Having wrapped up the postproduction of a video, Macao director Chong Cho Kio thought he could finally take a break. But striving for perfection, he wanted to make a last minute change to the video, involving about a second’s worth of content. With the postproduction process conducted in nearby Hong Kong – as Macau lacked professional equipment and studios for doing so at the time – he had never thought how much work this one-second change would involve.
“I spent totally two days changing it,” Mr. Chong says incredulously. “After making the change at the film editing company, I had to have the video rendered first and took the hard disc to the sound mixing studio and then to a colour grading company for changes.”
This experience made Mr. Chong, with more than 10 years of experience of film production, wonder why Macau could not provide professional postproduction services – thus this story of a few years ago gave rise to the idea of founding such a company here. With the support of the Cultural Industry Fund, Chong has established 1220 Film Production Co., Ltd. to offer “one-stop” postproduction video services and distribution services in order to enhance the standard of local film production and increase the exposure of Macau films to the city and beyond.
Running for a while now, the company was officially inaugurated in December and comprises three studios for film editing, colour grading and sound mixing, with equipment, says Chong, that matches international standards. “Our company aims to serve as a powerful backing for Macau film practitioners so that they can focus on their own creations,” he explains whilst conducting a tour of the three studios.
The studio equipment is connected to a central server, meaning users can open the same source video from any room without the need to render the video first, which could take hours.
“Unlike Hong Kong,” he adds, “film professionals don’t need to go to three different places for postproduction. They can do it all here and this can save them time.”
Some local productions might have paled in comparison to Hong Kong and Western movies in terms of technical standards due to the lack of such postproduction facilities in the past and high costs for doing so in other places, explains Lok Wong, producer of 1220. “So we hope to enhance the standards of Macau productions . . . In the past, film professionals here might have to take up many roles at the same time from director to cinematographer to editor – and now we hope to help them focus on their own roles.”
She also makes an analogy of their services for film professionals, saying: “Film professionals are like chefs providing sardines, while we help them package and design the products as well as market them.”
“Our company aims to serve as a powerful backing for Macau film practitioners so that they can focus on their own creations,” says 1220 founder Chong Cho Kio.
The company now offers postproduction services for Macau film workers at about 60-70 per cent discount on the prices charged by nearby Hong Kong, while it employs a 10-strong team, including a veteran colour grading professional from Portugal.
The duo believes it is high time to launch the postproduction firm in the territory, which has boasted more local productions in recent years.
“The local film market was just at the beginning a few years ago so it didn’t make sense to set up the company at the time,” says Ms. Wong, adding, for instance, that the Cultural Affairs Bureau only launched a subsidy programme for the production of local feature films in 2013.
“Film professionals are like chefs providing sardines, while we help them package and design the products as well as market them,” says 1220 producer Lok Wong.
Without the financial support of the Cultural Industry Fund, set up by the public coffers in 2014, 1220 might only have been established years later. The Fund provided some MOP5 million (US$625,000) in subsidies and MOP2.5 million in interest-free loans for 1220, accounting for 30-40 per cent of the start-up capital of the firm, says Mr. Chong.
“Without this financial support, I think a postproduction firm will only be set up in the territory, like, 10 years later, when the film market has matured enough to support the operation of such a company,” he believes.
Besides postproduction, 1220 offers film distribution services. “Prior to the establishment of 1220, there was basically no film distribution here,” says Mr. Chong. “Once the moviemakers have completed their productions, they will showcase their works here and that’s it – there are basically no channels for them to attempt to take their works to other places.”
1220 seeks to change this situation. Last year, the firm helped distribute Love is Cold, produced by local director Ho Fei, and the documentary The Chronicles of Wu Li by local director James Jacinto, attending five international film festivals to promote their work; namely, Cannes Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film & TV Market, Busan International Film Festival, American Film Market, and a film festival in Lisbon.
