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"We ensure films gain recognition at festivals and that they have a strong marketing campaign"

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Clément Magar • General Manager, IM Global's Beijing based subsidiary, Go Global

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- Beijing-based Clément Magar, of Go Global in China, discusses strategies for the distribution of European films in the Asian country

Clément Magar  • General Manager, IM Global's Beijing based subsidiary, Go Global

Clément Magar, general manager of IM Global’s Beijing based subsidiary, Go Global, is a French marketing expert living in China. He sat down with us to discuss the differences between the Chinese and European distribution markets, and advises European producers on the best way to get their films distributed in China.

Cineuropa: How did you start working with Go Global?
Clément Magar: 
I’ve lived in China for nine years. First, I worked at a Chinese distribution company for five years. I bought about 50 French and European films for VoD and TV distribution. Seven years ago was the start of major VoD platforms in China buying content legally. It was difficult to work with Europeans because it’s a market that they can’t imagine at all. I would tell them, “Your films are already on VoD platforms illegally, so we’re proposing a way for your movies to be on these platforms legally.” I did that for four years. We bought back-catalogue films, New Wave movies and award-winning films from festivals such as Cannes and Berlin. It was a label for selling films that also permitted these platforms to market them. We had an agreement with German broadcaster ZDF, where we also aired documentaries. Moreover, I organised a festival at universities in Beijing and elsewhere in China, in partnership with the Angers Festival, the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes and the Critics’ Week. The idea was to bring in works from first-time directors and screen them in various universities. Leading European directors came every year for the Beijing First Film Festival.

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Now I work for the American company IM Global, which has an office in Beijing. IM Global has an agreement with all of the major studios in China to sell their films internationally because there isn’t such a strong market in China, despite high demand from the Chinese. We created Go Global a year ago to market Chinese films internationally. But we would also like to develop marketing campaigns for European films in China. We ensure that the films gain recognition at festivals and that they have a strong marketing campaign as well as press coverage. China represents an enormous international market; therefore, we would like to create a system that works both ways. European films have a strong interest in gaining Chinese recognition. A film like Manchester by the Sea needs to have a Chinese title – otherwise, it will not gain any traction in this market.

It’s also necessary to speak about social media. Online reviews are very important, as is the sharing of photos. The media in China is more complicated than it is overseas, where all the major newspapers are already online, as well as Facebook, Twitter and so on. China has Weibo and WeChat, but a special expertise is needed to navigate this world of Chinese social media. It’s a very recent thing for the Chinese; these platforms have only been around for two years. For the moment, with Go Global, we have mainly focused on the promotion of Chinese films at major festivals. We have already organised events and done publicity for films in Venice, Berlin, Cannes, Montreal, and we will go soon to Warsaw, Pingyao, Vesoul. For the time being, we have only worked on Chinese titles, but the original idea was to work in both directions, managing European films headed for the Chinese market.

Is there an audience for European films?
I think there is a sizeable audience, yes. It’s not a mainstream audience, but it’s a large market, and based on social-media research that we have conducted, we have concluded that there is an audience. 

There are many developing festivals showing European and non-Chinese films.
There are festivals that lend visibility to these films. Chinese theatres do not show many European films. But we’re seeing that on VoD, there’s a big audience for European films, as well as at festivals and in the Chinese cinematheques. The Beijing Film Festival welcomes European films; each year, tickets for these movies sell out very quickly. But we’re only able to tap into this audience at the festivals, because otherwise there is the question of quotas. The Chinese have a tendency to import mainstream films, which are more interesting in terms of their revenue expectations.

What advice would you give to European producers aiming to approach the Chinese market?
Generally, one can never speak ill of co-production. One strategy is to find Chinese partners that allow us to approach Chinese distributors and which have a say in the script. But this takes a great deal of time, and it’s not easy. In the case of a non-co-produced European film, I think the movie theatre would be a great goal for an arthouse director, but I think the film will play a much more important role on Chinese VoD platforms. I think that creating visibility for a director or a film via festivals, press and social media can generate an appetite. It’s very necessary to create this appetite – that’s why ambassadors create festivals in China. So if there isn’t a co-production, my advice is to target other avenues of visibility, such as festivals, press and VoD. As most Europeans already know, mobile phones and new technology are particularly important in China. For the advertising of films, there are fewer and fewer posters, because people just don’t look at them. Publicity is mainly done online.

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