Shoot Asia

This is a very cool series of Shooting Guides for various countries from Variety Asia. This is a good brief for all of you out there thinking about doing an international production:


The scoop: Although they still have some way to go, the Korean
cities of Seoul and Busan are starting to emerge as a real option for
major international productions. Biggest strengths are extremely
motivated, hardworking crews and the stability and expertise that come
with a strong local industry.

City governments are beginning to catch
on to tax incentives, too. In March, the city of Seoul unveiled a 25%
refund on in-city spending, capped at $100,000, plus free airfare and
accommodation for location scouting.

Disadvantages are the small
number of quality, in-city soundstages (though this may be addressed in
the future) and higher costs compared with China. Next-generation
post-production facilities are under construction in Busan.

Bonus:
For bigger projects, city governments in Busan and Seoul may be
persuaded to contribute in additional ways above and beyond official
support programs. Examples include co-financing of outdoor sets and
donation of buildings slated for demolition.

Hot spot: The
city of Jeonju boasts a high-profile film festival, but at the end of
2008 it will also sport a new $11.7 million studio complex. Facilities
will include a 45-foot-tall, 22,000-square-foot indoor soundstage with
the usual amenities, as well as a nearly 12-acre outdoor shooting area
with permanent sets. Construction is said to be 70% complete.

Shot there: “Hero” (Japan), Toho; “The Good, the Bad and the Weird” (Korea), Barunson

Links:

The scoop: There is usually one reason foreigners shoot pics in
Japan: story. That is, they have to be here because the story has a
Japanese setting, period. Otherwise, the country has a bad rep for high
costs, uncooperative bureaucrats and a lack of tax rebates and other
financial incentives.

Much of this rep is justified, but many folks
in the local biz are trying to change that. The biggest outward signs
of this are the film commissions that have sprung up in every corner
the country in the past decade. The Japan Film Commission Promotion
Council lists 97 orgs on its membership roll, from biggies like Tokyo
Location Box, which cleared bureaucratic thickets so “Flags of Our
Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima” could shoot on the latter’s title
island, to rural outposts that have never hosted foreign productions,
beyond stray tourists with camcorders.

The level of quality
varies enormously, but the better, more experienced commissions have
impressive track records with all sorts of productions, from big-budget
Hollywood pics to local TV commercials.

Also, Japanese studios
and post-production facilities are technically among the best in Asia
— hardly a surprise given Japan’s pre-eminent position as an
electronics maker. And crews, though mostly monolingual and expensive
by Asian standards, are thoroughly professional and possess the
legendary Japanese work ethic.

Finally, the widespread impression
abroad that most of Japan is a concrete-covered wasteland, its ancient
natural beauty destroyed in the rush to industrialize, is simply
untrue. The Japanese themselves know this — and are experts at making
a patch of countryside look like 1945 or 1603, with or without CG
tweaks. Foreigners have to push harder to access this know-how, but
it’s there if you know where to look — and whom to ask.

Bonus:
Interested in shooting in Kobe, one of Japan’s most internationalized
cities? The Kobe Film Office offers scouting support funds that pay for
round-trip economy airfares and accommodations.

Shot there: “Letters From Iwo Jima”; “Babel”; “Ramen Girl”

Hot spot:
Toho has poured $42 million into revamping its studio in the Tokyo
suburb of Seijo Gakuen. By the time work on the five-year project is
completed this coming spring, the studio will have two new
7,100-square-foot soundstages, for a total of 12, as well as a new
post-production center. The 84,400-square-foot studio, Japan’s biggest,
is available for rental by outside producers, Japanese and foreign.

Links:

The scoop: China has something for everyone when it comes to
making movies — deserts, rain forests, stunning lake scenery and
bang-up-to-date facilities at studios such as Hengdian, which houses
the sets of ancient imperial cities, 1930s Shanghai and contemporary
scenes.

