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British trade envoy promotes UK, capacity building for Lao filmmakers

VIENTIANE, March 1 (Xinhua) -- British Trade Envoy and Oscar-winning film producer Lord David Puttnam held a one-day masterclass for local filmmakers during his trip to deepen ties with the United Kingdom on Saturday.

Puttnam, well known for producing films like The Mission, Memphis Belle and Chariots of Fire, is touring the countries of Southeast Asia to promote bilateral trade, investment and education links.

This is the second time the British Prime Minister's trade envoy for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia has visited the region in six months.

During the masterclass participants were able to put their questions directly to a panel of three specialists including Puttnam. The session explored the main challenges and future opportunities for the Lao film sector.

Lord Puttnam told Xinhua at the film masterclass that he hoped the construction of cinemas in Vientiane would create demand for more Lao film. "Unless you create a want to see, you're not going to create an industry to make movies," Puttnam said. "I think that audience building is fundamental. Audience building relates to offering an experience, a cinematic experience, which hopefully becomes a habit," he concluded.

According to a press release by the British Embassy in Vientiane, the embassy is working with the Lao government, the Vientianale International Film Festival and local filmmakers to build capacity within the Lao film sector.

Aside from the centerpiece visit of Lord Puttnam, the capacity building project focuses on identifying training and other crucial areas for improvement. As well as identifying areas of need within the Lao film industry, the project aims to highlight future possibilities for capacity building in the sector.

"If people have a good camera, good equipment, they can make films, but the important part is the idea. The idea is the hard part of doing something like film. Today I came here to explore ideas and now I feel more confident," emerging award-winning Lao filmmaker Vilaypong Phongsavan told Xinhua. "I wish that I can make a living through filmmaking," he added.

On Sunday, Lord Puttnam will open a reception celebrating links between the UK and Laos in the fields of education and business. Guests will include British business people based in Laos and Lao and foreign alumni of UK universities.

Monday will see Puttnam holding a series of bilateral meetings with government officials including Vice Education Minister Sengdeuane Lachanthaboune and Minister for Industry and Commerce Nam Vinhaket. According to the press release, discussions will include the promotion of British business in Laos with a focus on Public-Private Partnership infrastructure development.

Lord Puttnam will also lead representatives from British education as they seek opportunities for UK-Lao partnership in education and the English language. The party will witness the finalization of new primary school English learning materials developed by the Research Institute for Education and Sport using British Embassy project funding.

British Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Lord David Puttnam as trade envoy for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in November 2012 in order to promote trade for UK businesses in the fast developing Southeast Asian economic landscape.

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