The EFM hosts the 5th Sino-European production seminar
- BERLIN 2019: 60 selected European producers attended an event that provided an overview of the latest movie trends in China
For the fifth year in a row, the European Film Market - EFM and the producers association Bridging the Dragon have held an intensive event dedicated entirely to China during the Berlinale. Since the association started its activities five years ago, the booming Chinese box office, for the first time, surpassed North America’s with a record of more than $8.6 billion and a growing number of screens (now more than 60,000, as against 40,000 in the USA). The need for more and more diverse content holds an inevitable and still-unexplored potential for the European film industry. However, for many Europeans, the question is still how to approach their counterparts due to the distance in culture, procedures and personal knowledge which the association intends to facilitate by providing insider information and handy tools within their events.
This year’s Berlin event started off with a morning panel moderated by Patrick Frater (Variety) that offered to 60 selected European producers an overview on the latest movie trends in China. The discussion analysed the great interest in the acquisition of European titles following the rapid development of the Chinese society. Latest researches showed how Chinese audience is becoming gradually more sophisticated and starts to require more diversified products, genres and subjects that were not imaginable until a few years ago, such as family entertainment, animation and art-house. The CEO of the Beijing based company Road Pictures Cai Gongming recalled his marketing strategies that led to the success of last year’s Cannes winner Shoplifters by Hirokazu Kore-eda which gained almost 15 million US dollar in cinemas, contributing to the new frenzy of art-house acquisitions by local buyers.
On the other hand, new government policies on content and current prosecution of illicit tax and commercial practices have created a recent slowdown in film investment. Several people are asking themselves how this will impact the next season. Following this topic, experienced lawyer Stephen Saltzman, who oversees deals for major mainland distributors like Huayi Brothers, Linmon, Hishow, gave an overview of the critical moment from the US perspective where acquisitions, MG’s and deals have generally dropped, probably due to the trade war between the two countries. However, China is known to be advancing in cycles and many foresee this to be an opportunity for more mature players to consolidate their reputation. One thing is for sure: the interaction between the local industry and the rest of the world will be a process that will only increase in time by exchanging talents, ideas and expertise.
In the afternoon the participants had the opportunity for in-depth talks ina series of round table discussions with a number of Chinese and European production experts on topics that are crucial for their current focus on China, spanning from the challenges of developing suitable content and film investment models, to handling line production with Chinese partners. The latter was elaborated by experienced producer Franck Priot from the French production company Ghost City, recently in charge of the line production of the so far biggest Chinese shooting in France: the TV series Crocodile and Toothpick Bird produced by Mango TV. The debate covered the growing trend of European locations as background for Chinese movies or TV series which, on the one hand, provides valuable economic resources and promotion of the territory but, on the other hand, creates the need of a new understanding with local crews and service companies. Other topics were “Script development with a Chinese audience in mind” held by Chen Lizhi from Beijing-based Spire Media as well as “Film co-production models between Europe and China“ led by famous Taiwanese producer Patrick Huang (Flash Forward Entertainment) who had this year two films in the Panorama section.
Managing director of Bridging the Dragon Cristiano Bortone summarized the intense event with the following words: “What keeps on making the audience excited about movies is the element of surprise. Rules can only partly predict the success of a film. That’s why, with the collaboration between China and the rest of the world, we have to keep exploring different genres and production models, with the conviction that this will generate new and unexpected success stories.”
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