To work or not to work : the dilemma of Hong Kong film labour in the age of mainlandization

Mirana M. SZETO, Yun-Chung CHEN

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This paper analyzes the working conditions of Hong Kong film labor amidst rapid mainlandization of film production. In fact, it is the latest round of production restructuring. Hong Kong film production in the post-WWII era began in the 1950s as a studio system. It transformed into a mixed system in the 1980s, a flexible independent system in the 1990s, and then extended into a co-production system in the 2000s. In this continuous restructuring process, Hong Kong film production reached its heyday in the early 1990s, producing nearly 250 feature films per year, employing over 15,000 people, with nearly eighty percent gross local market share. Production then steeply declined. Between 1992 and 1998 overseas revenue fell 85 percent. Local market share plummeted to 25 percent in 2008 (HKMPIA, 2010; HKCSD, 2010; Chan et al., 2010). The two-decades-long decline was blamed on assaults from copyright infringement, competition from Hollywood and other Asian countries, and investors’ preferring to park their money in more ludicrous real estate speculation than taking risks investing in film. These seem to be global explanations, but we also find more context specific and structural reasons. Our paper will focus on an ethnographic analysis of present film labor conditions, and a context-specific analysis of structural political-economy and geo-historical causes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJump Cut: A Reveiw of Contemporary Media
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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