Leading Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke has teamed with the Hong Kong film festival and Taiwanese distributor Joint Pictures to launch online video destination Jia Screen.
The platform, which will launch in June, will focus on short films from around the world by first or second time directors. Available only in mainland China, it will introduce two new titles per week, giving a curated selection of 104 movies per year.
“Short films are made with a high degree of passion and creativity, but that creativity is now disappearing in China as fans don’t have access,” Jai said Tuesday at a launch event in Cannes. “The idea of Jia Screen is to improve that access. And besides, short films work well on mobile devices and tablet computers.”
Jia Screen will acquire China rights to the films with a one-year duration and on a flat-fee basis. Jia said that the first 15 titles had already been secured and others would be picked up in Cannes.
For users the site will be free of charge and be advertising supported. While the site will run on its own platform, users will typically access it not through a proprietary app, but instead through a public part of massively popular messaging service WeChat (aka ‘weixin’.) Jia said that he hopes to have 1 million registered users by the year end.
Marketing and promotion are a significant part of the operation. Each film will be given a three day launch and introduction period, comprising clips about the director, behind the scenes footage, recommendations and analysis by critics. In June each year, Jia Screen plans an offline awards event, highlighting a jury-selected handful of best films.
The partnerships with the HKIFF and Joint will enable the selectors to share out global selection responsibilities.
“We get thousands of submissions each year for the festival and cannot select all of them for our competition, so working with Jia Screen is a logical move,” said HKIFF Society executive director Roger Garcia. “We need to use digital platforms in order to reach younger people and for good films to reach wider audiences.”
Journalists from two Chinese newspapers will help select the local titles that will play. Jia, who has had some of his feature movies run into distribution difficulties in China, said that the site will not be subject to special censorship. It will rely on the standards set by WeChat editors.