The rights to Love is Cold were successfully sold to Taiwan, Singapore, Canada and other buyers, while the rights to James Jacinto’s documentary were bought by Singapore and Malaysia. “Last year was the first time a Macau company had joined the Cannes Festival, bringing the city in line with countries and regions like Afghanistan [which also participated for the first time],” Mr. Chong says with a smile.
Both executives of 1220 found the experience of joining the festivals invigorating, acquiring more knowledge of how the film market works on a global scale. “We have shared our experiences and insights with local film workers [about the film festivals] and hope these can give them some inspiration,” says the 1220 founder.
But the duo acknowledges it is not easy to promote Macau films to overseas buyers because the local film industry is only in its infancy. “All moviemakers and producers in the world face the same problem – globalisation,” he maintains. “Audiences can find anything to watch from anywhere, which means any work has to compete with the world.”
“Needless to say about Macau, it has also been more difficult for Hong Kong movies to sell their rights in recent years,” he says, adding that another reason is the lack of commercial movies here, with most productions either indie or art films. “It’s fine to make art films but when we’re talking about industrialising the sector, commercial elements in movies are aspects that cannot be neglected.”
For this year’s plan the company recently signed an agreement with Singaporean director Thomas Lim, who will act as sales agent and postproduction house for Mr. Lim’s latest feature film, Sea of Mirrors, shot in the city and the United States with iPhones. 1220 is also in talks with others to provide services for some documentaries and short videos, given the limited number of local feature films produced each year.
“For the postproduction service, we target the Asian market as we offer prices that are cheaper than the neighbouring cities and provide the latest equipment and professional services,” says Ms. Wong, adding that the distribution service primarily targets local productions.
The 1220 duo, however, acknowledge that it is difficult at the moment for the postproduction and distribution operation to sustain themselves. “We also have a film production operation, which could help this part of the business,” Chong says, as 1220 also shoots and makes promotional videos for government departments and companies, adding, “We don’t mind inputting more now for the development of the film industry.”
In the long term, the company is optimistic about the development of the sector with more upcoming talent in the industry getting recognition citywide and beyond, like local director Tracy Choi, whose latest work Sisterhood has attracted investment from Hong Kong film companies.
“While it is significant to provide financial support for the development of the sector the most important element lies in public education about the appreciation of the arts,” says Mr. Chong.
He believes it takes time to nurture an appreciation of the arts. “When we went to Cannes [last year] we found that people there are really passionate about movies,” he recalls. “Many people queued for movie screenings, including ones that started as late as 2:00 am.”
“In the end it depends upon how much respect the arts and creations get in the city,” he concludes.
Nine big platforms
In the wake of the establishment by the government in 2014 of a fund to facilitate the development of local cultural businesses, the Cultural Industrial Fund has provided financial support of nearly MOP82.59 million (US$10.32 million) in subsidies and loans for nine platforms in various areas, including 1220 Film Production Co., Ltd.
|Entity||Services||Subsidies (MOP)||Interest-Free Loans (MOP)|
|Macau Design Centre||Promoting design services and local creations||16,031,686||/|
|100 Plus Cultural and Creative Space||Promoting cultural, creative and entertainment shows||5,111,766||1,000,000|
|Macau Fashion Brand Incubator Centre
|Promoting fashion design and clothing||11,363,323||/|
|Lei Un Garment Factory||Promoting fashion design and clothing||2,650,717||/|
|San Seng Fung – Incubation Centre for Cultural Creative Products||Promoting cultural creative brand design||7,216,367||/|
|Cultural and Creative Business Service Platform by Macau Cultural & Creative Integrated Services Centre||Providing one-stop business service solution for cultural creative business||14,751,938||/|
|Macau Brand Incubation Centre||Promoting cultural creative brand design||13,861,129||/|
|Cultural Club||Promoting publishing with regard to the city’s history and culture||3,089,604.54||/|
|1220 Film Production Co., Ltd||Promoting film post-production and distribution services||5,011,300||2,500,000|