Cinema: Laying Out the Welcome Mat – with Hong Kong Characteristics

Celebrity Gossip

How’s this for the unlikeliest of plot twists? A Hollywood movie producer flies cast and crew across the Pacific Ocean to shoot scenes on location in the streets of Hong Kong.

On the morning of their first shoot, someone that is apparently on drugs storms up carrying a long air conditioning unit and tries to smack the producer in the face with it.

Had he pissed someone off?

The producer ducks, slams the air conditioner to the ground, and pushes the assailant away. Security guards intervene, and it takes fully seven of them to wrestle the guy to the ground.

Reminds me of a confrontation I witnessed between some local shoppers and some mainland Chinese tourists at a shopping mall in Shatin a few weeks back … But I digress …

‘Royal’ Hong Kong Police

Fifteen members of the riot squad from what used to be known as the Royal Hong Kong Police arrive and make four arrests.

I wasn’t there, so I’m not sure exactly what happend, but the newspapers say that the arrests were made because the “suspects” had “assaulted officers”.

OIC. Apparently it’s okay to harrass filmmakers and assault producers. Just don’t mess with the police.

If you think that sounds like the plot from a B grade movie, think again. It actually happened in Hong Kong a couple of days ago, and the Hong Kong Tourism Board is not amused, worrying that it might affect the city’s image.

If something like this were to happen again, “the reputation of Hong Kong will deteriorate,” Peter Lam, Chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board worries.

South China Morning Post

My good buddy Alex Lo, who writes one of the few columns in the South China Morning Post that I actually read all the way through MOST days, observed that it MIGHT actually bolster the city’s reputation as a great location in which to shoot movies.

Hong Kong used to have this image as an exotic foreign locale with ladies in cheong sams and policemen in short pants and squatters living in shanty towns that might be washed into the sea during typhoons.

There were  double agents, there was corruption, there was intrigue.

But that’s all been lost amid the onslaught of upscale shopping malls, ubiquitious mobile phone penetration before they had even been heard of anywhere else, and one of the world’s most convenient transport systems.

I mean, Alex DOES have a point!

This “incident” DOES seem to revive that Hong Kong “mystique” as this exotic foreign locale where gangsters, known locally as triads, actually DO do Chinese Kung Fu! Except now they use air conditioning units rather that tasseled spears.

And they’re not afraid to take on visiting film crews from Hollywood!

I’ll take it a step further. Where else could you get THIS kind of free publicity?

Michael Page’s Website

Actually I knew nothing about this until I read Alex’s column this morning, and that was the story I was going to tell.  

 As I sat down to write this piece, however, I decided to check my facts and see if I could turn up a few more juicy details so I logged on to Michael Page’s website to see exactly what he had to say about the incident.

There was a little more to it than I had thought.

Apparenly “some drugged up guys were being belligerent asses to” Michael’s crew in the morning of their first shoot in Hong Kong.

Metal carts were rolled into actors, attempts were made to shake them down for thousands of dollars, venders wanted “four times” what a fair amount of compensation should be.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Hong Kong, and I don’t find this surprising. I remember friends being ambushed on the morning of their weddings and being hit up for “protection money”.

I remember a friend having a box thrown at her head as she left a shop because she hadn’t bought anything.

It sounds a bit like “the good old days” to me.

Asia’s World City

All of which begs an obivious question: why wasn’t the situation being monitored by the police – and the Hong Kong Tourism Board – from the beginning?

Isn’t this supposed to be “Asia’s World City”?

Surely the filmmakers had to apply for a permit to shoot a scene of a movie in the streets of Hong Kong. Surely they had received authorization to do so. They might even have had to pay a sum of money for the privilege of doing so.

So how could such harrassment have taken place in the first place?

Most cities welcome filmmakers with open arms. They actively promote themselves as a great backdrop for movies. They go out of their ways to make sure that things run as smoothly as possible.

Priceless Free Publicity

The reason for this is simple: the publictity for a city serving as the backdrop in a film is PRICELESS!!! And MOST cities understand that.

And the shopowners that complained of lost revenue should understand that, too. Having your shopfront appear in a movie is PRICELESS free publicity for your shop.

Savvy businessmen would make posters of the scene and place them in their shop windows – “As Featured in Such N Such a Movie!”

Some filmmakers actually CHARGE MONEY for businesses to be “featured” in this way.

But it goes both ways.

Michael Bay got some pretty good free publicity, too. I just hope those cameras were rolling. Could result in some VERY good promos! It could even be inspiration for Michael’s next film!

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