“We expect Chinese executives to be the fourth or fifth biggest national group in Cannes when the final numbers come in,” said Cannes market chief Jerome Paillard. “Last year they were eighth.” The French, U.S. and British contingents are usually the three largest.
By the beginning of May over 300 Chinese execs had registered with the Cannes Market and with late sign ups and on-the-spot registrations the total is expected to swell to 350-400. There is also expected to be a significant – and immeasurable – number of senior Chinese executives who do not feel the need for a market badge, but will also be in Cannes taking meetings from chateaux and private apartments.
“There is not particularly a growth in the number of Chinese buyers, but we see lots of producers registering, lots of institutions and large numbers of investment and technology participants,” said Paillard.
While China is now the world’s second largest theatrical market, with box office this year expected to exceed $4 billion, the film industry has only been liberalised since 2001 and it is still immature and evolving.
“We are taking this growth as a very good sign that the Chinese industry is increasingly engaging with the film industries from the rest of the world, and we are very happy that they choose to use Cannes for that purpose,” said Paillard.
The Cannes Market has made significant efforts to encourage the Chinese industry. In early March it held a series of master classes in Beijing with speakers including Jean-Jacques Annaud. At the end of March it returned to China to host 4 days of pitching and coaching workshops with local producers, distributors and financiers.
The process will continue on the Croisette next week when the Cannes Market hosts the second running of its New Chinese Film Talents Fund Forum. This will give 8 Chinese indie film-makers a platform to present their projects to sales agents, financiers and potential co-producers. After one day of on-stage presentations, film-makers will then have two more days of arranged one-on-one meetings. A press conference and prize presentation will be held on Sunday May 19.
Six of the projects were selected by overseas and Chinese film executives and two by the Beijing Film Market, which held its own Project Pitches during last month’s Beijing International Film Festival.
The Cannes Market’s Chinese outreach is organized and run independently – although simultaneously – to the French-Chinese Co-production Workshop organized by France’s film support body the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (CNC).
Additionally, the Marché du Film Opening Night Reception, on Thursday May 15, will be dedicated to China, celebrating the country’s increasing presence on the global film market. Annaud, currently in post-production on French-Chinese co-production Wolf Totem, is expected to attend.
France and China this year celebrate their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
France is already a favourite destination for Chinese tourists, and with over a million Chinese visitors now visiting the country annually. Chinese police have recently even begun helping their French counterparts on the Paris Metro.
(Pictured: Chinese actress Fan Bingbing at the ‘Jeune et Jolie’ red carpet event in Cannes 2013.)