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INDUSTRY Europe / China

The fourth Sino-European Project Lab unspools in Beijing

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- The trends and potential of the Chinese audiovisual market were explored at the popular workshop

The fourth Sino-European Project Lab unspools in Beijing
The presentation of the Chinese project Hockey King to the participants in the fourth Sino-European Project Lab in Beijing (© Bridging the Dragon)

With over 80 participants from all over Europe and China, the fourth Sino-European Project Lab, hosted by the producers’ association Bridging the Dragon, took place from 11-14 November in Beijing. The lab was a creative think-tank for film producers from both sides and enabled them to gain experience in collaborating with this growing market. 

With the support of the Embassy of the Netherlands in China, this year’s lab put a strong focus on the emerging sector of family entertainment. As Abe Kwong from Chinese outfit Magilm Pictures noted, currently in China, except for the Pixar animations, there are not yet many films in cinemas that target families. However, a rapidly changing generation will increasingly demand these kinds of products. This is where European film professionals with lengthy experience in this field will be able to contribute.

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At the centre of many discussions was the rapid development of Chinese society, which is having an impact on the public’s tastes. As Cai Gongming from Road Pictures – the distributor of the Cannes-winning Shoplifters – stressed, the Chinese audience is becoming increasingly diverse. “This is how more genres and subjects find their way into the market. These trends reflect the unexplored potential of China and indicate that there are many opportunities not only for future co-productions, but also for more sophisticated European films.” As Elliot Tong from ARRI China confirmed, even big companies like Alibaba or Dadi Pictures tend to make bigger investments in smaller arthouse and more innovative film projects nowadays. Paul Brett from Flying Tiger pointed out, “The Chinese middle class now has enough money for two things: entertainment and travel. This is changing the type of story they want to see. Europeans need to listen and learn more about the real society in China in order to be able to develop content for this market.”

Jeffrey Chan emphasised the importance of official co-production treaties: “Even if an official treaty is sometimes not necessary to secure the shooting permit, it facilitates and enables minority co-productions, and creates a solid and supportive film environment between two countries.” 

Overall, the participants reacted enthusiastically to the three-day event. John Wallace (Blacksheep Productions), presenting the Irish project Ping-Pong, said: “Everybody we’ve met from the Chinese part is giving us very direct feedback, and it has been a very encouraging experience. I really appreciated the informal atmosphere where attendees can get involved with each other closely.” 

The Project Lab offered pitching sessions for each project selected from different European countries and China, and a round-table discussion dwelling on different topics related to Sino-European interaction. It also arranged one-to-one meetings with well-known auteurs like Oscar-winning director Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
) and fresh Chinese talent Li Wei (the screenwriter of Zhang Yimou’s new film, Shadow), as well as experienced production tutors, such as Jeffrey Chan (Bona Film Group, China) and Paul Brett (The King’s Speech [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tom Hooper
film profile
]
).

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