×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

China Smokes Out ‘Fake’ Co-Productions

Bizzers at Beijing fest warned that only pics with real local input will get coveted status

BEIJING – Co-productions remain a key vehicle for Hollywood movies to make their way into China, bizzers at the Beijing Film Festival were told today.

But overseas producers need to make sure their projects really do meet the co-production criteria.

There has been a crackdown in the past few months on what Chinese regulators see as attempts to take advantage of the benefits of co-production status by paying lip service to the requirements for significant local involvement and genuine Chinese components.

Last year there were only five official co-productions, according to regulatory body China Film Group, and none came from the U.S.

In 2012  Zhang Pimin, now deputy minister of powerful new regulator the General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China, took a hard line on what he described as “fake” co-productions.

He was more conciliatory at the fest, which wraps on Tuesday.

“Co-production is a win-win situation. We pay a lot of attention to co-production because China adheres to multicultural principles, and I hope Chinese movies can go out into the world through co-production,” said Zhang.

Overseas filmmakers want co-production status because pics are treated as domestic films and do not fall under China’s 34-film import quota, and usually involve local investment in exchange for local distribution rights.

They stand a much stronger chance of getting a mainland Chinese release, have immunity from blackout periods and a greater revenue share.

Some movies, such as “Iron Man 3” (pictured) pushed hard for co-production status but did not get it, and the issue has proven divisive as both Hollywood and China try to co-operate more.

French producer Igor Darbo said the theme of co-production was omnipresent at the forums and informal discussions around the market.

“And the talk came not only from big studios and star producers but also from independents,” said Darbo, who announced thesp Stephen Lang had joined the cast of his Sino-Western co-production, “The Dragon Angel,” a family adventure set in China, which will be directed by Pitof.

“I noticed that both Chinese and foreigners are fine-tuning their approach to co-productions now that we can all benefit from past co-pro experiences,” said Darbo. “Visions look more precise now about the requirements for successful co-productions in terms of stories, production structure and marketing. I feel that people realized the complexity of Sino-Western co-productions and are working harder at it.”

There was also a strong focus on technical issues at the fest, including the surge in use of digital cameras.

Keanu Reeves shot his directorial debut “Man of Tai Chi” on an Alexa Studio digital camera. He told a panel he found it difficult to move from film, but the budget dictated he must use a digital camera.

Forest Liu, general manager of Arri China, said Chinese filmmakers were originally slower to adapt to digital cameras.

“It took them about a year longer. But when they did, they switched almost completely. I don’t think there is a single movie being shot with film in China right now,” said Liu.

He said Arri was focussed on building the China market.

“The digital revolution means we are in a different place, and we have made a decision to be present here. That will help us sell more here. Our Asian business is expanding, and now we have a presence in Beijing and Hong Kong we are expanding,” said Liu.

The Chinese market is now the world’s second biggest and a report issued by the Motion Picture Assn. and the China Film Distributors and Exhibitors Assn. (CFDEA) at the fest showed just how important the industry is.

The film and TV biz in China contributed $15.5 billion to the economy and supported 909,000 jobs in 2011, generating tax revenues of $3.4 billion.

CFDEA chairman Yang Buting said massive growth in China in the past five years was driven by auds’ desire to experience new pics and skeins on multiple platforms.

“More people are watching films and TV shows at new digital cinemas and on the latest hand-held devices than could ever have been imagined five years ago,” he said.

Piracy remains a major impediment to expansion of legitimate content in China. Zhu Yongde, chairman of the China Film Copyright Assn. (CFCA) said the report would help raise awareness of the importance of the rights of film and TV makers and copyright owners.

“The Chinese government has made a substantial commitment to protect creative work, and we have made significant progress to ensure that people have access to films and TV shows through the many legal means available to them. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that creative work is fully respected and protected,” said Zhu.

Charles Zhang, founder and topper of China’s giant Internet search engine Sohu, said online content theft was a major challenge to growth.

“We hope to work closely with the rest of the screen community to address these issues and help provide an even brighter future for film and television in China,” said Zhang.

Popular on Variety

More Global

  • Abel-Ferrara-Apichatpong-Weerasethakul-Leos-Carax

    Piano Boards Abel Ferrara’s ‘Siberia,’ Backs ‘La Noche Blanca’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    LOS CABOS  —  Driving ever deeper into the international co-production of some of the world’s highest-profile auteurs, Mexico’s Piano has boarded Abel Ferrera’s “Siberia,” starring Willem Defoe. A Mexico City production-distribution house headed by Sundance winning producer Julio Chavezmontes and director Sebastian Hoffman, Piano will produce the film with its other lead producers, Italy’s Vivo [...]

  • Cairo Fest Industry Days Doubles Prize

    Cairo Fest Industry Days Doubles Prize Cash, Moves Into TV

    A key aspect of Mohamed Hefzy’s Cairo Film Festival reboot has been to re-introduce and reinvent its Cairo Industry Days market component comprising the Cairo Film Connection (CFC) co-production platform, which this year almost doubled its prize pot to $200,000 for 16 selected Arabic film projects. But the mart’s major novelty this edition is its [...]

  • Netflix Makes Move Into Nordic Film

    Netflix Makes Move Into Nordic Film With Danish, Norwegian, Swedish Projects

    Netflix is moving into original movies in the Nordic region for the first time. Action thriller “Red Dot” out of Sweden, and “Cadaver” from Norway were announced as Netflix Films at the Stockholm Film Festival on Thursday. The streaming giant also announced that it had scooped the global rights to Danish feature film “Shadows in [...]

  • Cairo Film Festival Reboot Moving Into

    Rebooted Cairo Film Festival Shifts Into Higher Gear

    The Cairo Film Festival, which is the grand dame of the Arab world’s cinema shindigs, looks set for a watershed edition, its second headed by producer Mohamed Hefzy whose reboot effort is coming into full swing. Besides the Middle East launch of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which is Cairo’s opener, Hefzy and his team have [...]

  • VERTIENTES DEL PARANÁ

    Argentina's Murillo Cine Exposes Femicide In TV Drama 'Vertientes del Paraná'

    Argentina’s Murillo Cine, whose credits take in Cannes sidebar entries “The Snatch Thief” and “Land of Ashes,” is dipping its toe into TV drama production with “Vertientes del Paraná,” a miniseries project exposing the social tragedy of femicide, from writer-director María Florencia Álvarez. Álvarez turned heads with her 2013 feature debut, “Habi la Extranjera,” a [...]

  • Rambo Last Blood

    Amazon Lands ‘Knives Out,’ ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ for U.K. as Part of Lionsgate Output Deal

    Rambo, David Copperfield, and Daniel Craig are coming to Amazon Prime Video in the U.K. after the streamer struck an output deal with U.S. studio Lionsgate. The agreement hands Amazon U.K. streaming rights to Lionsgate’s theatrical titles, meaning the likes of Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out,” Gerard Butler-starrer “Angel Has Fallen,” London Film Festival opener “The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content