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Chen Lizhi • Producer, Spire Media

“I don’t think there is a single topic or genre that you can’t realise in China”

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- Bridging the Dragon met up with Chen Lizhi, producer at Chinese outfit Spire Media, which was an associate producer on Zhang Yimou’s Shadow

Chen Lizhi  • Producer, Spire Media

Chen Lizhi is a producer at Beijing-based production outfit Spire Media and has over a decade of experience working in the Chinese film industry. Spire was an associate producer on Zhang Yimou’s Shadow. We chatted to Lizhi at the recent Bridging the Dragon event.

Are there any films that will never have a chance to be produced with a Chinese partner?
Chen Lizhi:
 No; I think China is a very big market, and the audience is very well educated and highly sophisticated – they get to see a lot of content every day. From action to comedy or horror, I don’t think there is either a topic or a genre that you can’t realise in China. I always say that the censorship issue is a very dynamic process and should not be seen as an obstacle. The people at the CFCC [the Chinese film bureau that approves scripts and productions] come back with very helpful comments and changes. You should try to engage in a constructive conversation with them. They are film people, too, and they know the film business really well. So European producers can start by reaching out to them and getting their opinion on what they are doing, and then see where the journey takes them.

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Is it realistic for a European film to expect to become really successful in cinemas in mainland China?
Of course! The Invisible Guest [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
from Spain is a good example of that, as is the Italian title Perfect Strangers [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which they are even using as the basis of a Chinese remake now. There are definitely a lot of opportunities and there is plenty of space for European films here. In any case, you really need to have a smart concept and a good story. 

How do you see the future of the collaboration between the two industries?
China is a very different place in terms of culture, and you really have to understand contemporary Chinese culture in order to collaborate in a constructive manner. Society is changing very quickly, and therefore it will always be difficult and challenging for Europeans to work with China. However, initiatives like Bridging the Dragon bring people together and try to bridge the gap – in general, we have to talk to each other more.

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