Setting the scene for cinema’s future opportunities
Screenwriter and producer Christine To Chi-long gained her first break in the Hong Kong film industry when still a Creative Media undergraduate at CityU. Spotting her artistic potential, lecturer and renowned director Tam Kar-ming recommended Christine for an internship at the company of well-known artiste Tsang Chi-wai. She went on to make her scriptwriting debut there with Blood Brothers. Now as the film industry starts afresh after the pandemic, Christine is keen to help others fulfil their cinematic dreams as well as boost the film business by opening up fresh directions.
She is in a good position to do so. The scripts that Christine wrote in her earlier days in cinema, including Murderer, Nightfall, Fearless and Secret, were not only diverse in focus but also boldly innovative in style and execution. She attributes such characteristics to her CityU education, which encouraged creativity through a learning environment offering a high degree of freedom. Moreover, this robust foundation has continued to give her the confidence to try additional avenues, enabling her to take on different roles and deepen her industry know-how. Serving as both producer and screenwriter on Rise of the Legend (2014) and Dynasty Warriors (2021), for example, has brought more all-round insights into filmmaking.
Indeed, her confidence extends to the film business and its future overall. While the COVID-19 outbreak dealt a severe blow to the industry, from Christine’s perspective it also brought opportunities ready to be seized. “It is true that cinemas were less frequented during the pandemic and even had to suspend screenings when disease prevention measures were stepped up,” she said. “But at the same time, streaming platforms became more popular, expanding the channels for showing films.”
With the pandemic easing, the local film industry is not just recovering but showing resilience. "Audiences are interested in watching films in a theatre and we are seeing an unprecedented trend of people re-watching films they like," Christine said. "They are also supporting entertainment that touches emotions and prefer more dramatic stories with greater resonance."
On the personal front, the pandemic has brought new beginnings as well, with Christine giving birth to her second daughter during this time. It also meant she and her director-cum-screenwriter husband Roy Chow Hin-yeung had the chance to develop a closer relationship with their children as they spent more time at home rather than at work.
“During this period, I noticed something special about my elder daughter, and, after professional assessment, realised she is a gifted child. Finding out how to educate and communicate with her is new to me. It is similar to studying for a degree, which requires thinking from multiple perspectives and seeing things from different angles. This has brought many new concepts too, and I have written many screenplays in the past three years.”
Meanwhile, as a producer, Christine is keen to leverage her CityU education and film business experience to play her part in advancing film industry diversification in the future. “What I would like is to assist the development of new directors by working together with them to create different productions,” she said.