“The biggest challenge is to make films that reflect each country’s culture, without being a ‘mishmash’ of cultures”
Industry Report: Europe and the Rest of the World
Marc Baschet • Chairman, Bridging the Dragon
The producer of the Oscar-winning No Man’s Land and co-producer of The Lunchbox gives us some data on the Chinese market and explains how Bridging the Dragon can help European producers
Marc Baschet, the new chairman of Bridging the Dragon, who was also the producer of the Oscar-winning No Man’s Land [+see also:
film profile] by Danis Tanovic and co-producer of The Lunchbox [+see also:
film profile] by Ritesh Batra, gives us some key data on the Chinese market and explains how Bridging the Dragon can help European producers.
Cineuropa: You were one of the first members to join the association. Why did you decide to get on board this platform?
Marc Baschet: I remember I was in Shanghai with Cristiano Bortone in 2006, thanks to the European Producers Club, and I was dreaming about shooting in China and making films with the Chinese. Fifteen years later, I am happy to join the association as chairman. I have been doing film co-production for 40 years, and I am glad to promote filmmaking between Europe and China. I know that these are two different worlds, which can lead to hurdles. But I have made movies such as The Lunchbox with India, which was not an easy world, and I know the mantra, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” One must maintain a high quality in co-productions, as we did for No Man’s Land, with which we won the Oscar for Best Foreign-language Film in 2002.
You have extensive experience in international co-productions and have worked with many emerging countries. What is the biggest challenge in bringing different cultures together?
The biggest challenge is to make films that reflect each country’s culture, without being a “mishmash” of cultures. The key difficulties that European and Chinese producers would face when they consider co-producing a project are time management and the difference between the two cinema audiences. Let’s start with the second one: the age of the average movie-goer in China is around 20 years old, while it is over 40 years old in Western Europe. This affects the stories, themes and narrative styles that both sides can enjoy. The Chinese audience, being younger, tends to like being “over-fed” with information, while the European audience, being more mature, can appreciate slower paces.
As for time management, this is perhaps the most important difference. Chinese producers are pushed by their investors to stick to the latest money-making genre, so they want to churn out movies as fast as possible. On the other hand, European producers frequently rely on public support, and the process takes time – much longer than a decision made by private equity. So the Chinese see the Europeans as super-slow in their financing, and in everything in general! Europeans don’t like to rush things. They like to plan ahead, aiming for quality, and they wonder why the Chinese seem to be unable to plan anything.
In your opinion, what are the current challenges when it comes to making quality European cinema?
The challenge is to mix different cultures without making a single, global culture, respecting every country’s culture without compromising. You need to start your film with a very local tradition or cultural gesture (local corruption, a traditional fight and so on), and you end up with universal feelings born of this local tradition (such as love, friendship or justice), which resonate with everybody.
How can Bridging the Dragon be of help to European producers?
European companies are usually smaller in size, so they cannot afford to invest in mandarin-speaking staff or an office in China. So for our members, Bridging the Dragon’s office becomes their office! This is one of the reasons why we are supported by Creative Europe as well as several other national institutions in Europe. We really aim to make it possible for our European network of quality-driven producers to access a gigantic market, and to avoid China only going to American studios and agencies, which all have a foothold there.
We are getting more and more requests from our Chinese members, who are usually producers and distributors. We connect them to the rights owners of European movies, and we have already closed a handful of deals.
To some extent, it’s not a stupid idea to ask: can we European producers afford not to work with China? We never got real access to the North American market, which was the biggest market in the world, until this year, when China overtook it. The Chinese box office in the first quarter of 2021 reached $2.7 billion… And 900 million people are using streaming now in China. Chinese production volume is increasing very quickly, as they also have their local online platforms (Tencent, iQiyi, Bilibili), which are as powerful there as Netflix or Amazon are here, and they need content. This opens up opportunities on many fronts: new talents, new locations, new crew, new partners, new buyers and, maybe most importantly of all, new audiences. Europe as a whole is a tremendous force, which China respects. They know that nearly all value-adding international festivals are in Europe. Of course, Hollywood fascinates them, but the Chinese community also knows that we created cinema and have mastered it for a long time, from Méliès to Bergman, from Lang to Almodóvar…
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