Asian projects head to Paris

On “The Grandmasters,” one of China’s biggest-budgeted films, helmer Wong Kar Wai entrusted the vfx work to Buf.

The Paris shingle’s involvement on a movie expected to set a new gold standard for kung-fu razzle-dazzle underscores how far and fast Paris’ Asian biz is growing.

Since 2005′s “My Stay in France,” re-creating ’20s Paris, most years have seen a big Chinese TV series lense in the French capital.

Rolling last year, “Material Queen” became the first Taiwanese series to shoot in Paris.

Produced by Victoria Hon for Hairun Pictures, Chinese pic “Perfect Baby,” with Jane March and Jean-Baptiste Maunier, shot 12 days in Paris in January.

Jiangsu TV’s half-hour series “Our French Years,” about Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaopin’s political coming of age in ’20s France, will shoot six weeks in Gaul beginning in late May. Bayoo TV handles production management.

Another summer Chinese TV shoot looks likely, says Olivier-Rene Veillon, general delegate, Ile de France Film Commission.

French cinema, especially New Wave films, have inspired Chinese filmmakers, notably Jia Zhangke (“24 City”) and Wang Chao (“Memory of Love”), says Jean-Chretien Blanc, general delegate at January’s inaugural French-Chinese Film Festival.

France’s locations, its “art of living, romanticism” and the ex-pats’ lives all interest Chinese producers, says Bayoo’s Yves Cresson.

One recent game-changer has been the growing budgets and ambitions of Chinese production.

With more than 2,500 TV stations in China and 526 features produced there last year, “There’s a huge demand for content,” says Cresson. Regional nets — Jiangsu TV, Hunan TV, Beijing TV, SMG — battle one another in national ratings.

International locations create a “new dimension,” boosting production values and marketing hooks, Veillon says.

“Grandmasters” also pulled down France’s Tax Rebate for Intl. Production (TRIP), tabbed at 20% of French spend.

“The rebate allows France to be a competitive force in the global vfx marketplace,” says India Osborne, who recently assumed the mantle of Buf general manager.

Budgets on Chinese film and TV series segs average around $1 million and $140,000 respectively.

TRIP requires a minimum $1.4 million spend in France. Lowering the threshold — in an ideal world to $700,000 — would allow TRIP to work even better, argues Patrick Lamassoure, Film France managing director.

Another question is whether Paris’ Asian relation can be taken to a new level where French companies not only line-produce but also provide vfx or co-production coin on high-end Chinese movies.

French film authorities are pushing hard to deepen Asian relations. They helped engineer the April 2010 Franco-Chinese co-production treaty, China’s fourth after Italy, Australia and Canada.

And over Jan. 26-27, France teamed with China’s State Administration for Radio, Television and Film (SARFT) on inaugural Franco-Chinese industry meetings. These showcased Paris vfx work from Buf, Mac Guff, Mikros and Duran Duboi.

Following the treaty, French companies can offer TRIP or co-production, ringing more options, says Lamassoure.

As Chinese budgets increase in both live action and animation, with a co-prod treaty in place, collaborations should logically broaden.

As Osborne puts it, “The door is wide open.”

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