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Interview with the director of the Bangkok Film Market


Entertainment industry veteran Christine Rush has been director of the Bangkok Film Market since its inauguration last year. The trade event, in only its second year, has already doubled attendance and is quickly becoming the entertainment industry’s principal forum for deal making in Southeast Asia. Rush is an “entertainment baby” who grew up in the industry – her father, brothers, cousins and a son are all broadcast and film sound engineers. She herself has been a production executive with My First Mister, Bride of the Wind, and Diamonds among her credits before turning to trade show production. She was interviewed on Monday, January 17, the official opening day for the Bangkok Film Market.

What is the Bangkok Film Market?

We’re just in our second year, and we are already what I believe to be the premiere entertainment trade event in Southeast Asia. We have scheduled the event again this year to coincide with the Bangkok International Film Festival which is breaking records of its own and is in its third year of operation. We are both headquartered in the Shangri-La Hotel. The film festival crowd numbers in the thousands and is made up of largely creative sorts and film buffs trying to get a leg up on new films and restored classics. Our film market crowd includes the business sorts who actually make the movies and television happen: producers, attorneys, bankers and development executives.

How is your event going?

It is already a smash hit and we only open just today for a five day run of receptions, workshops and power meetings. We have more than tripled attendance over last year and have three times as many firms exhibiting. The final tally of exhibitors is passing 300, compared to just over 100 in January of last year. A number of countries are fielding significantly larger delegations this year, including China, India, Japan and the United States. We expect to see in the range of 500 individuals from those 300 firms. Those attending will be welcomed this evening at a gala reception and then will be free to choose among screenings, workshops and meetings customized to ease introductions and provide critical inside information on the business side of making movies and television programs.

Do you think the tsunami disaster dampened attendance?

I don’t see it. The world understood the prime minister’s message that the Thai nation’s recovery very much depends upon continuing its economic life. We have been very careful to be respectful of the nation’s recovery from that terrible disaster – many of the festival and the film market events are encouraging attendees to keep the victims in mind and to aggressively support the international and national aid organizations helping out. Frankly, many of our attendees kept their plans to come to Thailand because they saw that Thailand’s recovery effort was elegantly, transparently and professionally done. I do think there is a remarkable solidarity among our attendees with the people of Thailand because of the evident courage of this great nation and the deep compassion Thailand has shown throughout it all for its foreign visitors and tourists.
Why pick Bangkok for an entertainment industry trade show?

While no one was looking, Bangkok has quietly and quickly become what I believe to be the premiere film capital of Southeast Asia. Some of that is because of the brilliance of the independent films that are made here. Because of that, plus the sophistication of its digital animation facilities, and the smart financing of its television infrastructure, Bangkok now also features some of the finest and most advanced production facilities in the world. People have always looked to Thailand for extraordinary location shooting – but Asian animation, film and broadcast producers are now looking to do their own domestic productions here in the studios of Bangkok. I think of it as the Toronto for Asia. With its Skytrain, its elegant new subway, and the new international airport which opens early next year, Bangkok has become one of the most accessible cities for business in the world – whether it is for entertainment deal making or any other kind of other international business transactions.

How much deal making do you expect this year?

Quite a lot, actually. Our rough estimate last year was that the Bangkok Film Market 2004 event was responsible for more than $100 million in film deals that were the direct result of meetings and negotiations begun or concluded during last year’s event. With the large expansion of participating firms and individuals here today, we expect that deals tally to easily pass $250 million. That’s good for Thailand and that’s good for Southeast Asian cinema. That’s also good news for world cinema. Film markets in Europe and North America are not expected to expand much – if at all – over the next decade, but there is growing international respect for the young audiences across increasingly affluent Asian markets who are still hungry for the film experience.

Where are attendees meeting?

Mostly at the Shangri-La Hotel which is Skytrain adjacent. The new rapid transit grid in Bangkok lets people fan out across the city for appointments and meetings. The film market itself has sold out available spaces and rooms at the hotel which is now overflowing with dedicated sales suites and screening rooms. We have twice the firms registered this year but more than twice as many people. Many of the companies returning are bringing larger teams to the market and they are staying not just at the Shangri-La, but at adjacent luxury hotels which are also some of the great draws in Bangkok.

Is any real business taking place?

Absolutely. The Bangkok Film Market is a dealmaker’s paradise. If there is any complaint, it is that there is not enough time for sightseeing. This year we expect dozens of significant films to be financed, packaged, licensed, or greenlit right here during the film market. In just two short years, this event has become the major forum for the entertainment business in Southeast Asia. We are now drawing to Bangkok just for this event significant international leaders in film distribution and production – agents, attorneys, acquisition and development executives, financiers, film commissioners, directors, producers and writers – converging for five busy days of screenings, hospitality, and deal-making. The deals will be done wherever the dealmakers bump into each other, but we have a heavy schedule of optional events to encourage those encounters.

What is on the formal schedule?

The opening reception party for registered attendees will be today, Monday, from 7:00 PM to 10 PM poolside at the Shangri-La Hotel. The press is also invited to that. Media registered for either the market or the film festival can attend and will be assisted in setting up interviews.

Workshops will include an animation symposium honoring producer Gabor Csupo (Wild Thornberrys, Rugrats, Simpsons) and other sessions providing tips and briefings on film financing, project packaging, and producing. Among workshop participants will be producers Andy Vajna (Terminator 2, Evita, Basic Instinct 2), Mario Kassar (Lolita, Cliffhanger), Lloyd Kaufman (Toxic Avenger) and financiers Lew Horowitz (Lewis Horowitz Organization) and Lee Beasley (Royal Bank of Scotland). We will have some of the same leaders attending a series of “power breakfasts” for more informal introductions.
What is a “power breakfast?”

The market is also sponsoring a daily series of less formal but themed breakfast meetings at the Salathip Restaurant on the river terrace of the Shangri-La Hotel. There will be no formal presentations but we will do table settings that mix bankers, film producers and film makers. Themes will include financing, international sales and distribution, and producing. Table hosts include Davenport Lyons, Royal Bank of Scotland, ICB Entertainment Finance, Cinetel, Imagination Worldwide. Producers Buzz Feitshans (Total Recall, Die Hard With a Vengeance) and Robert Levy (Van Wilder, the Wedding Planner) will be among the hosts for the producing breakfast.

What if the business types you are hosting want to see some of the movies?

Those registered with the Bangkok Film Market will have separate screening rooms and facilities set up for their use in the Shangri-La Hotel. But we are also encouraging them to attend the many films screened in theaters across the city by the Bangkok International Film Festival. The full list of films being publicly screened along with production, cast information and synopses appears on the film festival web site

What is the prognosis for Thailand’s own film industry?

It is all upbeat. There were nearly 50 feature films released by this small nation last year. Just four years ago, in 2001, only 13 were released. The continuing and aggressive support of the Thai government for its film industry, the huge success of the annual film festival and film market, plus the spontaneous creativity in the arts and design of the Thai people are the best guarantees that the entertainment industry in Thailand will continue to grow and prosper.


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