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Freeze Frame

Josephine Lawrence

The 2016 Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART) is happening in March, with about 800 exhibitors expected, including event management company Orient Snow. The Hong Kong-based company is an official distributor for UK-based Snow Business International, which has been transforming Hollywood film sets and creating eye-catching advertisements with their specialised artificial snow. The growth in the film and television streaming markets in Southeast Asia led to the opening of a regional office in Hong Kong in 2011. Josephine Lawrence heads Orient Snow, which carries out production projects in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, including a recent one for the production crew of Netflix’s Marco Polo series in Malaysia.

Tell us about your company.
We are part of a global network under Snow Business International, which is a 30-year-old company headquartered in the United Kingdom. The Hong Kong office is an independent company and an official distributor for the parent company. Snow Business International has developed a wide range of products, starting out in the film industry, but it is also in sectors like TV commercials, television programmes and live events.

We offer extremely well thought-out products, and have invested a lot in R&D. Certified under British safety standards, our products are very useful as it’s difficult to work in snowy locations and you can’t always get the effect you want. You can’t even guarantee that it will snow on location, so that is why we went into this business.

What is the snow made out of?
The three main materials are paper, plastic and wax. The paper range is commonly used in big film sets. We use recycled paper, which we mill into different sizes. We have a chemical-free version, which is used on plants and other ecologically sensitive locations. For snow effects, we have a big machine that dresses large areas quickly.

The plastic range, which is biodegradable, is very popular for photo shoots, visual merchandising and display. Another category, known as foss snow, is used in theatre production and film. These are plastic flakes that are so thin and light that it floats. They are shredded into half the size of a finger nail. And with a bit of air movement, it gently floats down to the ground.

Wax is used to simulate a frozen effect. For example, to re-create frozen water in Alaska in the winter or when air moisture is frozen in an indoor setting. The library scene in the science fiction film The Day After Tomorrow, for example, was done using wax.

How is the clean-up carried out?
It requires a team to sweep and shovel up the majority of the product before a high-pressure water hose is used to remove the paper residues left behind. If we are working with plastic snow in a studio, then sweeping and shovelling is the main method, using a vacuum for indoor and a leaf blower outdoors to complete the process. If it is not essential to see actual ground beneath the snow in the shot, then a snow membrane is laid down and the snow dressed on top, making the clean-up easier when the membrane is folded up with all the snow for disposal.

Tell us about some of your latest projects in Asia.
We recently provided snowsticks for Marco Polo, the Netflix production in Malaysia. For live events, we did many projects leading up to Christmas, including, in Hong Kong, a ski ramp for a children’s snow play zone at Whampoa Garden in Kowloon. Globally, all the teams worked on the Jimmy Choo window display by providing snow products for the display.

What has been your experience exhibiting at FILMART?
We met the production team of the movie Farewell, My Berlin Wall at FILMART in 2013. During project development, they realised that they would include some snow scenes. They remembered they had met this team in Hong Kong doing winter effects, so they called us.

I think FILMART is a really great platform to raise brand awareness. Since our products are so new in the market, we have to be clear about what we do. We are investing in a much bigger booth this year, and we’ll build an actual film-set for people to understand straight away what we can offer.

Are you launching any new products at FILMART?
We will showcase our new product range: Black and Grey, which will be brilliant for the burned and ash effect. The Black and Grey range is used for fire scenes where all things are burned. We use paper, plastic and a special machine to melt the wax, which is sprayed out at high speed to get a bubbly, shiny effect. This product range will be fantastic for Hong Kong films, because we have a lot more domestic dramas and action movies here, including explosions and car chases. This is going to be really big for us in Hong Kong.

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