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Interview with 1st grade HK film producer Nansun Shi
Being producer in HK 1/1 - Page 5
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
David Vivier
Thomas Podvin
Date : 15/10/2003
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Dean Shek Tien
Tsui Hark
John Woo
Zhang Ziyi
Movies :
A Better Tomorrow II
Shanghai Blues
Companies :
Cinema City & Films Co.
Film Workshop
< Previous
Page 4 : Media Asia Group
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Page 6 : Woman in the HK cinema

HKCinemagic : On your work as a producer, you help to produce one of Tsui Hark's biggest masterpiece Shanghai Blues. Unfortunately it's very rare on video. What memories do you keep from this experience?
N S : Oh, it's very, very, very difficult, but very warm memories; Shanghai Blues was the first film of Film Workshop, of Tsui Hark. And we just started the company, and we didn't have any support, and we just tried to do it. I think it was very smart because we went to Shanghai to look at the river at the time it was very difficult to shoot in Shanghai . At the time if I applied it would have been too difficult, so I went to see Hing Yee Ah Yeung Sunday night and I realized he is very amazing. He just took half a bridge, half a bridge and then the two stars are in there and then you have to create this atmosphere of Shanghai and in the back, it's just that one… I don't know what it's called in English; it's just one piece of scenery with the light. It looks so inexpensive and yet as they talk you have one moment of pale of water, very low tech pale of water through the water as though it's the river, you know, shadow and the person told it was fine and it just looked great, you know and actually we are trying to re-release the film, somebody just bought it for France, for Pathé, you know that Jean-Pierre Dionnet just made the deal, he's going to release the DVD…
HKCinemagic : It's very good news!
N S : I hope so.
HKCinemagic : Since Tsui Hark has a specific way to make movies, do you have on your side a specific way to do your job as a producer?
N S : I think there's no specific way, you must keep changing all the time, according to the script, the story, the conditions, and you know it's a continuing changing target.
HKCinemagic : What was the most interesting film you had to produce?
N S : “What was the most interesting film?” I really can't think of anything particularly interesting or particularly not interesting, they're all interesting. Yeah, each time it's a different task you know, or in a very big challenge. You live in an atmosphere where you shoot with the same people. This time, today, you know, in this film I was this way, and the next second, you could be another way, the same person could be different.
HKCinemagic : What are your memories about the final sequence of the Better Tomorrow 2, which was the production between Cinema City , Film Workshop….. It was a difficult production from what I heard, John Woo is not very happy in the end. So it was a very complex production…
N S : You know after A Better Tomorrow 2, the whole Cinema City was undergoing a very complicated time, it was just the beginning of the breaking up, and they'd broken up. It was already broken up … before we used to do everything together. Then they decided for numerous reasons that each would have their own separate account, Dean Shek wanted to have separated accounts, and they would have different accounting for each of the numbers of films they did.

Dean Shek took on A Better Tomorrow 2, Tsui Hark thought of the story for him in A Better Tomorrow 2. But John Woo was also going through some problems also, with the relationship between the three of them, huge problems. So everybody was going to live very difficult times on a personal level. Maybe the tension he went through showed, when you think of film production, it shows, you know, of course we're not here for…, you just have to do the work to show for yourself. You can't really go back and look at all the emotional ups and downs, you know, but it was difficult.

HKCinemagic : What do you feel about the 97 Handover to China , do you think it has changed the film production in general in Hong Kong ?
N S : Not exactly 97, but I think in the last two years, since the last two years [2002-2003], the China market has become much more structured.

So now for a lot of film productions which, I mean in the domestic market – not much went international – they have to take into consideration the fact of China ; so you see now many more co productions.

So far we've seen a lot of East Western types of films, not very edgy, because we're in the past of censorship, and comedies, you know, light love-stories, so we had too many of those. I think it's not good for any industry. But as we're talking there's a new law, CEPA meaning Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, that causes economic partnership or arrangement with China where the co productions were also relaxed a little bit more. So this is good because that will help the films to become a little bit more edgy, have more room to be different. If that happens then the films are going to be more interesting. So it will change, and with the market, it's really getting bigger and bigger in China .
HKCinemagic : So it's a good sign.
N S : It is a very good sign, generally.
HKCinemagic : You say that thanks to the regulations to Mainland , China become more open, things are going better, but is there still some quota on the Hong Kong productions released in Mainland, or is it more complicated? Are there any rules...?
N S : There are always rules. There are certain ways for Hong Kong films to get through this regime in China . One is the co production, so you have to submit for the approval in the final film censorship [bureau]. This is T-part, close economic published arrangement which will take effect first of January 2004. Before T-part, the ratio of the crew and screen talent must be fifty-fifty. After T-part, from 2004, it can be 70% - 30%.

Now as you know Hong-Kong has successfully marketed its films internationally for 20 years, so we've created many brands. Previously with the 50-50, it gave us less opportunity to put in more well-known Hong-Kong names. Actually this relation is good for both: for Hong-Kong and China , because now it's 70% outside so we can put more Hong-Kong talents; that gives these films more opportunities in the world market. So in the slightly longer run, it will bring the Chinese talents outside instead of the HK. Because before it was very strict then the film is not so easy for us internationally but now that will make things easier. But in the end, that will bring the Chinese talents outside without marketing or branding expertise like Zhang Ziyi. Then it will also drive the China film industry so that that's the co productions with occasional help. Secondly, before, if you had not co productions, there were only 20 films a year which can go distributed in China . A lower percentage market, the showings went to this lower, but 20 films a year, all films, included Hong-Kong films... So very often, more often than now, people select the big budget films; they are Matrix, Lord of the Rings, James Bond . So it was very difficult for the Hong Kong films.

From January 2004, Hong Kong films provided some conditions, like 50% of the staff is from Hong Kong, like the Hong Kong companies that operate in this region for the past 3 years pay taxes. Hong Kong companies have ownership of 75%. These films also are not within the quota and can be distributed in China . So that also helps.

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