×

DMG’s Dan Mintz: Hollywood’s Man in China

Int'l exec helps films like 'Iron Man 3' break through a Great Wall of red tape

Sitting prominently behind Dan Mintz in his Beijing office at production company DMG are wooden crates, the kind you imagine might be used to pack a certain superhero’s metal armor. The crates, a promotion for “Iron Man 3” are, excuse the pun, a stark testament to the DMG topper’s success at teaming up with Marvel to make the third installment of the franchise a success in the famously difficult market that is China.

To help sell the film, the New York native even got Robert Downey Jr. to make an appearance in the Forbidden City, the ancient imperial palace at Beijing’s heart.

Mintz’s mantra when advising others on how to break into the Chinese market is “access and relevance,” as in access to the right people to approve a film, and relevance of the project — and the company — to China. Mintz believes the success of his projects so far shows DMG’s adherence to both tenets.

“We felt very early on that China is a defining market, but there is a skill-set you need to get under your belt,” he says, looking out over a rare Beijing day with a smog-free skyline. “China is completely different, from language to culture.” To Mintz, knowledge of the U.S. market, the entertainment industry’s most mature, and China, the world’s fastest-growing, have provided a necessary mix.

DMG started out as an ad agency — a partnership set up 20 years ago by Mintz, chairman and finance expert Peter Xiao and group president Wu Bing, a former national gymnastics champion.

Since adding film production to the group portfolio, DMG has had a strong run, starting in 2009 with the propaganda (Mintz prefers “government”) epic, “The Founding of a Republic,” and continuing with domestic success “Go Lala Go!” in 2010, Rian Johnson’s “Looper” last year, and now “Iron Man 3.”

There is no question that DMG’s strong connections with government officials and the state film colossus, the China Film Group have helped it navigate the sometimes choppy regulatory waters of the world’s second-largest film market. The journeys of “Looper” and “Iron Man 3” were not exactly smooth, with questions over whether they would qualify as co-productions, which enjoy vital benefits in distribution, immunity from blackout periods and a far greater revenue share.

Mintz won’t divulge details of exactly how the two films were defined on release in China, and says there is a great deal of misinformation surrounding such things. “Co-productions have been around for 100 years,” he says. “Two studios work together, it’s a co-production. That’s the definition we use. So ‘Iron Man 3’ is a co-production.” Any finer points, he adds, are irrelevant. “It doesn’t affect our business here,” he says.

Mintz concedes that as a Chinese company, DMG did well by the deals.

“Our access was as good or better than co-production status,” he says. “We’ve been marketing from the beginning, and we are the Chinese element that needs to be in a film to achieve the things we want to achieve.”

Still, he maintains, there is no shortcut to making movies in China. All the usual ingredients — financing, development, production, marketing and distribution — need to be in place for a film to succeed. He readily notes, however, that China does add a bit of the unknown to a business that already deals in a mixture of “magic and science” as he terms it.

At the time we speak, “Iron Man 3” has notched around $100 million at the China box office. Mintz says the process of getting projects like it and “Looper” to screen in the country has validated DMG’s approach, and hopefully cleared the way for other projects.

“Let’s be honest,” he adds, his face brightening with the skyline “it’s pretty obvious we have the wind at our back and the support of the government — you couldn’t have Robert Downey Jr. rising from the depths of the Forbidden City if you didn’t!”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Our Mothers Review

    Oscars: Belgium Sends Cannes Prizewinner 'Our Mothers' to International Feature Film Race

    Belgian-Guatemalan director Cesar Diaz’s feature debut, “Our Mothers,” will represent Belgium in the International Feature Film category at the Oscars. Represented in international markets by Pyramide, “Our Mothers” world premiered at Cannes’ Critics Week and won the Golden Camera for best first film. “Our Mothers” is set in today’s Guatemala, a country riveted by the [...]

  • La vaca "The Cow"

    Alfredo Castro, Mia Maestro, Leonor Varela Cast in Francisca Alegria’s Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

    SANTIAGO, Chile  —  The much anticipated feature debut of Chilean Francisca Alegria, renowned for her magical short “And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye,” has firmed up its cast and shooting dates. Argentine thesp Mia Maestro (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”), Chile’s Leonor Varela (“Dallas,” “Blade 2”), Alfredo Castro (“From Afar,” “Museum”) [...]

  • 210819 Distribusjonsseminar DNF

    Haugesund: Nordic Distribution Panel Analyzes Recent Success Story 'Queen of Hearts'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  On Wednesday morning, shortly before this year’s New Nordic Films Works in Progress screening was due to begin, a handful of industry veterans sat for a panel that picked up right where last year’s WIP program left off. Presented in collaboration with Europa Distribution, the panel – called “The Value Chain: A [...]

  • L-R Dena Kaplan, Ronny Chieng, Josh

    Rafe Spall Leads Cast of Oscar Nominated Josh Lawson's 'Long Story Short'

    Rafe Spall, whose credits include “The Big Short” and “Shaun of the Dead,” leads the cast of romantic comedy “Long Story Short.” Studiocanal will handle worldwide sales on the film, which starts to shoot on Monday in Sydney, Australia. The movie is written and directed by Josh Lawson, who was Oscar nominated last year for [...]

  • Metro 2033

    Cult Sci-Fi Novel 'Metro 2033' to Be Adapted as Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russia’s TNT-Premier Studios Company, TV-3 Channel and Central Partnership Film Company – all part of Gazprom Media – have come together to produce a movie based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s sci-fi novel “Metro 2033,” which has also been adapted as a video game. Filming is due to start next year. The Russian premiere of the movie [...]

  • Beforeigners

    'Beforeigners'' Anne Bjornstad on HBO's First Norwegian Original Series

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  HBO Europe’s first Norwegian original series, which debuted Aug. 21 exclusively across HBO’s territories, has garnered rave reviews in the Norwegian press. It is also a perfect fit for HBO’s brand and goal to create bold, smart and author-driven shows. Produced by Endemol Shine’s Norwegian prodco Rubicon TV, “Beforeigners” is helmed by [...]

  • Refugees from the besieged Muslim enclave

    Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

    Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years. The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content