Confabs designed to give bizzers insight

Hollywood will be looking to the East in the coming weeks thanks to two confabs designed to give bizzers’ insights to China’s expanding entertainment market.

UCLA and USC are setting aside their usual Westside-Eastside rivalry this weekend to co-host the free two-day Media and Culture in Contemporary China conference, which includes an appearance by prolific film and TV helmer-producer Zhang Jizhong.

On Nov. 1, the Asia Society Southern California’s Entertainment & Media/Asia Initiative will present a half-day U.S.-China Film Summit at Landmark Theaters in Westwood focusing on the landscape for U.S.-China co-productions, as well as collaborations in marketing and distribution.

The Media and Culture confab is produced by the UCLA-USC Joint East Asian Studies Center, UCLA history professor Andrea Goldman notes that while Zhang is “virtually unknown in the West,” he is “a household name in China due to the popularity of his TV serials,” often based on classic Chinese literature.

Confab organizers have shaped the conference to Zhang’s expertise, featuring discussions on the state of the entertainment industry in China, the recreation of Chinese dynasty classics in film and TV, and the integration of theme parks in China. There will also be a big focus on the impact of China’s growing local film and TV production industry on its popular culture.

“With the rise of the economic power of China now, globalization is moving in a different way,” Goldman says. “Zhang is representative of this new phenomenon of Chinese producer-directors eyeing a global market for their work.”

Friday’s sked at UCLA’s James West Alumni Center will include a keynote from Zhang and a screening of his recent TV production “Journey to the West,” based on the 16th century epic novel. Participants in Friday’s panels include Phoenix Films topper Mike Medavoy, Pandemonium Films prexy Bill Mechanic and Manifest Films head Janet Yang.

The gathering moves to USC’s Annenberg Auditorium on Saturday with an emphasis on theme parks and will include execs from Walt Disney Imagineering. Zhang, who is in the midst of creating a theme park based on China’s Monkey King legend, will close the gathering with a 90-minute Q&A.

Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at USC’s journalism school, said there’s no question that showbizzers need to have a better understanding of China.

“The Chinese government said they want to double their entertainment sector in the next five years. That offers plenty of opportunities for people who are outside of China to work with people who are inside China,” said Martin Kaplan, director of USC’s Norman Lear Center.

The Asia Society event features two panel seshes — one on finance, the other on creative concerns — featuring bizzers who have made notable inroads in China of late, including Relativity Media’s Ryan Kavanaugh and Dan Mintz of DMG, which is investing in theaters. Also onboard as speakers are Ivy Zhong, general manager of Galloping Horse Prods., former Universal chairman David Linde and producers Tom DeSanto and Dayyan Eng.

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