As far as local films in Macao are concerned, it is impossible to overlook Albert Chu’s active, significant role in championing local filmmaking. As early as 1999, he set up the Audio-Visual CUT Association, which has attracted a group of film-lovers and even filmmakers. Over time, his work, Macao Stories, has gained considerable recognition, and the screening of the final episode, Macao Stories 3: City Maze, due for release at the end of January 2015, indicates the gradual evolution of local films.
Bemused, Chu conceded that Audio-Visual CUT Association is, after all, not a filmmaking company. “All along, our filmmaking activities are not driven by profits. Instead, we would like to do it in order to support directors with artistic promise, creating new opportunities for them.”
In 2008, when Macao Stories 1 was launched, it was seen as an experiment, given the lack of post-production equipment. Its sequel, Macao Stories 2: Love in the City, owed its success in part to the advice of various leading professionals. By the time the third film was made, Macao Stories 3: City Maze, a truly Macao-based film crew was formed, supported by a post-production team in Macao.
Come, the Light, an episode in Macao Stories 3, is directed by Chao Koi Wang, who has lived in Taiwan for eight years before moving back to Macao. It was not until his return to Macao that he met other like-minded, fellow filmmakers, and decided to join the industry.
Chao’s challenge soon arose. The film crew whom he relied on for producing this film are mostly locals with full-time day-jobs. To produce the film, however, would require the crew’s commitment of 10 days or more. Chao conceded that this reveals one of the biggest challenges for making films in Macao: “With a small market, it is hard to survive on films alone.”
Albert Chu described the typical filmmaker in Macao as “passionate but not yet professional”. He added: “Even a film studies graduate cannot master the trade without eight to ten years of hands-on experience.”
In Hong Kong, a film costing HK$5 million is considered a low-budget production, and so when Macao’s Cultural Affairs Bureau launched its programme to support feature films with a capital of MOP1.5 million, filmmakers found the investment insignificant. Chao thought that while Taiwan’s funding of TW$8 million to sponsor young directors seemed minimal when compared with funding in other parts of the world, he felt that the funding in Macao is equally shocking. Having said that, once a feature film is made, it can become a persuasive portfolio for presenting to potential investors.
As Macao Stories reached its final episode, Albert Chu considered it the beginning of more promising things to come. “We have managed to produce Macao Stories with our local film crew. In many ways it has helped to further our film-making work in Macao.”