QA: Challenges and opportunities in film co-productions
"The Chinese market is probably a little bit different and more complicated, so if they really want to make a movie for the Chinese market, they have to study the Chinese culture. They have to know the Chinese people, and they also need to know the background of the people, what they want. Fundamentally, they have to remember that they need to make a good film that tells good stories to meet this market."
------------ Geng Ling, CEO of China Film Assist
Geng Ling, CEO of China Film Assist. [Photo: chinafilmassist.com]
Film industry insiders and filmmakers from around the world have also met on the sidelines of the 8th Beijing International Film Festival to discuss co-production.
As the world's second largest film market, China has become an attractive place that overseas filmmakers have been striving to enter.
However, it's widely believed the incorporation of "Chinese elements" into foreign films or co-productions with China hasn't seemed to work as studios have hoped.
The panelists say to ensure the quality of Sino-foreign co-productions, especially those featuring a Chinese story, overseas filmmakers should try to collaborate with their Chinese counterparts to bring out "the authenticity of the story."
Our reporter Su Yi earlier spoke with Geng Ling, CEO of China Film Assist.
Q: For some listeners who might not be that familiar with the film industry, how can we tell if a film is co-production?
A: Co-production, normally, I refer to a film that co- produced by two or more than two countries or regions, normally there are two or more than two- language versions when it is released in the relevant countries or regions.
Q: After all these years of booming market here in China, how would you describe the real picture, the real situation, of co- productions with China, or for the Chinese market?
A: There are plenty of co-productions each year, but there are not so many that are so successful, you know, when we are talking about co-production, it's not an easy job. You have at least two countries, or more than two countries, and then you have a larger audiences to please, and also on the production phase, it's already quite difficult because you have people from, crew and cast, from different countries, different locations to shoot; and on the distribution side, it is also very hard, because you have so many audiences, you know, they might have different cultural, political, even religious background. It's not easy. In Chinese term, we have a term saying "double-edged sword". You think you are trying to please both sides, but you may end up getting both sides unsatisfied. So that's the reality.
Q: So for you what is the formula, the secret, or the key, to the success of the co-production films, especially in China?
A: Well, I don't think there is any production formula that can work for any film. Film co-production is only different in the way it is produced. It is still a film to start with, that means you still have to make a good film, especially in China. Chinese audiences are sane, and also different from the other areas, and China is quite big, it is huge actually, and we have first tier, second tier, third tier, fourth tier cities where there are films. So you can't say that a specific region is always the same as the other region, and have the same taste, same demand for films. So it's quite complicated.
Q: So we know China is very attractive to international film makers, for example, to Hollywood producers. So today considering all the changes over the years to the Chinese film market, like the screen number, and maybe overseas investment. What would you tell a Hollywood producer if he or she wants to invest in a movie targeting the Chinese market?
A: Like we said, the Chinese market is probably a little bit different and more complicated, so if they really want to make a movie for the Chinese market, they have to study the Chinese culture. They have to know the Chinese people, and they also need to know the background of the people, what they want. Fundamentally, they have to remember that they need to make a good film that tells good stories to meet this market.