Shanghai fest spotlight co-productions

Mike Medavoy’s recent pact with Shanghai Film Group for a pic and miniseries set in WWII Shanghai is a prime example of how co-productions are increasingly viewed as a way into the China market, participants at the Shanghai Film Fest co-production summit explained Monday.

Shanghai Film Group is one of China’s biggest media companies and previously partnered with Merchant-Ivory on “The White Countess.” Its long experience with co-prods includes Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun,” for which Shanghai Film Group finessed the shoot by blocking off the Bund and removing 300 air conditioners from a building for a period look.

SFG has also cooperated with Warners to build cinemas in China, has imported Imax screens and has done co-productions with Universal.

“We have a complete industry chain, and we have a very wide market reach. I hope that one day Chinese culture has the same status as the Chinese economy does now in the world,” SFG chief Ren Zhonglun told the fest aud.

For Shanghai-born Medavoy, the WWII projects has a strongly personal component: His refugee parents were saved through the offer of sanctuary in Shanghai during the war.

Pic will be loosely based on “The Cursed Piano” by Chinese author Bei La, while the six-hour mini is based on Daniella Kuhn’s story “Tears of the Sparrow.”

In his first trip to China as MPAA topper, Chris Dodd praised the success of U.S.-China co-productions such as “The Karate Kid” remake and “The Forbidden Kingdom.”

France has always had a lively relationship with the Chinese-language biz, and Julien Ezanno, who oversees international co-productions at the French National Cinema Center (CNC), said Sino-French strategic partnerships have blossomed since France signed a co-production treaty last year. The first to benefit was Chinese helmer Wang Xiaoshui, whose pic “I, 11″ will get French government support.

Beijing- and L.A.-based DMG Entertainment is co-producing Hollywood/China pic “Looper.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and China’s Xu Qing star. The shingle has produced Chinese B.O. hits, including top-earning domestic production “The Founding of a Republic” in 2009 and “Go Lala Go!” and has also distributed Hollywood blockbusters in China such as the “Twilight” pics.CEO Dan Mintz told the forum that there are two kinds of Chinese co-production — one is an international film with Chinese elements, like “Looper,” while others are Chinese films with international components.

“There will be more and more co-production films in the future, and I hope the government gives more space for more different story subjects. And I would like to see some co-production between China and India, the two biggest growing markets,” Nansun Shi from Film Workshop said.Helmer He Ping said that for Chinese filmmaking to really thrive, the government needs to provide a better regulatory background and provide more support.

“Only when the government makes it easier on the policy can we serve up better film dishes,” said He.

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