Beijing fest hosts debate on co-production opportunities

BEIJING — Chinese and European biz officials have called for greater efforts to boost co-operation between the two industries, and outlined co-production treaties as a way forward.

Speaking at a forum at the 1st Beijing Intl. Film Festival, Film Bureau chief Tong Gang said co-productions benefited everyone involved, while moderator Zhang Xun, prexy of the China Film Co-Production Corporation, said negotiations were underway between Blighty and China to sign a co-production deal.

France signed a co-production treaty last year and these deals have proven a solid basis for getting co-productions going, although there is a lot of work to be done — out of 340 official co-productions in the last decade, only 29 have been European co-productions, said Zhang.

Chinese movies had a record-breaking year last year, bringing in box office takings of $5.5 billion, but getting access to the China market is one of the major challenges facing European filmmakers.

There is currently a quota of about 20 foreign movies allowed into China every year on a revenue-sharing basis, although overseas studios prefer flat fees because a big hit can make more money. This means a lot of countries fight over a small number of slots. A further 40 films per year can be imported on a flat-fee basis.

France has been particularly good at leveraging influence in China, and it won six of the 20 slots last year.

U.K. producer Phil Agland, who produced the ground-breaking documentary series “Beyond the Clouds” and “Shanghai Vice,” is very keen for Blighty to sign a treaty, and he said China was a more flexible place to do business than people might think.

Hong Kong director and distributor See-Yuen Woo shared his experiences of working closely with China — Hong Kong has been far and away the most successful at co-operating with China, although it enjoys special status since it was returned to China in 1997.

The forum was attended by State Administration of Radio, Film and TV vice-prexy Zhang Peiming, and deputy head of the Film Bureau, La Peikang, as well as China Film supremo Han Sanping, Bona founder and CEO Yu Dong, Huayi Brothers prexy Wang Zhongjun and helmer John Woo.

From the European side in attendance was Alexandra Lebret, who runs the European Producers Club, producer Jeremy Thomas and French helmer Jean-Jacques Annaud, who will shoot “Wolf Totem” in China from next year.

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