Hong Kong Filmart Puts on Brave Face for 3rd Virtual Edition Amid Local Omicron Wave

Hong Kong Filmart Puts on Brave Face for 3rd Virtual Edition Amid Local Omicron Wave

For the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, organizer of Asia’s largest content market, Filmart, the default mode in the pandemic era is to devise an array of contingency plans to ensure that the convention will proceed without a hitch no matter how the situation changes, Peggie Liu, associate director of the HKTDC, tells The Hollywood Reporter. Thanks to this mentality, when the city’s fifth wave of infections reaches a crescendo this week, the team will be prepared.

“Since the majority of our visitors are from abroad, even before the latest outbreak in Hong Kong, we made the decision when we saw the developments of the pandemic late last year to have another virtual edition,” says Liu.

Hong Kong Filmart 2022, scheduled for March 14-17, is focusing on retaining its advantage in terms of both the volume and diversity of the Asian content available. As the largest market for film and television content in the region, it has also been a hub to showcase what the Hong Kong film industry can offer. The organizer is pushing films this year in the Cantonese language, which is spoken in Hong Kong as well as in Mainland China’s Guangdong province. Major Guangdong companies are set to rejoin Filmart after many Chinese companies dropped out when the market went online in 2020.

For the third Filmart held virtually, the HKTDC is putting more effort into pre-event publicity and previews to alert the participants about the market highlights, such as the new Philippines pavilion. “With a virtual Filmart, we have also become aware that the conference does not have to be confined within four days in March. We can extend our publicity and promotion to cover important market events like the Hong Kong International Film says. Film sales can be made all year round, so we are hoping to facilitate our participants’ deal-making throughout the year,” states Liu.

People in the entertainment industry in particular see face-to-face meetings, chats over coffees, or dinners and parties as essential to networking and dealmaking, and the HKTDC is well aware of this need for in-the-flesh contact for salespeople and buyers, or producers and filmmakers, to build relationships.

“Nothing can replace in-person meet-ups, but we do try to help create a better environment for online meetings for our participants. When we had physical booths in a convention center, even when the buyer hasn’t yet entered an exhibitor’s booth, the exhibitor might know the buyer was somewhere nearby.” But in an online setting, this is more complicated. With some 8,000 buyers browsing titles from around 670 exhibitors this year, Filmart will give a report to the exhibitors of the buyers who have clicked on their page, so that they can follow up based on this information.

The last two years have been a learning curve for everyone — especially the technical aspects. “Online participants’ previous concerns were more about technical issues when accessing the Filmart online platform, like how to upload. But now they are more used to virtual conferences and markets,” says Liu. Based on comments from participants during registration, the organizers are also introducing upgrades and new features to the platform to help exhibitors to highlight their products and buyers to navigate the numerous titles on offer.

“While buyers would spend hours walking the aisles in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre at the past physical Filmarts, what we have learned from the previous virtual editions is that they might just take time out of their schedules to browse the titles or listen to the seminars online. They might have meetings or other tasks to do after that time slot,” Liu adds. “They want to shorten the time needed to find the titles they want. So we are introducing the recommendation function for titles they might be interested in, based on the information they provide to us to save their time trying to search for what they want.”

Technology in entertainment is also a key area of focus in the online seminars. With the rebranding of the seminar series as EntertainmentPulse, discussions will center on hot topics including how the metaverse could bring transformation to the entertainment industry and how NFT technology could create new business opportunities for entertainment companies with libraries of IP and content.

“We have always tried to make Filmart more well-rounded and bring information to the industry. So we take note of what should be discussed. Many people in the entertainment industry are starting to explore the ways to capitalize on NFTs and the metaverse, to derive revenue streams, use them as marketing channels, or for customer engagement,” Liu says. These two topics will be shared with EntertainmentPulse’s non-Filmart sister events — MarketingPulse and EtailingPulse — held concurrently to cover any overlap. Visitors can access the seminars to gain a better picture of the overall market at present.

With the pandemic not likely to end soon, Liu assures a return to a physical Filmart remains a steadfast objective for the HKTDC team. “Filmart has been established for over 20 years and has proved to be valuable. We set great store by our position as the largest content marketplace in Asia,” she says. “As we know, people in the entertainment industry prefer meeting face-to-face, so our biggest goal for the future is to organize a physical Filmart like the ones we used to have. But the online platform can be used for publicity, interviews, seminars, and disseminating information, all year round.”

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