BEIJING — The fourth running of the Beijing Film Market wrapped on Saturday with a quickfire series of set-piece contract signings in front of an array of senior Chinese officials. It was announced that over RMB10 billion ($1.61 billion) of business had been done in the three days April 17-19.
That claim breaks down in RMB3.8 billion ($612 million) for production, RMB3.4 billion ($550 million) for cinema and other construction projects and RMB2.3 billion ($370 million) for ‘film foundation projects’.
As such, Beijing seems to be treading a path towards a different, more generalized, film industry mart, than major rights trading events such as Cannes’ Marche du film, the American Film Market or FilMart.
Housed this year in yet another new venue – the China Millennium Monument exhibition center near the old CCTV headquarters in Haidian, West Beijing – the event saw stands arranged on three circular floors and visitors swing round and round.
Organizers report that there were 248 exhibitors from 24 countries and 724 enterprises and foundations registered as participants. And, for the first time overseas exhibitors outnumbered local ones.
Stands operated by foreign organizations included the sales arms of a couple of Hong Kong studios (Emperor Motion Picture and Media Asia); the Ile de France Commission, Taiwan Cinema and the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), and a scattering of production shingles (Poland’s TOR Films, Singapore’s MM2, and Romania’s Proton Cinema.
Korean companies were especially present as vendors of technical services, special effects and post-production facilities and on the KOFIC stand they heavily outnumbered rights traders. Their primary target clients were local Chinese producers. KOFIC and the French contingent were keen to talk of production rebates and financial incentives.
Similarly, the large contingent of Chinese companies was predominantly made up of legal, financial and data services as well as a selection of small and medium-sized producers.
That meant frustration for some attendees – after a 30 minute circuit, one Korean acquisitions executive exited proclaiming “there’s nothing much to buy” – and joy for others. “The market is getting bigger and better each year,” said MM2 CEO Melvyn Ang.
For those attendees in search of early-stage, low-budget and independently-produced Chinese content the Project Market and the Motion Picture Association-backed Hollywood Film Masters were among the BFM’s most robust elements. The project pitching event seemed closely modelled on and designed to rival a similar event in June’s Shanghai International Film Festival.
The market’s series of talks and seminars – variously involving LeTV Pictures boss Zhang Zhao, French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, British director Paul Thomas Anderson, East-West Bank executive Bennett Pozil and French visual effects ace Pierre Buffi – at times seemed to duplicate that of the main festival, loosely headquartered 7 kilometers away in the downtown, Wangfujing district.
“There doesn’t seem to be an understanding that the executives need to be close to the film-makers, and the talent needs to be close to the marketplace,” said a lonely Hans Fraikin, Film Commissioner from the Quebec Film and Television Council.
Generally North American executives were in short supply at both the Beijing market and Beijing festival.
However, a small, but high-powered Hollywood contingent bypassed the market and festival altogether and was spending part of the Easter week in Beijing taking smaller, more private meetings. Those spotted in Beijing cafes and watering holes this week included Jeff Robinov, Robert Simonds, Rob Minkoff and Sony’s Sal Ladestro.
The film tells the story of a dog that spends his life serving loyally as a police dog and searching for survivors of an earthquake, set against the background of a community which attaches little value to the life and wellbeing of animals. Zheng receives an immersion course in filmmaking in Los Angeles in November.
Two high commendations were awarded to Li Haodong for his film “Haze” and Jiang Wei for “California Sunshine.”