Build It and They Will Come? Not Necessarily…
Within various Asia countries, millions of dollars are being spent to build elaborate facilities to house the next generation of media production. Provinces in China, for example, are set to compete for the crown of ‘reigning international digital media hub’ along with cities in India and Korea.
Out of both farmland and decaying urban areas, giant buildings gleam in the sunlight as they rise above the landscape. Inside such structures, equipment featuring the latest technology for animation is unpacked from boxes and set up for use. Optimistic forecasts are made –predicting riches to the local economy and its participants.
In other areas, the buildings have not yet been built nor the equipment purchased, although the same types of optimistic revenue stream predictions are still being made. Ground may have been broken (or not) regarding construction, but many times there are only models to look at – while the money for the construction is slowly approved by the regional and/or federal government.
But who will use such facilities? In most of these regions, the workforce is strong and growing, yet not necessarily quite able to develop stories that resonate with an international audience.
Can there be an audience? Certainly. But the mindset in building these tremendous facilities has been akin to putting the proverbial cart before the horse – that is, building and spending loads of money before properly identifying how the goal will be achieved.
In the motion picture “Field of Dreams,” an elaborate baseball field was built in the cornfields of Iowa. The mantra was “build it (i.e., the baseball field) and they will come.” The field was built and they came – they meaning a bunch of dead major league baseball ballplayers.
In terms of present-day animation, “build it and they will come” seemingly reflects the mantra of many Asian cities and countries that feel by merely building a large infrastructure designed to house animation production, it will attract both foreign investment and foreign projects designated for the international marketplace which will, in turn, allow such city to become an “international animation destination hub.”
Grandiose plans are frequently presented at meetings. Conferences are held to extoll the virtues of the next amazing digital media site. Smooth-talking representatives hand out glossy brochures which detail the intricate details of the soon-to-come construction.
Fact or Fiction?
There remains a disconnect between Far East governments and Western producers and production companies. I’ve written in my last 2 blogs about the expansive growth of business opportunities for animation in Asia. There are events to attend and deals to make.
I’ve also noted that various countries in Asia tend to provide a very cost-efficient means for production, a skilled workforce and governments that seek to provide financial incentives for new projects – all provided that the work is done in that country.
But how exactly are governments going about the business of recruiting and bringing in new projects to their proposed international animation hub?
Well, governments tend to rely on salespeople – just like any other business. In this scenario, the government representatives attend various animation markets, fairs and conferences. The government representatives set up booths and pass out hundreds of business cards and materials which describe the benefits of production work in their country.
These salespeople, er government representatives, end up “selling” a vision concept to producers and production companies. The representatives’ pitch goes something like this: ‘come produce your project in our country – we offer government support, great facilities, a strong workforce…’
To be sure, there are definitely economic benefits to be realized: government incentives including free or reduced rent, use of equipment and additional reduction of costs related to cheaper labor.
But in the end, will the location become a Field of Dreams or a dream never realized?
Until next time...
Be well. Travel safely.
Frank M. Lunn
Partner, International Animation Consulting Group