Co-prods even trickier in China

Shanghai fest panel explores issue

SHANGHAI — There were few surprises but lots of experiences to share at Shanghai Intl. Film Festival’s Film Co-operation Forum on Thursday.

A host of local and foreign producers were joined on stage by fund managers, lawyers and government film officials in a series of wide-ranging presentations that emphasized just how complicated it is to put together an international co-production.

Jean Cazes, chairman of the European Film Producers Club, described a typical co-production he is involved with. “We have brought together four European companies for a film that stars Hong Kong, Korean and Japanese actors and two big U.S. stars. And the director is Franco-Vietnamese.”

Despite the complexities, he was optimistic about the potential for multicultural, multilingual productions, particularly in the European market.

“Europe widely accepts subtitles and dubbing, and there is a huge curiosity about foreign cultures,” he said. “Audiences are especially curious about seeing China today.”

Stephen L. Salzman, an entertainment lawyer, was also on the panel and gave an extended warning about the perils of entering into co-production agreements without finalizing the details in a water-tight contract.

“This is the film industry,” he said. “Talents fall out, stars and directors fall out, and you have to know where that leaves you.”

He referred to a recent Korean-U.S. co-production where one of the Korean stars was unable to film in the States because his visa application was turned down.

“If the contract is tight, these are circumstances that can be worked out,” he continued.

Salzman also emphasized the importance of making sure international productions qualify for co-production status, especially when so many funds and subsidies are contingent on legal status.

Teddy Zee, president of Ironpond, a China- and U.S.-based production house that was one of the companies behind “Hitch” and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” was also positive about the future of Chinese foreign co-productions.

“China is more than just cheap labor and pretty locations. I believe that Chinese films will explode and Chinese co-productions will replace Hollywood as the place where great movies are made.”

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