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Without gov't help, Taiwan film industry will fail: director

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- "Without you, without revival efforts, Taiwan's film industry will be reduced to doing OEM work for the movie industry on the Chinese mainland, " Taiwanese director Leon Dai told the government Thursday in Taipei, during a discussion with a Hollywood director on the limited resources in the local film industry.

The two directors, Dai and John Woo, were invited to discuss film industry issues at a forum attended by government officials, film industry specialists and the media, as part of the program of the 53rd Asian-Pacific Film Festival from Dec. 17-19.

Dai is seen an emerging talent in Taiwan's movie industry, while Woo is an acclaimed Hong Kong director known for his highly choreographed action films in the 1980s and his success in Hollywood in the past decade.

At the forum, Woo praised Dai's Golden Horse Award winner "No Pudeo Visir Sin Ti, " saying that with better commercial packaging it could have done even better at the box office.

In response, Dai said, with open frustration, that the production crew did the best it could, with a budget of NT$4 million, to package the film.

"You cannot expect a film with such a small budget to achieve a box office record of NT$100 million," said Dai.

The gap between Hollywood productions and those of most Taiwanese directors is like the difference between a posh restaurant and a roadside food stand, Dai said, adding that like many Taiwanese directors he must start with the food stand.

Dai lamented that because the traditional Chinese concept of theater is merely one of entertainment, he is doubtful that the country's leaders would make the film industry a key incentive sector.

He urged the government to give adequate support to Taiwan's movie industry to help it avoid the fate of becoming an OEM for China, as is already the case with some traditional manufacturing industries.

He suggested that the government put similar efforts into reviving the movie industry, as it has done for the electronics sector, by providing incentives.

In response, Frank Chen, director of the Government Information Office's (GIO's) Department of Motion Pictures, said that the GIO has mapped out a five-year development plan to provide more incentives to film producers and that a market research institute is being planned.

Citing market research and his experience in the international market, Woo suggested that Taiwan producers try films of various genres.

"If you want to explore the international market, you must be able to find the movie language recognized by audiences of different regions and cultures," he said.

The Taiwan film industry was greatly encouraged last year by the success of the local production "Cape No. 7," which achieved a box office record of NT$350 million in the domestic market that is generally dominated by Hollywood movies.

On the heels of that success, Dai impressed audiences and the jury of the Golden Horse Film Festival in November with a film based on a true story about an impoverished single father's struggle to retain guardianship of his young daughter.

"No Pudeo Visir Sin Ti, " a NT$4 million production, won four Golden Horse Awards -- best feature film, best director, best original screenplay and most outstanding Taiwanese film of the year.

However, while the awards may help propel his movie career, Dai said, they do not guarantee financial support for his future projects and he still needs to find capital from investors at home and abroad.

"Creativity is one of Taiwan's advantages in the development of its film industry," he said, adding that he expects the government to provide more support to the local film industry to create an original Taiwanese cultural brand.

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