You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

China Co-Productions: Still in Search of a Winning Formula

Film co-productions involving China have been going on now for years, but the search for a winning formula continues as partners try to overcome differences in culture, work style and financing, industry leaders in China say.

The difficulties surrounding co-productions were a running theme at last week’s FilMart market and conference in Hong Kong, Asia’s largest such gathering. At a seminar organized by the China Daily and sponsored by Variety, industry heavyweights said that surefire success in co-producing remains elusive even as the number of co-productions seems certain to expand.

The session pointed up several different definitions of co-production. There are those arranged under bilateral treaties, while some qualify according to Chinese rules. Still others may be of the unofficial kind, simply international joint ventures between private companies.

Amy Liu from data agency Ent Group said that the opening of the China market since the country joined the World Trade Organization had created the opportunity between 2001 and 2012 for co-productions and film imports. A new era since 2012 saw 54 Chinese co-productions with Hong Kong and 10 with the U.S., she said.

Using a different basis for calculation, William Feng of the Motion Picture Assn. said there had been just two co-productions per year between China and the U.S. from 2009 to 2012. That number rose to nine in 2016. Feng suggested that co-productions have been the most successful kind of films in China. He described “The Great Wall,” which earned more than $170 million in China and $42 million to date, as a flagship for co-productions.

One of the greatest challenges facing co-productions is finding films and stories that can work both in China and international markets. “Finding content for both audiences is really difficult,” said Chen Yiqi, chairman of SIL Metropole Organisation, a Chinese government-owned producer and financier based in Hong Kong.

Sharing technology “is one of the easier aspects of co-production,” added Dagan Potter, production lead on “Kung Fu Panda 3.” “Getting the working culture right is harder.”

Different methodologies and scale also pose problems for Sino-foreign film relations. Ann An, producer and chairman of Desen Intl., who is working with Paula Wagner’s Chestnut Ridge Prods. on “Moonflower Over Flying Tigers,” said that trying to bridge those differences was tough.

“After two years, we are still at script stage. We now have a well-structured U.S. screenplay, but it no longer meets Chinese criteria,” An said. “Also, there is a budget mismatch between the U.S. and Chinese partners,” suggesting that American firms have greater resources at development stage.

William Pfeiffer, executive chairman of Lionsgate-affiliated Globalgate Entertainment, acknowledged that some past co-productions had failed to attract audiences equally in China and the U.S. But he said that international corporate expansion was a force for change.

“Globalization is inevitable and a positive,” Pfeiffer said. “There will be a big blurring of borders. We are already seeing it in film financing. And now there are attempts in story.”

More Film

  • Murder Mystery

    Netflix Reveals Record-Breaking Stats for Sandler-Aniston 'Murder Mystery' Flick

    “Murder Mystery,” the latest Adam Sandler film to debut on Netflix, broke viewing records on the streaming service, the company revealed Tuesday. The film, which is co-headlined by Jennifer Aniston, was seen by close to 30.9 million households in its first 3 days, according to a tweet sent out Tuesday afternoon. 🚨ADAM SANDLER AND JENNIFER [...]

  • Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Refusing

    Writers Guild 'Plans to Respond' to Agents' Proposal as Frustration Mounts

    In a sign of increasing frustration, Hollywood agents have accused the Writers Guild of America of foot-dragging in the bitter two-month dispute. “It has become clear as more days pass that the Guild is not interested in making a deal,” said the negotiating committee for the agents in statement issued Tuesday. “Over the past year, [...]

  • Jermaine Fowler arrives at the 69th

    Jermaine Fowler to Co-Star With Eddie Murphy in 'Coming 2 America' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jermaine Fowler is set to play one of the leads opposite Eddie Murphy in Paramount’s sequel “Coming 2 America,” sources tell Variety. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is on board to direct the pic with the studio planning an August 7, 2020 release. Plot details of “Coming 2 America” are unknown, as are the [...]

  • Henry Golding attends the Fragrance Foundation

    Henry Golding Starts Long House Shingle With 'Inheritance,' 'Harrington's Greatest Hits'

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding has started Long House Productions in partnership with China’s Starlight Cultural Entertainment Group with two features in the works. Golding’s first feature under the Long House banner is action adventure “The Inheritance,” based on an original story idea by Alistair Hudson and Golding. Hudson is writing the script for [...]

  • Max Landis Entertainment Weekly party, Comic-Con

    Max Landis Accused of Rape, Assault and Psychological Abuse

    Screenwriter Max Landis is facing allegations of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation from eight women who told their stories to the Daily Beast. Two of the women spoke on the record, and another five were identified by pseudonyms. An eighth women confirmed that she filed a police complaint against Landis in 2008, in which she [...]

  • Michael Fassbender'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' film premiere,

    Michael Fassbender to Produce, Star in Lionsgate Spy Thriller 'Malko'

    Michael Fassbender will produce and star in the Lionsgate spy thriller “Malko,” based on Gerard de Villiers’ S.A.S. series, with the studio planning to launch a franchise with the project. Eric Warren Singer, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay for “American Hustle,” will write the screenplay. Joe Drake, chairman of [...]

  • American Film Institute Hires Susan Ruskin

    Susan Ruskin Appointed AFI Conservatory Dean

    The American Film Institute has named producer and educator Susan Ruskin as dean of the AFI Conservatory, where she will lead AFI’s graduate film-training program. Ruskin, who will also carry the title of executive VP, will report directly to Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO, the organization announced Tuesday. She replaces producer Richard Gladstein, who left [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content