The scoop: China has something for everyone when it comes to making movies — deserts, rain forests, stunning lake scenery and bang-up-to-date facilities at studios such as Hengdian, which houses the sets of ancient imperial cities, 1930s Shanghai and contemporary scenes.
On the downside, it is heavily regulated, its censors have a heavy hand, and it is wary of foreign input.
Making movies in China can be a rewarding and financially savvy decision — the key is to proceed carefully with both eyes open.
One thing China has no shortage of is labor. China has excellent crews, with topnotch training in the old Communist studio system; labor and equipment are cheap and readily available.
China’s main production incentives are related to its low cost and sophisticated infrastructure. There are tax breaks for co-productions — they are taxed at the 10% corporate tax instead of 25%. There is no restriction on percentage of co-production sharing, no restriction on filming locations and a 20-day approval process for a project. However, one-third of a pic’s cast must be from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macau.
“We improve our production facilities every year, especially lighting and cranes, and I’d say our facilities are as good as anywhere in the world by now,” says Zeng Yuling, spokesman for Hengdian World Studios.
With 13 shooting bases for a total area of 815 acres, around 50 films are shot at Hengdian every year as well as scores of domestic TV series.
“Most foreign films cooperate with local producers, such as Huayi Brothers, as it makes it more convenient to get through the process of examination and approval,” Zeng says. Polybona is local another Chinese production giant that Western producers can tap into.
War epic “The Children of Huang Shi,” starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Radha Mitchell, shot at Hengdian using some 500 extras — sometimes more. Shooting in China with a Chinese crew — indeed, with very few non-Chinese involved at all — allowed the producers to make the picture happen.
“We couldn’t have done this movie as a Western production,” says pic’s German producer Wieland Schulz-Keil.
Bonus: The People’s Liberation Army does a great sideline in suiting up and playing a rampaging horde from the Warring States period.
Shot there: Roger Spottiswoode’s “The Children of Huang Shi”; Marc Forster’s “The Kite Runner,” in Kashgar, western Xinjiang Province; “Dead or Alive,” helmed by Cory Yuen; “The Restless,” helmed by Jo Dong-oh.