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CANNES 2020 Marché du Film

China Next assesses the current Chinese-European connection at the Marché du Film

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- CANNES 2020: The success of the event co-organised by Bridging the Dragon proved how the Chinese market is still very relevant for international professionals despite the tough circumstances

China Next assesses the current Chinese-European connection at the Marché du Film
The participants in one of the China Next panels (clockwise from top left): moderator Patrick Frater, Liu Chun, Mathieu Fournet, Cheng Leer and Ulf Israel

Even if this year in the virtual space the event “China Next” organized by Cannes' Marché du Film and the Sino-European producers association Bridging the Dragon was once again a success both in terms of attendance and content, a sign of how - despite the tough circumstance - the Chinese market is still very relevant for many international professionals.

The intensive program was kicked off in the morning of Tuesday, 23 June with Sino-International one-to-one matchmaking meetings. Over 400 participants from all over the world have crowded the online platform provided by the Marché du film. Chinese leaders like Wanda Media, one of the largest production, distribution and cinema owner in China; Hengdian, owner of biggest film studios in China and also involved in distribution; Lianray Pictures, whole industry chain conglomerate behind numerous Chinese blockbusters, next to promising names like Midnight Blur or Rediance which focus on quality arthouse films, leading talent agencies like Mountaintop or Easy Entertainment were with us together with a rich array of international companies such as main arthouse sales agent The Match Factory (Germany), leading Spanish company and commercial genre specialist Filmax (Spain), Vodorod Pictures (Russia) behind acclaimed series such as Chernobyl, distributor Trinity Filmed Entertainment (UK) specialized in releasing Chinese titles in Europe, Ghosts City (France) that line produced the biggest Chinese TV series shot in France; leading Dutch company Fortissimo Films (Netherlands), Red Bull’s production arm Terra Mater Factual Studios (Austria) as well as film funds and film commissions, among many. The scope being to support any kind of interaction between the two markets. 

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The “China Next” event continued in the morning of Wednesday, 24 June with two panels updating the audience on the current situation of production and distribution in China and Europe and what to expect in the near future.

Mathieu Fournet, Head of European and international affairs of the French National Cinema Centre (CNC) and Liu Chun, Chairman of China Film Co-production Corporation (CFCC) represented institutions. Cheng Leer, Vice President of Mahua Fun Age Pictures, one of the biggest comedy powerhouses in China and Ulf Israel, Managing Director of Senator Film/Wild Bunch, gave an update on how filming is resuming. The Chinese and European film industries had somewhat similar approaches when it comes to facing the emergency and implementing strong safety measures on the set. One of the most difficult challenges is how to insure the shoots against the pandemic. In France and in some other European countries the government directly financed a special fund and this topic is also the subject of a current discussion in Germany.

In China these measures do not exist but - as Mrs. Cheng pointed out - although most films are equity financed and so at the moment investors don’t want to take the risk of production, online platforms still need content and they are the ones mostly financing filming, even with the risk on an on- and-off workflow. “The market may not be as good as before the pandemic, but it is still very much an on-going business” said Cheng.

In the second panel Anna Marsh, CEO of StudioCanal, Jeffrey Chan, Executive Vice President of Bona Film Group and Jerry Ye, Chairman of Huaying Tianxia, distribution arm of the major Chinese conglomerate Huayi Brothers, talked about distribution and exhibition. Both sides have registered changes of preference in the audience. The pandemic has given space not just to online streamers but catalogues and classic movies. While the future is still uncertain, only a mix of quality content is important to make viewers psychologically less pre-occupied and willing to get back into closed cinemas. “No doubt that online platforms are becoming more important. Large screen experience in theatres will continue to be successful but the film needs to be a big show” as Ye puts it.

Judging from the attendance of the events and from the insights of the panelists, film professionals on both sides are still optimistic. Like Marsh said: “The crisis has pushed us to re-think our business. As producer and distributor, we definitely have the responsibility to operate together, especially to sustain small and independent film productions”. It’s time to re-think our strategies. Perhaps more than ever, this is the time to work together in creative ways across countries, regions and cultures.

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