The big draw for shooting in China is China itself — a co-production made there is instantly on track to access the world’s fastest-growing film market, and with the right partner, distribution can be ensured.
As a venue to shoot, China has improved greatly in recent years. The state-run education system means that film schools produce competent crews. The influx of talent from Hong Kong has meant that local productions have become extremely slick. A lot of Hong Kong talent has simply moved north of the border to be closer to the mainland China boom.
Chinese B.O. last year rose to $1.5 billion, driven by the surge in the number of cinemas. With such a strong domestic aud, China is seen as a crucial place for new revenues.
Getting a co-production partner has gotten a lot easier in recent months, evidenced by the establishment of a number of tie-ins as Hollywood studios try to get a piece of China. As well as DMG’s $300 million fund, Relativity Media set up a Chinese production and distribution partnership and Legendary Entertainment, through its Legendary East unit, announced plans for a $220.5 million investment in a filmmaking venture aimed at producing pics for the Chinese market.
Local shingles complain about the tax burdens, but overall the main downside is the lack of transparency and censorship when it comes to getting a project going.
Always popular with local productions, but increasingly with overseas shingles, is Hengdian studios in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. With 13 backlots, the complex also sports a replica of Beijing’s Forbidden City, a marketplace in the Ming or the Qing dynasty, or 1920s Shanghai, even the Warring States period.
Closer to the capital is the Huairou Film Base, in a suburb north of Beijing covering 131 acres with 16 studios, a digital production studio, a prop/costume warehouse and other production support facilities.
Chinese shingles are increasingly reaching out to Western companies and talent. Zhang Yimou’s “The Flowers of War,” starring Christian Bale, is being sold internationally by FilmNation, and is exec produced by David Linde and Chaoying Deng. It’s repping China in the foreign-language Oscar race.
• China Film Co-production Corp.