Leading U.S. pre-visualization firm The Third Floor will open its first China office in Beijing this summer. Its local Chinese partner for the venture will be Hollywood Production Center (HPC) China, led by CEO Fan Dong, Variety has learned.
“This has been like 10 years in the making. We’re very proud,” said Third Floor founder and CEO Chris Edwards on a panel during the Beijing International Film Festival. The firm’s “Hollywood-proven creative and technical workflows will help realize projects from China’s rich talent and culturescape,” the company told Variety in a statement, and “looks forward to more to come soon from firm’s newest West-East locale.”
The Third Floor is known for its work on major projects such as “Avengers: Endgame” and “Game of Thrones.” The company began dabbling in the China market as early as 2004, just after its founding, by designing an ocean theme park in Shenzhen-Hong Kong. It has since worked with Chinese directors Zhang Yimou and with Guo Jingming, the writer-director behind the “Tiny Times” franchise, on two animated projects, according to a video statement from Edwards posted to Facebook on the sidelines of last year’s festival.
“We’re here to birth the next generation of filmmakers and their best projects so they can be global hits all around the world,” he said. “This begins with an understanding of the technology, but really what I’m bringing is the process that we use to build a big Marvel movie, to build a ‘Star Wars’ movie, that could be applied to a truly Eastern story.”
Pre-viz is still a nascent sector in China, where the number of major players currently specializing in the field can be counted on a single hand. Most Chinese directors and production teams currently have little understanding of how to use the practice, and few in China have in-depth experience with it. But demand for pre-viz appears ready to grow as the country begins to produce bigger-budget blockbusters involving expensive shots and special effects.
Established in 2001, the Hollywood Production Center runs three locations of facilities for film-related businesses in Hollywood and downtown Glendale. HPC China, a newer offshoot founded in 2017, “seeks to become a one-stop shop for Sino-foreign film/TV co-productions and foreign production operations in China,” its website says, stating that it can help foreign firms by “providing investment; finding partners, crew, talent, projects; [helping] with government interactions/permits [and arranging] work/living spaces,” among other activities.
The partnership with The Third Floor comes after nine months of negotiations. HPC China will also bring in “two more big companies,” to be announced at a grand opening later this year. It has local government support in getting three Beijing locations up and running, one being in Beijing’s Haidian district — where many high-tech firms and startups are located — and another in Chaoyang district.
“Many people advised me to bring post-production companies over, but I didn’t agree. I think that field’s already too saturated, and in China, people are always pushing for that to be cheaper and cheaper. It’s very hard to survive, and too strenuous,” Fan said. Neither was she interested in companies focused on content. “China doesn’t lack that — we have our own directors and creators. It’s in our technical workflows that we’re most lacking.”