Five key takeaways from Filmart 2024

Rashmi Bajpai (Source: Banijay Rights)

Rashmi Bajpai, Banijay Rights’ EVP for Asia, shares her five key takeaways from last week’s Hong Kong International Film and TV Market (Filmart).

Immediately it hit me on the ground that, compared to 2023, Filmart was – to put it simply – back in action this year. The bleak weather didn’t dampen the spirits as the market opened with palpable excitement – but what struck me the most was the attendance. There was a buzz in the air and that energy just carried through the week. It clearly signals how aggressive the growth in Asia will be over the next few years.

China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines were well-represented as exhibitors and the time and effort invested by buyers and distributors heralds good news for producers and content creators. The intent was clear; Asian content is the need of the hour. Seeing buyers and clients at ATF during the year end, last month’s London TV Screenings and now Filmart kicking off 2024, underscores that the content business will continue to thrive, albeit at a fraction of a cost.

Striving to thrive

As I moved from meeting to meeting, Filmart put little doubt in my mind that local and Asian content will dominate the programming and production demand. And, in content, countries like Korea, China, Japan, and Thailand are leading at the scoreboard while the desire for European stories will start to dwindle – holding true not just for dramas but for factual as well. Nevertheless, there were other key major trends that stuck out around the market floor too:

  • China – Loud and Proud – It was always hard to ignore China given their presence at Filmart. But this year the sheer scale and style of the exhibitors was impressive. With each province having their own sections, they seemed to outshout and dwarf other territories by their larger-than-life presence. Chinese content is getting more sophisticated and with big budgets, fresh storytelling and their experience with fantasy and period dramas, their increasing popularity is hardly surprising. We can expect Chinese or ‘C-dramas’ as they are popularly known to have a bigger impact on Asian and global audiences.
  • Co-developments – There were some big announcements last week such as Alibaba’s plans to inject $640m into Hong Kong’s entertainment industry, with funds to be spread across movies, TV dramas, events, and training for the city’s emerging artists. I found there was a spirit of collaboration. An open dialogue of how companies and countries could partner to meet this rising cost of production, especially in scripted productions. This not only helps to cope with a slowing Chinese economy but also leads to a cross-cultural exchange which hopes to appeal to a wider audience. A collective approach transcending boundaries is perhaps one such answer to make stories that are interesting and not prohibitively priced as it implies a shared risk and reward.
  • Funding opportunities – We all need to tap into these possibilities to find ways to work with local governments to avail of these funding and industry support schemes. It seems to be an attractive proposition for all stakeholders and has a more long-term impact on how to sustain this growth initiatives.
  • Cinema – Scripted adaptations in China are tricky. Not only are we required to navigate the regulations set out by National Radio and Television Administration, but the demand is usually for 30 to 40 episodes. New discussions include opportunities to adapt stories into a film with a theatrical release. The commercials involve fees plus revenue share on ticketed sales, while COVID-19 seems to have broken the habit for cinema goers, the sluggish sales changed as audiences returned to the big screens. Big budget releases such as Dune Part 2, Oppenheimer and Barbie were critical for this resurgence. Adapting a drama into a cinema comes with its own challenges but at a time when sponsors are thinning, budgets being slashed and the business landscape changing so drastically, we need to seize this and every opportunity.
  • Navigating Asia’s complexity – It’s not a homogenous continent and this proves to be both our boon and our bane. From several of my discussions, it was clear we will have to strive to thrive. To adapt, be nimble and creative in how we view and react to the changing scenarios. Technology is a key driver to the rapid change we see in this territory. Viewers and subscribers have revealed that they want local stories that resonate, and we need to customize this experience for them.

As the week drew to a close, I left with a sanguine feeling that as an industry we must be each other’s cheerleaders and encourage growth. There is no doubt that we have a unique opportunity in Asia and there is no template for its peculiar challenges. A cocktail of creative solutions that are flexible, address localisation needs and find ways to dip into unconventional and new ways of funding – and that’s our mantra at Banijay Rights.

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