SHANGHAI — Despite industry decline, China still kicks out close to 100 films a year. But with only two film schools, the country struggles to find enough qualified professionals to feed increasingly regionalized productions. That’s set to change with the announcement Shanghai will have its own school by next year.
“We have a big film studio here, and yet many of our directors, cinematographers and so on were trained in Beijing,” says Zhong Qin, deputy director of administration at Shanghai’s prestigious Tongji U., which plans to open its film academy by the start of the academic year in September.
“They have their own very northern view of filmmaking and culture, and they often head back home after a couple of years here; it makes things unstable,” Zhong adds. “What we need is a local, Shanghai style vision, more suited to audiences in central and southern China.”
Beijing Film Academy, in the capital, has been the powerhouse behind the Chinese film industry for more than 50 years, and almost all of China’s big-name actors and directors are alumni.
The so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, including Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Tian Zhuangzhuang and Wu Ziniu, is comprised entirely of Beijing Film Academy graduates who joined the school after it reopened in 1978 following the Cultural Revolution. More recent stars including actor Zhang Ziyi and helmer-actor Jiang Wen are also Beijing graduates.
Chongqing’s Film Academy — the only alternative — opened just three years ago.
Shanghai was the cradle of the Chinese film industry, with dozens of movies coming out of the city each year by the 1930s. It also was home to film schools. The last of these — in the city’s former French Concession — closed during the Cultural Revolution.
The showcase East Coast city is still home to one of the country’s biggest film studios, and produces close to 20 films a year. Many local actors and stage directors study at the local Theatre Academy, where courses also include TV production, but not film.
The Film Academy of Tongji U. (FATU) will be the only school offering pure film courses, including directing, cinematography, animation and film history, initially at undergraduate level, with plans to extend to a master’s program in the near future.
The institute’s first dean has already been named; Huang Shuqin, one of China’s most prominent directors, is best known for her films “Pan Yuliang, a woman painter” (1995) and “Woman, Human, Demon” (1987).
Zhong Qin says other advisors will include local actors Zhang Ruifang and Sun Daolin, and Hong Kong star Stephen Chow.