Interview#9…Elven Ho, Media Consultant

Elven Ho is a Hong Kong based Media Consultant.  His past as a film and music critic offers a fascinating glimpse back at the glorious golden era in Hong Kong.  

Some Q’s for Mr. Ho!

Hi Elven, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions I have with regards to your history in TV & Movies, I really appreciate your time…

What were your first steps into the HK film industry?

My first taste of cinema was actually in the UK, where I used to attend all the films from around the world, and then narrowed down to all the art films from around the world. I ended up writing film critique during my university years and later on became a full-time film critic. When I returned to Hong Kong I joined the two major English newspapers in Hong Kong, first the Hong Kong Standard and later on the South China Morning Post, as a feature writer cum film and music critic. That’s my first step inside the HK film industry. As a film and music critic I got a chance to travel around the world to different film and music festivals from Cannes to Woodstock. In Hong Kong I got to meet, interview, hung out with the major stars and directors everyday. It was a dream job to be able to do what you love everyday and making a living from it. I was quite “influential” at the time because there weren’t other Chinese writer writing in English who is an entertainment expert in both foreign and local films or entertainment in general.

Elven, I first ‘met’ you on Instagram where you shared some personal pictures from the film Shanghai 1920.  How were you involved with this film?

I was invited by the boss and producer of the film to visit the stars of the film John Lone, Fennie Yuen, Loretta Lee and director Po-Chih Leong on the set in Shanghai. It is something I did quite often. I mean to visit a film on location in or outside of Hong Kong. I travelled by plane, train and boat to Guangzhou to visit Joan Chen and Bryan Brown on the set of Tai Pan as well.

You’ve mentioned that there was trouble on set with triads, what happened?

It was the golden era of Hong Kong cinema, with some powerful figures in the film business. That also means everyone is eyeing for a bigger piece of the pie.  In came this novice film producer from the Netherland who financed and produced this film called Shanghai 1920. He was gunned down in a shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui East execution style when he came out of the lift. Speculation about his demise ranged from his ambition to establish a foot hold in the lucrative film business to his tie with the underworld in Netherland.

Your Facebook page ‘The Golden Era of Hong Kong entertainment’ sheds a fascinating insight into the heyday of Hong Kong filmmaking throughout the 80s and 90s.  This must have been an incredibly exciting time to be involved with the industry. Where is the HK film industry now? Flourishing or floundering?

Back in the early 90s I already saw the decline of the Hong Kong film industry when they churned out large number of film of inferior quality just to fill the screens and for sales to the overseas market. Also, in my personal opinion, there aren’t any more stars that can match the star power of the golden era of Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung, et al. Also people tend to forget that as big as Hong Kong films was once second to only Hollywood in terms of their foot print around the world, it was already a miracle that a small city like Hong Kong can produce nearly 300 films a year. Unlike in the US or India, they are big country with a lot of stories to tell, more bestsellers to adapt and also the support of a bigger domestic market. It was quite a feat for the Hong Kong filmmakers to come up with 300 story ideas a year and turn them into box office hits. Sooner or later they will run out of good story, and hence the inevitable decline.

Who do you think were the best Directors/actors from the golden era and why? Who catches your eye now?

It will probably sound like cliché. I like Wong Kar Wai, Johnny To, Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung, Deanie Ip and Sylvia Chang. I cannot think of any new generation of actor or director who impressed me on the same level. Maybe I am jaded after watching too many films.

What do you think are the key ingredients to a successful film in the SE Asian market?

If I know the answer I should be a very rich filmmaker by now and not a film critic. love this answer Elven, if you could find out could you let me know too!)

What are your favourite S.E. Asian films now and why?

That is a tough call. There are too many! I will just name a few commercial films that I watch again and again: The Raid 1 and 2, the Ong-Bak series, Tom Yum Goong, Dangal, Train to Busan (never seen anything like these films in Asia or in Hollywood before).

My story has a strong, lead S.E. Asian male character; I would rather throw my script in the trash than change that. Do you think white washing exists in the western TV/Film world and if so, do you think times are changing?

Yes it exists. Take for example of white male lead with different Asian female girlfriend since the days of Love is a Many Splendid Things, World of Suzie Wong to Come See The Paradise or any film with white male lead with an Asian female love interest. I guess it is up to the producer to go against the box office. Imagine a film with the Asian male lead romancing Nicole Kidman or maybe even a bed scene, with the story told from the Asian’s point of view. I don’t think it will go down well in Hollywood. The story of The Lover with Tony Leung and Jane March was told from Marguerite Duras’s point of view, not Leung’s.

Finally, any words of wisdom for me as I embark this mini-series?

See my answer above and make a difference this time LOL.

Elven, thank you once again. I look forward to seeing more of your golden era posts as well as your fabulous holiday pictures!

Elven can be found

*pictures used with permission from Mr. Ho.

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