Last year's The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman was Fox International's second co-production in China
With China's box office jumping 61 percent last year to become the third-largest single film market in the world, we've seen interest in co-productions increase rapidly as European and American production companies look to crack mainland China. Last November, 500 attendees took part in the U.S.-China Film Summit in Los Angeles, where they discussed a range of issues from WTO regulations to potential opportunities for cooperation. Though attendees were quick to concede that it will likely take years for Chinese films to find a broader audience in the U.S. — which has “the hardest borders in the world,” according to former Fox executive Bill Mechanic — the potential for co-productions is there.
While Hollywood obviously wants to increase the number of films China will allow it to import, the American film industry isn't the only one with eyes on the Chinese market. Last fall, the Australian China Screen Alliance, a subsidiary of the Screen Producers Association of Australia, was formed with the aim of "speeding and smoothing interaction with the fastest-growing film market in the world." What is perhaps the smartest part of this alliance is the fact that it will allow Aussie filmmakers to sidestep Beijing's current cap of only 20 imported films per year, a regulation that has frustrated international production companies since China's WTO accession in 2001. Last month, the China Film Co-Production Corporation announced a similar partnership with European filmmakers, noting that closer cooperation with European producers could help provide technical and cultural benefits to Chinese teams, as well as expanding the market potential for cooperatively produced films.
This past weekend, French director Luc Besson told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival, "The diversity of Chinese films reflects the complexity of the country, which is attractive to the French audience and the French market.Every year, more than a dozen Chinese films are released in France. I hope my [Sino-French dinner reception on May 18] will promote bilateral friendship and bring about more cooperation between China and France to bring about more co-productions."
Looking to move fast, given the increasingly competitive nature of the market, this week at Cannes Fox International Productions and the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) announced their cooperation on the Fox Chinese Film Development Award, an effort to find local talent and increase China co-productions that will award the winner a cash grant of HK$100,000 (US$13,000) and a first-look deal with the studio. From the Hollywood Reporter:
“We believe that there is a wealth of unrealized filmmakers in China,” [Fox International Pictures] president Sanford Panitch said during a press conference in Cannes. “One of the goals of FIP is about finding this talent and introducing them to the rest of the world.”
The award is part of FIP’s latest effort to break into the local-language film business in the worlds’ fastest growing movie market.
Submissions are open to any Chinese-language project, or a project with the potential to be adapted into a Chinese-language film. They can be submitted by the copywriter of the project, whether a director, producer, writer or other talent.
The call for entries is open from now through Oct. 30. Projects will be judged based on their creativity, originality and Asian cultural content, as well as their potential for being made into a full-length feature.
Five projects will be shortlisted. The first winner will be announced at the HAF awards ceremony in March 2012.
We'll have to keep an eye on this story to see who gains the edge in this co-production trend, but considering Fox International has already done two co-productions in comparatively rapid succession (2009's Hot Summer Days and last year's The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman) and is now working on a third, Hollywood is clearly coming out of the gates strong.