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Hong Kongs Filmart Online finds opportunity in crisis for 2021 edition | Features

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Peggie Liu

The Hong Kong international film and television market (Filmart Online, March 15-18) is returning to its traditional dates after being pushed back to August last year due to the pandemic, and will take place online for the second time.

Filmart, which remains the premium international market for Asian film and television content, became one of the first major events to postpone in March 2020 as the pandemic spread across the world.

But there is always an opportunity in every crisis, says Peggie Liu, senior service promotion manager at Filmart Online, organizer of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

The online format has proven effective in breaking down geographic barriers, attracting new exhibitors and buyers who previously were not able to attend due to the schedule of events or the travel time and costs involved.

Looking back on 2020, ahead of its next 25th edition, Liu recalls: It was a whole new experience for most parties involved when we hosted the very first Filmart Online last year. We were learning all the tricks of the trade. The world is being remade [by Covid-19], which forces us to adapt a new thinking and Filmart must evolve accordingly.

Liu confirms that more than 2,000 online business meetings were recorded during the August event, which for the first time attracted visitors and exhibitors from territories such as Argentina, South Africa, Europe and the Middle East. However, the overall number of attendees and exhibitors fell by 20% and 25% year on year, respectively.

The pandemic took us all by surprise, Liu says. Some customers weren’t ready even when we pushed it back to August as the production business was largely at a standstill and they didn’t have new slates, while some of them were reluctant to go online.

But we all learn fast. Now they know what to expect and are much more excited than before. This year, they can sign up much earlier, without asking too much.

New goals

The target for this year is to reach 700 exhibitors, compared to 670 for the online market of last year and 888 for the physical market of 2019. Many repeat customers have confirmed their attendance, including iQiyi and Fantawild Animation from China , Gaga Corporation and NHK from Japan, Contents Panda and Mirovision from South Korea, Frances Studiocanal, Germanys ZDF and the US companies MultiVisionnaire Pictures and Shoreline Entertainment.

Hong Kong companies include Media Asia, Emperor Motion Pictures, One Cool, Universe, and PCCW.

Having repeat customers who come back to support us is the best metric for measuring the success of an event, Liu says.

Some that skipped Filmart Online last year will also return, including South Koreas Lotte, Indonesia MNC, Gaumont and Wide from France, and the Malaysian Pavilion.

A total of 23 pavilions have been confirmed including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, EU and United States, as well as various pavilions from cities and provinces in China, all of them regulars. New exhibitors include Chinas Bilibili and GMA from the Philippines.

2022 challenges and plans

Liu is fully aware of the challenges ahead, especially the unexpected technical issues related to network transmissions as well as the quality of sound and picture experienced in recent years at Filmart Online.

IT support continues to be crucial as more daily events are scheduled over the course of four days this year, including seven online conferences on topics that tackle the new standard, such as virtual production and Asian OTT streaming. A content showcase will also be offered to exhibitors to promote their latest offers through several online sessions.

In the pre-Covid days, physical Filmart was a leading launching pad for top-tier titles from Hong Kong and beyond. Liu and his team are now working hard to bring physical press conferences online, with the presence of stars.

Accredited Filmart Online delegates can also attend the 19th Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), which is taking place simultaneously online. Filmart Online will take place shortly after the virtual European film market, after the Berlinale moved the latter from March 1 to 5.

As the world continues to grapple with the pandemic, Liu is hopeful that a physical Filmart can return in 2022 or at least a hybrid version.

People in the cinema like to gather their creative minds over a drink or a meal, Liu says. After all, video conferencing is not the same as face to face. Lack of human contact can be difficult.

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