Leading Digital Aiming to Improve Image of Chinese Movies (EXCLUSIVE)

New Chinese outfit, Leading Digital Post is setting out to modernize the Chinese post-production industry and change international perceptions of the developing sector.

“Chinese companies want to be global players and see their films sold internationally. For that they need to make sure their work is presented to international standards,” said senior VP of operations Richard Burnette, a long term veteran of Todd AO in Los Angeles.

The company has some 6,000 m2 of facilities in a former shipyard in central Shanghai. With a Dolby Atmos stage, its services span visual post (on site dailies, digital intermediates etc.) and sound (design, mixing, re-recording and ADR).

Founded by Mary Cao and three other private investors, Leading Digital opened for business last year following some US$20 million (RMB130 million) of upfront investment.

“Many Beijing-based post facilities leave a lot to be desired in terms of client service. We want people to feel like they are at the Four Seasons, to be able to walk in and simply not have to worry,” said Burnette. “That may make us pricey by Chinese standards, albeit not as pricey as going to the U.S., but we anyway want to cater to the top tier.”

Other international advisors include Oscar-winning sound engineer Michael Minkler, senior engineer Robert Weitz and foley artist Gary Hecker.

The company is gambling on Chinese film makers improving their presentation skills and production budgets continuing to expand. It is also calculating that Shanghai will be able to mount a challenge to Beijing, where the film industry is currently largely based. Shanghai-based companies include Oriental DreamWorks, Bliss Media and Fundamental Films.

The company is also looking to build its business through investment in outside-produced party movies. “We are looking at establishing a film fund next year. It will allow us to co-invest alongside the LPs,” said Cao. “Being able to offer both in-kind and cash investments will put us in a strong position.”

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