×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Chinese Script Development Requires A Different Touch, Top Producers Say

Leading film producers highlighted the challenges of developing good scripts in China and abroad at a panel during the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday.

Wanda Media GM Jiang Wei (aka Wayne Jiang) recommended that producers remain aware of the real differences between the scriptwriting process for Chinese productions versus international and co-productions.

The fundamental distinction is that in China, “the screenwriting system is a service centered on the director, who is the creative center,” rather than the producer, he assessed. In his experience, he’d seen that this could be frustrating for Chinese writers, who, eager to finally put their own spin on things, would often fail to execute what he’d asked of them, and turn in scripts that veered too far away from the company or the director’s original vision, making it necessary to switch from writer to writer until someone stuck.

But when working on Hollywood films like “The Meg,” he saw that writers were used to doing multiple iterations of the same story without touching its overall direction or main storyline, and were used to discussing what elements they’d like to add before going ahead with them.

“I think this experience of mine is something to note for great producers… coming to China,” he said. “The type of screenwriter system you’re jumping into is an important factor in your choice of what kind of project to undertake.

Siddharth Roy Kapur, Indian producer of smash hit “Dangal,” provided advice on how producers should balance different players’ creative visions. “It’s important to bring the director on board as early in the process as possible,” he said. “If you bring the director on at the end of the process, the director wants to come in, but the writers want to make it their own.”

He added: “It is important as the producer to pick your battles – very often, there are producers that have writing aspirations, and they want to jump on writing the script. That leads to a larger conflict later.”

“You need to realize you’re not the writer. If you have a vision you’ve got to let the writers see it so that they can then go out and create magic. It can’t be a writing by committee — that never works.”

Huayi Brothers Pictures CEO Jerry Ye also highlighted the differences between China and the West when it comes to screenwriting.

“The thing with China right now is that there’s a huge lack of creative power… so we spend a huge amount of time finding a good script. I now require all my producers to spend 60% of their energy on the script,” he said. “This is something that’s hard to understand for foreign filmmakers because in many countries, there are loads of great scripts and stories sitting around, but no capital or market to support them. It’s the opposite in China.”

Most younger Chinese creatives still don’t understand the logic needed to create a successful script, Ye said, urging them to study foreign films and screenwriting techniques. Huayi therefore often had to resort to hiring foreign writers to “build the bones of a screenplay” before bringing in Chinese screenwriters to then “fill it out with flesh and blood,” Ye said. He laughed: “We could also just do more remakes — as long as they can pass censorship.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content