can China and the US film industries work together? In the last five
years, there have been very few co-productions. From the Hollywood
viewpoint, it’s the regulations, the culture, the inexorable divide
between the nations. From China’s viewpoint, it’s money. Co-productions
with US studios have not reaped the rewards.
At the US China Film Summit presented by the Asia Society, it was uniformly agreed that while the possibilities are wide open for the China market, filmmakers have yet to deliver relevant content to hold the interest of both nations' audiences.
And it’s not that the Chinese market is closed. It’s the world’s fastest growing market and second largest film market; one panelist stated that every day 5 screens open in China. Another panelist mentioned that when seeing Transformers 3 in China, he had never been in such a packed theater before. Thirty films a year come to China from Hollywood and of that, 20 are studio films. The remaining 10 are independent though not necessarily small films. Hollywood blockbusters are indeed a huge draw for China’s audiences, often upstaging locally made films because, as Ivy Zhong of Galloping Horse Media Group stated, the ticket prices are the same yet audiences realize that the Hollywood film’s time in a theater is limited.
Loeb and Loeb’s Stephen Saltzman compared the world’s attention on China as a gold rush mentality. But as recent news have shown, Hollywood filmmakers have failed to do their due diligence in respect to Chinese culture, politics, and sensitivities. It’s no wonder that the creative gap lies in finding the appropriate story that would transcend the divide.
Zhong pointed to the latest Karate Kid -- with all the Chinese kids as bad guys -- and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan with what Zhong called an old story that didn’t appeal to China’s young audiences. China’s audiences, she said, are well-versed and literate in film, partially because, as Janet Yang stated, of DVD piracy. It’s also interesting to note that similar sentiments were expressed last year and yet the attendees found these statements revelatory.
Will they learn?
Yanming Jang, president of China Lion Film Distribution said that American audiences typically do not watch films with subtitles while China’s audiences will. He also put it succinctly to the attendees: Learn Chinese. And yet, he maintains his quest to bring Chinese language films to the US.
Dan Mintz, CEO of DMG, shifted the focus away from audiences, arguing that when filmmakers fail in China they think it’s “China’s fault,” but in reality it’s the filmmakers’. Our failing in China, he said, is not China’s issue.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!