The Taiwan Banker NO.96106.12 / By Chang Hung
Special interview with the Minister of Culture, Cheng Li-chiunProvide necessary funding for Taiwan's arts, culture and entertainment industry
Taiwan's local film and television production companies have difficulty obtaining funding and believe that production costs are too high. The government can help them by creating an arts, culture and entertainment industry ecosystem. This will entail upgrading the quality of film and TV content and expanding funding resources. At present, there are some encouraging trends in the Taiwan film and television industry. For instance, the film Cape No. 7 (released in 2008) performed well at the box office, with overall ticket sales of NT$530 million. As a result, the director had sufficient funding to resume work on his epic film Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale. Seediq Bale ended up receiving wide international acclaim, appearing at several global film festivals and in a number of overseas markets. There are some disruptive changes in the current Taiwan film and TV industry. Taiwan also has a number of successful television programs, such as the Q series, The Teenage Psychic, and Wake Up 2. The success of these programs has given the local entertainment industry a much-needed shot in the arm. In an interview with The Taiwan Banker, Cheng Li-chiun, Taiwan's Minister of Culture, noted that Taiwan has a wealth of rich cultural traditions whose commercial value can be seen in successful local films and television shows. The Golden Bell Awards and Golden Horse Awards are established platforms to recognize excellence in Chinese-language television and film, respectively, she notes. The Golden Bell Awards are Taiwan's equivalent of the Emmys, and only cover Taiwanese television programs. The Golden Horse Awards, established in 1962, recognize excellence in Chinese-language cinema; they are considered to be the Chinese-language Oscars.Looking at 2017's Golden Bell Awards and Golden Horse Awards entries, it is evident that Taiwan's entertainment content is evolving - "it is becoming more bold and diverse than in the past," Cheng says. Further, some veteran actors have introduced talented newcomers to the industry, she observes. By cultivating new talent, Taiwan can ensure that its entertainment industry remains healthy - and attracts the interest of global investors, who see potential for Taiwanese films to be successful overseas. "If we can combine funding from both domestic and foreign investors, we believe it will help our entertainment industry take a big step forward." To be sure, it will be challenging to revitalize Taiwan's entertainment industry. But it is certainly possible. With this in mind, the Ministry of Culture presented a report to the Executive Yuan on expanding movie and television financing to create a healthy entertainment ecosystem to the Executive Yuan. The report offers numerous financing suggestions to help upgrade Taiwan's entertainment sector. It recommends that at least NT$12 billion be allocated for this task. The entertainment industry should develop robust intellectual property In Minister Cheng's view, Taiwan is culturally rich. She notes that Taiwanese youth have plenty of creative energy. This can be seen in the local online game Detention, which depicts local historical stories. Further, the Ministry of Culture sponsored Q series, a TV production project, which led to the creation of a total of eight original TV shows. Q series aimed to foster world-class audiovisual production talent and innovative Taiwan entertainment products. Looking ahead, Taiwan should endeavor to use its own cultural elements to create content that can appeal to a wide audience. Further, it should develop strong intellectual property to facilitate value-added cooperation across the entertainment industry. The Ministry of Culture is carrying out several initiatives related to cultural content. These include the Entertainment Industry Development Plan and the Cultural Content Science and Technology Innovation Industry Pilot Flagship Plan. These initiatives will be supported by IP development, big data testing and some case studies. Additionally, the government has allocated more than NT$2 billion under the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Plan for digital infrastructure. There are several types of digital infrastructure that will be covered under the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Plan. Content infrastructure will focus on developing the digital arts, culture and entertainment industry, improving access to high-definition services and ultimately helping the industry scale up and expand internationally. These projects will establish a national cultural memory bank, create spectacular 4K ultra-high-definition content, and allow the public to enjoy a wide range of new media and multi-screen convergence services.Meanwhile, the "New Media Cross-platform Content Production Plan" will encourage private entrepreneurs to optimize use of new media platforms such as Over The Top (OTT) content and new technology innovations in AR and VR to tell Taiwan's story. It is important to encourage interdisciplinary cooperation among literature, comics, animation, film and television, allowing culture to penetrate and communicate through all forms of media.It is worth mentioning that Taiwanese art has evolved to incorporate diverse elements reflecting our multicultural heritage. However, Taiwan's art history has yet to be catalogued systematically. Many precious historical documents, audio-visual materials, works of art, and related manuscripts and cultural relics are scattered all over the country. In some cases, they are badly damaged and in urgent need of repair. Further, Taiwan's unique art history has not been fully integrated into the overall system of Chinese art history. In order to build Taiwan's cultural power, the Ministry of Culture has also specifically included the project "Rebuilding Taiwan's Art History" in the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Plan. At present, the Ministry is also in discussions with the Ministry of Education about the possibility of setting up the Taiwan Art History Research Center at a university. The National Taiwan Museum is in the midst of an expansion. By combining the efforts of the government and the private sector, we will work together to promote a renaissance in Taiwan's art history.Introduce investment into the market and integrate financing toolsCheng Li-chiun emphasizes: "If we want to export Taiwan's cultural content, we need to scale up production, which requires ample financing. Having access to sufficient funding is the key to being able to create content with high production value. And the investments should be guided strategically - so that Taiwan creates several big production companies and OTT platforms." Last April, the Ministry of Culture established the "Film and Television Professional Cooperation Office." This office works to develop funding sources for the entertainment industry and provides counseling on expansion strategy. To date, the office has been involved in more than 70 television and film projects. The projects cover IP development, IP development, content translation, funding, production companies, OTT broadcasting platforms, big data analysis, music and animation. Further, the office has helped to promote two cross-border projects. One of the projects supported by the office received an award for television drama screenwriting. Other projects are in the process of receiving assistance or applying for financing. Additionally, the office provides assistance with preferential loan applications. Thus far, it has helped 11 entertainment companies successfully apply for preferential loans in the sum of NT$96 million. The office provided the companies with an additional NT$1.04 billion in funding. Work across different departments, increase content quality In addition to the introduction of funds, the Ministry of Culture has also established a financial film and television communication platform with the FSC. This includes the "Film and Television Industry Investment and Financing Seminar" and the "Film and Television Industry Content Seminar" to be held in June and July this year. The courses will focus on key trends in film and television, IP development, case studies and field visits. At the same time, we will develop a rating system for intangible cultural assets and establish of a database to help businesses more smoothly obtain the required funds.A national team to build the entertainment industry ecosystem The entertainment industry is not only the reflection of a nation's culture; it is also an important strategic industry. The Ministry of Culture uses the "national team" concept to support the industry's development. This entails cooperation between different government agencies as well as the public and private sector. "Cultural governance and promotion are not the responsibility of a single government department," Cheng says. "Boosting awareness of Taiwan's cultural and artistic virtues and deepening its links with the rest of the world is what we will strive for." Strengthening the ecosystem of the arts, culture and entertainment sector is an important cultural issue. Various government departments will be instrumental in achieving this goal as they manage related tax incentives, policies for international investors and intellectual property protection. Through the creation of high-quality film and television programs, Taiwan's rich culture will be exported, and the whole world will be able to see its vitality.