we have very few social or political restrictions and taboos. “, adds Tang. “We’re open-minded, which is a big advantage.

Beyond the pandemic, TAICCA created in 2020 a new program called “Taiwan International Co-financing Program” (TICP), to attract international collaborators to team up with Taipei’s creative community once cross-border production returns. Classes. The program offers film and television studios a rebate of up to 30% of a project’s production budget, or 30% of global marketing costs, capped at $ 300,000, provided they associate with Taiwanese talents or production companies, or include Taiwanese elements in the finished product. story. The new program can also be added to attractive and long-standing incentive programs provided by the Taipei Film Commission, Kaohsiung City Government and Taiwan Ministry of Culture.

Among the first collection of films in development to partner with TAICCA as part of the program is the next film by Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, whose most recent feature film Timbuktu competed in Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar in the Best International Film category in 2015.

Tang says Sissako’s new film – details of which are being kept under wraps – was originally written to set in mainland China. “But China has so many barriers and restrictions that he couldn’t really unleash his creativity and work the way he wanted there,” she explains. “So he finally chose Taiwan as his partner and filming location. “

As part of the international push, Taiwan is working to create greater opportunities for its local content and co-productions in overseas markets as well. At AFM this year, TAICCA launched its largest Taiwanese pavilion, showcasing 57 films from 32 film exhibitors, including recent entries to the Busan Film Festival like Growing echo and Days before the millennium, as well as the current competitor of the Tokyo International Film Festival American girl.

“There is an increase in the popularity of Asian TV series around the world, which shows that stories based on local culture have a unique advantage in the international market,” says Izero LEE, CEO of TAICCA. “For the fiercely competitive North American market, TAICCA presents the best of Taiwanese cinema at AFM.

“The Taiwanese government is really trying to promote Taiwanese identity as a mixture of different kinds of cultural backgrounds,” Tang adds. “This is the essence of our international co-production plan – helping Taiwan to market itself for Taiwanese cultural content, not just our manufacturing, our food or other icons.”

She adds, “We are also open to any topic, even traditionally ‘controversial’ topics in the region that touch on religion, politics or LGBTQ +. “

One of Taiwan’s most popular AFM titles, silver boys, is exemplary of the new industry profile that TAICCA seeks to support for Taiwan. Selected to compete in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year, the film is a Taiwan-Austria-France-Belgium co-production and it tells the story of Fei (played Kai Ko), a young homosexual who works to support his conservative and reluctant family. . Just like the Sissako project, Moneyboys Originally set in China, but the filmmakers realized that it would be impossible to shoot the project there due to Beijing’s repressive stance on content featuring gay stories. So they relocated production to Taiwan and blurred the scene to such an extent that the story never explicitly indicates whether the characters are in Taiwan or China.

Taiwan’s efforts to internationalize have also successfully coincided with arguably the biggest transition in entertainment: the rise of global streaming platforms and their reliance on local language content are fueling the growth. international subscribers.

Taiwanese talent and producers have traditionally – understandably – focused on breaking through to mainland China’s industry and market geographically and culturally close. But recently, “all eyes have been on Netflix and Disney +,” Tang says.

Beijing regulators ban all foreign streaming services from operating in China, but both Netflix and Disney + have made it clear that they see a strong business opportunity in Chinese-language content even without access to the vast market in China. Mainland China, as Chinese diaspora communities across the globe constitute a substantial audience in their own right, and key growth regions like Southeast Asia have shown increasing openness by consuming Chinese content.

Aside from the relative ease of regulation, Taiwan’s substantial production facility and crew base also makes the island an attractive regional production hub for streamers. “Our talents are of high quality and eager to help, with very good technical English and world-class skills,” Tang said. Netflix picked up a slew of Taiwanese TV series for international territories, and the streamer also picked Taiwan to produce its very first Mandarin original, Nowhere man (2019), and continued with recent projects like the Taiwanese horror series Detention. Soon, Disney + and Warner Media will join the local fray.

“Disney + will be in Taiwan by the end of the year and they’ve already reached out to a lot of our local producers to work with them,” Tang said. “It is turning out to be a flourishing time for us.”


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