DMG’s Dan Mintz: Hollywood’s Man in China

Dan Mintz

Int'l exec helps films like 'Iron Man 3' break through a Great Wall of red tape

Sitting prominently behind Dan Mintz in his Beijing office at production company DMG are wooden crates, the kind you imagine might be used to pack a certain superhero’s metal armor. The crates, a promotion for “Iron Man 3” are, excuse the pun, a stark testament to the DMG topper’s success at teaming up with Marvel to make the third installment of the franchise a success in the famously difficult market that is China.

To help sell the film, the New York native even got Robert Downey Jr. to make an appearance in the Forbidden City, the ancient imperial palace at Beijing’s heart.

Mintz’s mantra when advising others on how to break into the Chinese market is “access and relevance,” as in access to the right people to approve a film, and relevance of the project — and the company — to China. Mintz believes the success of his projects so far shows DMG’s adherence to both tenets.

“We felt very early on that China is a defining market, but there is a skill-set you need to get under your belt,” he says, looking out over a rare Beijing day with a smog-free skyline. “China is completely different, from language to culture.” To Mintz, knowledge of the U.S. market, the entertainment industry’s most mature, and China, the world’s fastest-growing, have provided a necessary mix.

DMG started out as an ad agency — a partnership set up 20 years ago by Mintz, chairman and finance expert Peter Xiao and group president Wu Bing, a former national gymnastics champion.

Since adding film production to the group portfolio, DMG has had a strong run, starting in 2009 with the propaganda (Mintz prefers “government”) epic, “The Founding of a Republic,” and continuing with domestic success “Go Lala Go!” in 2010, Rian Johnson’s “Looper” last year, and now “Iron Man 3.”

There is no question that DMG’s strong connections with government officials and the state film colossus, the China Film Group have helped it navigate the sometimes choppy regulatory waters of the world’s second-largest film market. The journeys of “Looper” and “Iron Man 3” were not exactly smooth, with questions over whether they would qualify as co-productions, which enjoy vital benefits in distribution, immunity from blackout periods and a far greater revenue share.

Mintz won’t divulge details of exactly how the two films were defined on release in China, and says there is a great deal of misinformation surrounding such things. “Co-productions have been around for 100 years,” he says. “Two studios work together, it’s a co-production. That’s the definition we use. So ‘Iron Man 3’ is a co-production.” Any finer points, he adds, are irrelevant. “It doesn’t affect our business here,” he says.

Mintz concedes that as a Chinese company, DMG did well by the deals.

“Our access was as good or better than co-production status,” he says. “We’ve been marketing from the beginning, and we are the Chinese element that needs to be in a film to achieve the things we want to achieve.”

Still, he maintains, there is no shortcut to making movies in China. All the usual ingredients — financing, development, production, marketing and distribution — need to be in place for a film to succeed. He readily notes, however, that China does add a bit of the unknown to a business that already deals in a mixture of “magic and science” as he terms it.

At the time we speak, “Iron Man 3” has notched around $100 million at the China box office. Mintz says the process of getting projects like it and “Looper” to screen in the country has validated DMG’s approach, and hopefully cleared the way for other projects.

“Let’s be honest,” he adds, his face brightening with the skyline “it’s pretty obvious we have the wind at our back and the support of the government — you couldn’t have Robert Downey Jr. rising from the depths of the Forbidden City if you didn’t!”

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  1. Ali Nosrati says:

    Well, its nice to see that even our own people are contributing to the fall of America’s greatness. With this I mean that, in the pursuit of profits, even those wealthy and politically-connected are promoting self-censorship. In order to make money in China these “Americans” will do anything, even promote censorship in order to get a movie approved. Their actions further entrench the position of the Chinese Communist Party in China, which acts as a parasite to suppress over one-billion people.

    Hollywood should be ashamed of itself. As Hellywood time and time again loves to portray itself as a beacon of light and freedom in the pursuit of freedom of speech when it criticizes US history, policies, and politics, it does the reverse in China. It tries to maximize its political influence in the US by using freedom of speech to push its own agenda, while then turning around and doing the opposite in China. All in order to improve its relative power position.

    For all of us who grew up watching Hollywood films and buying into their message of free speech and democracy, the difference between the people’s voice and the voice of the state, justice and injustice etc…this is quite telling. Hollywood is a hypocritical, two-faced, opportunistic parasite.

    Feed the citizens at home propaganda BS, then go to China and do the exact opposite.

    I do wonder if the SEC will go ahead and pursue the corruption charges against Hollywood studios. These guys are pursuing treasonous and corrupt acts in China, and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Furthermore, I implore all those who know of and see these hypocritical acts to contact their congressman and ask that these people be exposed and prosecuted for any breaches of the law. Furthermore, people should follow closely which studios collaborate with DMG or the Chinese Communists, and boycott all of their films.

    If ever there comes a time when the greatness of America fades to black, its not because of the power of China, but because of the weakness/corruption/and treason by would-be Americans such as the dude mentioned above…

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