×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

China’s European Ties Heat Up in Cannes

It used to be the glamour and the chance to cultivate relationships with Hollywood that drew Chinese film executives to Cannes. But more than ever before, execs from China are arriving in the South of France ready to do business with Europe.

Sino-European co-productions are increasing. So is inward investment into Europe, as the frenzy of China-Hollywood acquisitions cools off.

“The new emphasis on ties with Europe is not a replacement for the relations that have been built by Chinese companies in Hollywood. But it is a sign of the times – and a sign of sanity,” says producer-director Cristiano Bortone, who maintains offices in Berlin and Beijing.

“There is an expansion of the middle ground between the Hollywood blockbusters and Chinese local productions,” says Bortone, whose Italian-Chinese co-production “Caffe” played in competition at last month’s Beijing film festival. “And there is a growing interest in art-house cinema.”

Bortone heads Bridging the Dragon, a two-year-old initiative that connects independent filmmakers in Europe and China through pitching sessions, production labs, conferences and social events. Bridging the Dragon is holding a half-day conference in Cannes on Friday; another seminar on co-production and storytelling, featuring top Chinese executives such as Huayi Bros.’ Jerry Ye, is scheduled for next week.

For Chinese execs, Europe offers an alternative entry point to English-language filmmaking from Hollywood, where budgets are higher and story development takes longer.

Two years ago, Beijing-based Thunder Communications unveiled its first action project with British writer Andy Briggs through London- and Paris-based Poisson Rouge. Thunder has followed up with a corruption thriller with a pair of writers from Leeds, England, and a big fantasy drama with Brendan Foley out of Belfast and London for top Chinese TV producer Croton Media.

“The attractions of working with Europe are multiple: native English speakers, strong creative history, and the costs are much more reasonable than Hollywood,” Thunder founder Charles Lei says.

The Chinese companies’ English-language approach also boosts French players such as Gaumont, EuropaCorp and Studiocanal, which are all producing English-language slates for global consumption.

In terms of investment and acquisitions, China’s Fundamental Films last year acquired nearly 30% of EuropaCorp and is a co-financier of Luc Besson’s big-budget “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” In February, it emerged that China’s He He Pictures was to buy bankrupt sales agency Fortissimo Films, to build off of its art-house brand name.

Last week, U.K.-based production company BB88 revealed the first three films on its slate that are to be financed by the China-U.K. Film Fund.

Significantly, none of BB88’s films are set in China or have especially significant Chinese elements that would help ensure a theatrical release in China. Rather, BB88 sees its movies as being made at reasonable budget levels and as able to make money from Chinese online distribution rather than theatrical release.

Another opportunity that may be opening in China is the art-house sector. Last October, public and private partners, including Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke and France’s MK2, announced the launch of China’s first dedicated art-house cinema circuit. This promises better conditions for specialist films, eventually permitting the import of more foreign pictures, and more room for China’s own art-house filmmakers.

A wave of co-productions is expected to be unveiled in Cannes and at next month’s Shanghai festival.

Zentropa, already working on “My Best Friend Andersen,” a Danish-Chinese production based on the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, is expected to announce more projects, including one based on China’s Singles Day. Bortone’s Orisa will start foodie romance “Italian Recipe” in the fall, Dutch producer Lemming Film will shortly start shooting “Dead and Beautiful,” and Germany’s Gebrueder Beetz will this week unveil upscale nature film “Colors of China.”

More Film

  • Come as You Are review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are'

    The rare remake that’s actually a slight improvement on its predecessor, Richard Wong’s “Come as You Are” translates Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 Belgian “Hasta la Vista” to middle America. Other changes are less substantial, but this seriocomedy has a less formulaic feel than the original while remaining a crowd-pleasing buddy pic-caper with a soft-pedaled minority empowerment [...]

  • Strange Negotiations review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations'

    In a era when some mainstream entertainers have transitioned to targeting faith-based audiences, David Bazan is moving in the other direction. The gifted songwriter’s ersatz band Pedro the Lion was perhaps the most successful Christian indie rock act of its time, and the first to significantly cross over to secular fans. Then he ditched that persona (and [...]

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

  • ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending for the Fourth Week in a Row

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the fourth week in row with “Wonder Park.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.18 million through Sunday for 1,718 national [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED New Regency and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society are partnering on an untitled monster movie from “Kong: Skull Island” [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content