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LCQ20: Pay level of employees in film industry

    Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Professor K C Chan, (in the absence of the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development) in the Legislative Council today (November 14):


     In July this year, the Finance Committee approved the Administration's proposal to inject $300 million into the Film Development Fund (FDF) to strengthen support for the local film industry.  Nevertheless, I have learnt that junior assistant producers/directors in the film industry generally earn low salaries, work exceptionally long hours and lack medical protection.  For example, while a television broadcasting company offers monthly salaries between $9,000 to $13,000 to newly recruited assistant producers/directors who are university degree holders, the salaries for equivalent positions in the film industry are far lower.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) whether they are aware of the low starting salaries of graduates from tertiary institutions entering the film industry, and whether they have examined if such a situation, in the long run, is not conducive to the recruitment of new blood by the film industry and has negative impact on the healthy development of the industry; and

(b) whether they will specify in the FDF's funding conditions that successful applicants will be required to:

(i) offer a certain number of trainee positions to students or graduates of film-related courses at tertiary institutions;

(ii) submit a report on their work on nurturing talents upon the completion of film production; and

(iii) offer salaries to junior level staff or new entrants at levels not lower than those for similar positions in television stations;

     if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

     There has been a substantial drop in the number of local film productions as well as box office revenues in recent years, particularly so for the small-to-medium budget films.  This has on the one hand caused a drain of talents in the industry, and on the other hand decreased opportunities for new recruits to participate in production and receive training.  To revive the local film industry and put in new impetus, the Government has introduced a host of support measures, including the injection of an additional $300 million to expand the Film Development Fund (FDF), so as to support the production of small-to-medium budget films.

     My reply to the questions is as follows:

(a) The mode of operation of film production companies is unique.  Generally speaking, production companies will normally employ production staff on short-term contracts when producing a new film.  In contrast, television stations operate on a rather continual basis and remuneration of their staff is determined by the qualification, work experience and the prevailing market demand.  It is thus difficult to make a direct comparison of employment terms and pay system between the two trades.

(b) The FDF is established to encourage commercial investment in production of small-to-medium budget films through market forces with a view to boosting production volume and creating more employment opportunities, improving the level of proficiency as well as nurturing talents for the film industry.

(i) Although the FDF does not require the funded film productions to offer a certain number of trainee positions to students or graduates of film related courses at tertiary institutions, the industry collaborates with the local tertiary institutions and various training bodies, offering trainee positions to budding film workers.  Making this a compulsory requirement for fund application will restrain the flexibility in film production and will involve operational difficulties.

(ii) Given the different experience and background of various members of a film production crew, it is difficult to set objective training indicators. Requiring a report on nurturing talents upon the completion of the production of the funded film may present practical difficulties while not serving a useful purpose.

(iii) As the salaries of film workers cannot be directly compared with those of long-term employees of television stations, it is impracticable for the FDF to mandatorily require that film production companies offer salaries to junior level staff or new entrants at levels not lower than those permanent employees in similar positions in television stations, which is not in line with the mode of operation of the film industry.  Generally speaking, film veterans and film workers with better performance receive higher pay.  However, for the daily-rated workers (such as props men, mechanics, floor managers, tea service attendants and production assistants), under the co-ordination of the Federation of Hong Kong Film Workers, the employer and employee sides have agreed on the minimum daily wage.  It is understood that the two sides have recently revised upward the minimum daily wage having regard to market trends.

     The nurturing of talents for the film industry requires long-term and on-going efforts.  The Government and the Film Development Council will continue to explore this issue actively and examine effective means for nurturing talents for the industry.  As for the operation of the FDF, over-regulation will affect its operation and attractiveness, this may discourage commercial investment in the production of small-to-medium budget films, thereby resulting in the opposite.  We must therefore strike a balance.  Nevertheless, we will review the operation and requirements of the FDF from time to time, and consult the Legislative Council and the industry in order to ensure that the FDF is genuinely conducive to the long-term development of the local film industry.

Ends/Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Issued at HKT 15:56


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