On the downside, it is heavily regulated, its censors have a heavy hand, and it is wary of foreign input.

Making movies in China can be a rewarding and financially savvy decision — the key is to proceed carefully with both eyes open.

One
thing China has no shortage of is labor. China has excellent crews,
with topnotch training in the old Communist studio system; labor and
equipment are cheap and readily available.

China’s main
production incentives are related to its low cost and sophisticated
infrastructure. There are tax breaks for co-productions — they are
taxed at the 10% corporate tax instead of 25%. There is no restriction
on percentage of co-production sharing, no restriction on filming
locations and a 20-day approval process for a project. However,
one-third of a pic’s cast must be from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or
Macau.

“We improve our production facilities every year,
especially lighting and cranes, and I’d say our facilities are as good
as anywhere in the world by now,” says Zeng Yuling, spokesman for
Hengdian World Studios.

With 13 shooting bases for a total area
of 815 acres, around 50 films are shot at Hengdian every year as well
as scores of domestic TV series.

“Most foreign films cooperate
with local producers, such as Huayi Brothers, as it makes it more
convenient to get through the process of examination and approval,”
Zeng says. Polybona is local another Chinese production giant that
Western producers can tap into.

War epic “The Children of Huang
Shi,” starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Radha Mitchell, shot at
Hengdian using some 500 extras — sometimes more. Shooting in China
with a Chinese crew — indeed, with very few non-Chinese involved at
all — allowed the producers to make the picture happen.

“We couldn’t have done this movie as a Western production,” says pic’s German producer Wieland Schulz-Keil.

Bonus: The People’s Liberation Army does a great sideline in suiting up and playing a rampaging horde from the Warring States period.

Shot there:
Roger Spottiswoode’s “The Children of Huang Shi”; Marc Forster’s “The
Kite Runner,” in Kashgar, western Xinjiang Province; “Dead or Alive,”
helmed by Cory Yuen; “The Restless,” helmed by Jo Dong-oh.

Links:

The scoop: While Hong Kong doesn’t offer a rebate program or
favorable exchange rates for international film crews, it does have a
simple tax regime — 17.5% for corporations and 16% for unincorporated
businesses. Only those profits and income made in Hong Kong are subject
to the tax; and if you’re working in Hong Kong from overseas for not
more than 60 days in a tax year, then there’s no need to pay a salary
tax. If you’re an overseas crew member, you might not even need an
entry visa or permit while working in Hong Kong, but it’s best to check
with immigration.

There’s also the Closer Economic Partnership
Arrangement (CEPA), which allows filmmakers to distribute films in
China on a quota-free basis as opposed to falling under the
foreign-film category. However, it only applies to Hong Kong
filmmakers, and films must have a strong Hong Kong element.

Bonus:
If you need a local crew, those in Hong Kong are “famous for their
professionalism, and they work within your budget,” says a
representative from Hong Kong’s Film Services Office (FSO). For filming
in public places within the city, a general-purpose filming permit
isn’t required, but an OK is needed for filming on government land or
on Hong Kong waters.

It’s always a good idea to give the TV and
Films Liaison Section of the Hong Kong Police a heads-up. The FSO has
all the contact information you’ll need and can answer other
film-related questions.

Shot there: “Irreversi,” helmed by Michael Gleissner; Olivier Assayas’ “Boarding Gate”; “My Wife Is a Gangster 3,” helmed by Jo Jin-gyu

Hot spot:
The Shaw Group’s Shaw Studios has been slow to open its doors — the
$180 million film production and digital post-production facility was
originally slated for a summer 2006 launch — but its five soundstages
have been completed and are mostly booked through the year. Ang Lee did
a few weeks of interim work on “Lust, Caution” there last October.
Post-production studios won’t be ready until the end of this year, and
the new lab will open before Chinese New Year, which is in the first
quarter of 2008.

Link: Hong Kong Film Services Office: fso-tela.gov.hk

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