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Film industry relations between China and Europe have been kept alive throughout the coronavirus outbreak by Bridging The Dragon, an informal trade organization now in its sixth year.

After its regular event held during the Berlin film festival in February, further seminars, presentations and mixers should have taken place in Cannes in May and in Beijing in November. Travel restrictions and the cancelation of in-person film festivals and markets put paid to those ideas.

Knowledge-sharing, BTD’s core concern, can be achieved online as millions of students around the world have learned. And re-conceiving the organization’s autumn event as a virtual conference, not only allowed the connections to be kept intact, but even to be expanded. A delegation of New Zealand producers joined the virtual event for the first time with some participating in another first, informal coaching sessions.

The autumn edition included 90 participants who gathered for a series of briefings and for the first module of BTD’s sixth project market, branded as the Sino-European Project Lab.

Presentation highlights included Liu Chun, GM of China Film Co-production Corporation, explaining and taking questions about co-production policies in China; and Stephan Bender, CEO of Film France, explaining the structure of European film funding to the Chinese participants.

Other speakers included: Li Xinran, partner at Lian Ray Pictures; Jeffrey Chan, EVP of Bona Film Group; Cai Gongming, CEO of indie distributor Road Pictures; Zhu Dan, producer of 2019 Cannes competition film “The Wild Goose Lake,” and representatives from Hengdian World Studios, Huayi Brothers, Dadi Pictures.

The European speakers included: French line producer Franck Priot; Els Vandevorst, Dutch producer from N279 Entertainment / Isabella Films; Jasper van Hecke, SVP of acquisitions & production at Universal Pictures; and Ulrich Schwarz of Berlin-based VFX and production company Rise Pictures.

“Unexpectedly, the Chinese film industry has been the first to walk out of the shadow (of coronavirus) and overtake North America as the largest (theatrical) film market in the world this year. In China there is still a huge audience and many opportunities to be explored,” said BTD.

“In a difficult year such as this, we are excited to have a record high number of project applications and participation from both sides, illustrating that the enthusiasm to work together across borders is even stronger than before.”

The Lab itself spanned seven projects from Europe and eight from China deemed suitable for collaboration. Two more hailed from the New Zealand Film Commission and China’s The One International Women’s Film Festival.

The second module of the Lab, intended for follow up meetings, is set to take place on European time in early 2021.

Bridging the Dragon 6th Sino-European Project Lab projects

European / New Zealand projects:

  • True-story thriller inspired by the book “A Death in Peking,” about the bewildering death of Pamela Werner, young daughter of a former British consul, during the last Christmas before the Japanese invasion. To be produced by Spanish Mobydick Investment / Pacific Pictures.
  • Sci-fi action film “Genesis,” by Postmodern Digital of the Film UA Group from Ukraine. The hyper-speed train Silk Arrow running between Paris and Shanghai is attacked by terrorists who are in search of a genetically modified boy.
  • Dutch thriller “Sofie’s Dilemma” about a young Chinese woman looking for her unknown father in the Netherlands with the help of two Dutch journalists who are investigating the abduction of the prime minister. Production is by Oscar-winning producer Hans de Weers from FATT Productions and Paul Ruven, writer of Netflix series “My Best Friend Anne Frank.”
  • Romantic drama “The Chinese Lady” by German Penned Pictures. When his estranged father mysteriously vanishes, the only clues lead a German architect to Shanghai, and the elusive Chinese businesswoman at the heart of the mystery.
  • British Sci-fi “New World: 2080” by Paul Brett (executive producer of “The King’s Speech”) at Flying Tiger Entertainment. It tells the story of a young Chinese female astronaut in charge of the search for a new planet suitable for mankind.
  • Spy thriller “Steelhead Sam” by U.K.-based Beano Studios and Roland Moore, head writer of the Chinese remake of AMC drama “Humans.” After being killed in a terrorist attack, veteran Sam wakes up in a paramilitary facility in Shanghai and is given a second life thanks to nanobot technology that allows him to be anyone.
  • Animation “Goldpaw” about a mythical panda with golden paw who’s forced to leave his cozy cage and finds himself at the crossroads between the safety of his old life and true freedom in the wild, produced by New Zealand’s Cirkus.
  • Finnish animated fantasy adventure “Earth 2.0” by Fiilin Good Films. The internet has brought world peace but Akuma, the devil, is not happy. She needs bold new solutions!

Chinese projects:

  • Comedy “Grand Theft Riddle: The Film,” produced by Shan Dongbing (“Crosscurrent”) from Donwa Pictures, about a college student trying to steal a precious Italian violin for his graduation film.
  • Family sci-fi comedy “Little Tin Cook,” produced by Drunken Dragon Productions, tells the story of a Chinese female chef who is given a robot cooking machine, as compensation after her father’s car accident. It then changes the fortunes of the family restaurant.
  • Comedy “Rodin” by Beijing-based Teli Pictures about the unique friendship between a Chinese woman who lost her only child and a French single mother while traveling to Paris.
  • Coming-of-age comedy “Katyusha and Mu Aihua” by Beijing True Eyes Film, about youth and friendship between a Chinese writer and a Ukrainian influencer in Beijing.
  • A modern-day ”Romeo and Juliet“ produced by Feilight Films, “Par Amour,” is a love story between a sensitive Algerian boy and a fiery Chinese girl. They are trying to defy ethnic stereotypes and integrate into the cosmopolitan elite in Paris.
  • Romantic drama “When We Are Together” by 3L Films about a lovelorn woman salvaging an ill-fated relationship by traveling back in time, only to find that the real killer of love is the mundanity of life.
  • Crime drama “Autumn Willow” written and directed by Li Xiaoyan, about two devastated Dutch grandparents fighting with the Chinese in-laws over the custody of their grandchildren.
  • Family drama “East”, written and directed by Yan Cheng and Federico Francioni, two long-term collaborators from China and Italy. It tells the story of a scattered family, and is produced by Studio Cinevoyage.
  • Female-led dark comedy “Slut” written and directed by Pu Xian is a story about the self-defeating fight of a woman being called “slut.” The project won Bridging the Dragon Award at China’s The One International Women’s Film Festival.