Third Culture Film Festival is held in Hong Kong, a city with a rich cinematic history. It’s the home of iconic action stars like Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen. And of filmmaking legends like Wong Kar-wai and his muses Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. In recent years however, the Hong Kong film scene has not produced much new talent. It has become a difficult city for independent filmmakers to survive in, with sky-high housing prices and little to no available funding for creative media.
Harry Oram, co-founder of Third Culture Film Festival, discusses his dreams of helping the independent film scene.
“Living in this city, Faiyaz (co-founder of TCFF) and I started wondering why Hong Kong lacks a great independent film scene. I mean, it’s an amazing city to film in! There is little to no red tape, there is so much talent and the city itself gives an amazing backdrop for any film. So what’s going on?!
Simply put: there’s no recognition here. Say, you’re a local filmmaker. Like anybody else, you’ve got rent to pay, and a lot at that. You really want to make your own film, and after months of work you come out with an original creative work of art. You sell your work to some local art fair, and they put it on a tiny screen in a dead corner of their art space. Are you going to be proud to bring your family there? They’ll say “So this is what you’ve been working on for the past six months?!” Wouldn’t that kill your motivation?
I find it amazing that Hong Kong has all these great artists, and we don’t even know about them. It’s not just that they’re not respected, they are just unheard of. We need to hold up independent filmmakers, like Wong Ping, and say “This guy should be a Hong Kong rockstar!” Right now in Hong Kong, we celebrate A-listers who can sing and dance and model but can’t really do any of them well. This needs to change. We need to celebrate the pros! Celebrate the guys that spend months searching and developing their own work. That’s what we do at Third Culture Film Festival.
Secondly, because there’s no recognition, there’s no competition. That local filmmaker, who spent months developing his work, he won’t do that again. He’ll go film some wedding or something and get paid well. And all these visual artists get pulled out of the art circles and into the commercial circuit. And when you leave the judging to the market you get generic content, smoothly polished cheesy stuff. You won’t improve, you’ll just get better at making generic content. Send your content to a festival and you’ll learn new ways. You’ll learn originality and creativity. But for that to happen you need to be criticised, and good critics come about by being exposed to a lot of films. Seeing other work, a lot of it, makes you picky. You won’t just accept anything anymore, you’ll have a standard. And that standard will get higher and higher. That’s how a film scene gets better and better. That’s why a competitive film festival like Third Culture Film Festival is important. It’s not just about making films, it’s about setting a standard and striving for improvement.”