Vietnam's national film studio pictures no future ahead after acquisition by waterways firm

By Staff reporters   September 22, 2017 | 06:38 pm PT
Artists are asking how a transport group with no experience is going to light up the big screen again.

A recording and editing room in serious disrepair at the Vietnam Feature Film Studio in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Vietnam's government has pledged to look into the privatization of the national film studio following its acquisition by a transport firm that artists say has little interest in the movie industry.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam made the promise on Thursday a day after visiting the Vietnam Feature Film Studio, which held a press conference last weekend to raise the matter.

The studio, which was established by the government in 1953, put a 65 percent stake up for sale last year which was snapped up by the Hanoi-based Waterway Transportation Corporation in June for more than VND32 billion ($1.4 million).

In the aftermath of the sale, senior members of the studio said the company had no experience in the film industry and had failed to make good on promises to buy new equipment and start promotional campaigns.

The firm set a goal of producing one movie and one television series a year, which, according to artists, is far below the studio’s potential.

The company has also fallen short on payment promises.

The artists were told that they would receive an average wage of VND4.8 million ($211) a month, but many have received just VND1 million or nothing at all. They were told that they would only receive the full amount if they were in the office from 9 to 5.

“They do not understand the way the industry works. Editors and actors have to go out and look for material,” actor Vu Quoc Tuan said.

The company has also rearranged the workspace, crowding more artists into one place and using the spare space for other businesses, including a restaurant.

The artists said they had been looking for an outsider to give the studio a fresh start for years.

“We want to continue performing,” Tuan said.

The national studio, covering 5,500 square meters by West Lake in Hanoi, has produced around 400 movies over the decades, including award-winning features.

But many productions have made losses in the past 20 years, with some historical and revolutionary movies doing poorly at the box office, especially in the face of contemporary productions by both domestic and foreign competitors.

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