Thanks again to Film Biz Asia for this article by Marcus Lim
Hollywood is getting smarter about engaging with Asia on more equal terms, having learned lessons from earlier unsuccessful attempts, according to two senior Hollywood executives at the second In Conversation seminar held Wednesday at ScreenSingapore.
According to Sanford Panitch, president of Fox International Productions (FIP), Fox has already made between 15-20 non-English language films, and has local production activities in 11 countries around the world, including India, China and South Korea.
“We define [our productions] as films that don’t need the U.S. to recoup,” said Panitch. “Because of the increased marketing cost just trying to get above the clutter of the massive studio tentpoles it’s very hard for any independent film to survive the U.S. It’s true for Fox Searchlight, true for us.”
While his studio has had a history of releasing foreign films in America, including My Name Is Khan which last year saw a 150+ print release and achieved a $5 million gross, Panitch acknowledged that the major studios were no longer touting their ability to open foreign films internationally.
“How do you break into a market which doesn’t need you or want you?” said the executive about India, where local films account for more than 90% of box office revenue. “Why are there studios? Its really about [studios providing] global distribution, suddenly if you say you don’t want international distribution then it makes it hard to consider what the benefits of a studio can bring [to the producer].”
Co-panelist Greg Coote, chairman of Latitude Entertainment, agreed, while considering that the studio publicity and distribution machinery could not be engaged for foreign films essentially because they “were in the wrong language”, pointing to American audiences’ long-acknowledged resistance to foreign-language films.
In an interesting reversal of talking points, the panel also debated ways Asian filmmakers were becoming more responsible global media players. In discussing the perennial studio bugbear of unauthorised remakes of Hollywood films undertaken by Indian producers, Panitch revealed that his office had recently entertained enquiries about film rights from Bollywood filmmakers.
“A colleague of mine got a call from an Indian company and she said ‘I’ve been in Fox for 25 years and this is the first time I’ve got a call asking to license rights!'” said Panitch. “It’s a great sign of Indian producers wanting to have business respectability, and acknowledging that intellectual property has value.”