Yesterday, around 500 film industry professionals converged on the Writers Guild of America theater in Los Angeles for the U.S.-China Film Summit, discussing ways to bridge the gap between the Chinese and American film industries and focus on the challenges that lie ahead. Discussing a range of key issues in the global film market, from WTO regulations to possible cooperation, the summit's main objective was to bring together "professionals from the most mature market on Earth, and the hottest," according to organizer Peter Shiao of the L.A.-and Beijing-based consultancy Orb Media.
As Jing Daily pointed out recently, the Chinese film market is growing by leaps and bounds, and is expected to become the second-largest single market by 2015. The emergence of Chinese cinema over the past 20 years, particularly in the last five, was recently highlighted by the preponderance of Chinese films included in South Korea's Pusan International Film Festival, which included works by top directors like Zhang Yimou, Jia Zhangke and Feng Xiaogang.
Although the growing domestic Chinese market is key for Chinese filmmakers and producers, their stated goal is to increase their international audience in coming years. However, as attendees and speakers at the U.S.-China Film Summit were quick to concede, cultural, thematic and linguistic differences are hampering the spread of Chinese films into the U.S. market despite efforts to bridge the gap. Chinese moviegoers are far more accustomed -- and often prefer, for several reasons -- to watching dubbed foreign films than American audiences. Chinese moviegoers made Avatar the highest-grossing film in the history of the Chinese box office earlier this year, yet American audiences are likely only familiar with Chinese films like 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. American producers at the Summit this week suggested that Chinese producers would have to do more than simply put more money into their features if they expect to crack the U.S. market, with former Fox executive Bill Mechanic saying, "These borders are the hardest borders in the world."
[Su Xiaowei], who wrote Feng Xiaogang's box office record breaker Aftershock, said she hoped that China would continue to learn from the trends of world filmmaking but also hoped that Hollywood would blend in more Chinese cultural elements.
Aftershock was just released across America, and though U.S. initial box office results are shaky, a source close to Chinese distributor Huayi Brothers said, China's submission to the Academy as a best foreign language film Oscar hopeful is evidence of a growing American interest in things Chinese.
Yu Dong, CEO of Beijing Poly Bona Film Distribution, which has just finished a remake of Paramount's "What Women Want," said he hoped the trend for greater trans-Pacific cooperation would continue, and that money for Chinese co-prods would increase. "China's investing $10 million tops per project today, with the condition that it'll be able to be shown in China," he said, referring to the country's strict no-sex, little-violence censorship guidelines. "If you include Chinese stories and Chinese actors, then a 30% return can be yours. If you're shooting Western film in China, then you'll get just get 10%."
The summit was co-organized by the Producers Guild of America, the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, the USC Marshall Center for International Business Education and Research and the USC U.S.-China Institute.