For the 5th year in a row the European Film Market (EFM) and the producers association Bridging the Dragon will present an intensive event dedicated entirely to China during the Berlinale.
Since the association has started its activity five years ago, it has become not only a desire but rather a necessity for European film professionals to confront themselves with the Chinese film market. Its booming box office in 2018, for the first time, surpassed North America’s with a record of more than 8.6 billion US dollars, a growing number of screens (by now more than 60 000 against 40 000 in the US) and a need for more and more diverse content hold 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.
For this reason over the years Bridging the Dragon has been actively promoting the understanding and the dialogue between the two communities becoming by now a point of reference for whoever wants to work between these two industries.
This year the Berlin event will start with a morning panel moderated by Patrick Frater (Variety) that will offer an overview on the latest movie trends in China to 60 selected European producers.
The discussion will analyse the great interest in the acquisition of European titles following the rapid development of the Chinese society. Latest researches show 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. Even big companies and cinema chains are exploring these niche markets, and this is one of the reasons why the quality of the European filmmaking is becoming more attractive.
The CEO of Beijing company Road Pictures Cai Gongming will recall the audience the process that led to the success of the Cannes winner Japanese film SHOPLIFTERS which gained almost 15 million US dollar in cinemas, contributing to the new frenzy of art-house acquisitions by local buyers. Marketing a movie in China involves strategies that are specific to such a big country and that should be known to western producers in order to fully exploit the potential of their movies.
On the other hand the new government policies on content and the crackdown on illicit tax and commercial practices have created a recent slowdown in film investment. Several people are asking themselves how this will impact next season.
Experienced lawyer Stephen Saltzman, who oversees deals for major mainland distributors like Huayi Brothers, Linmon, Hishow, will give an overview of the critical moment from the US perspective where acquisitions, MG’s and deals have generally dropped. Many suspect that this might be influenced by the trade war between the two countries.
But China is known to be advancing in cycles with moments of uncontrollable enthusiasm followed by a more conservative reaction that helps settle the environment. So many foresee this to be an opportunity for a lot of easy financing to disappear and only the 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 with the exchange of talents, ideas and expertise. One of the most recent trends is the success of remakes. Over the Christmas holidays the local remake of Italian blockbuster PERFECT STRANGERS reached a surprising 83 million EUR in three weeks. Chinese producers realize now that the development of original content is very risky, time- and money- consuming whereas a successful foreign movie can offer a valuable plot and mood that can be more easily adapted for the local taste.
Another growing trend is the use of European locations as a background for Chinese movies or TV series. This provides valuable economic resources and promotion of the territory but creates the need of a new understanding with the local crews and service companies.
Some of these topics will be explored in the afternoon in the frame of a series of round table discussions where the participants will have the opportunity for in-depth talks with a number of experts on topics that are crucial for their current focus on China. One of them will be producer Franck Priot from the French production company Ghost City, who recently line produced the so far biggest Chinese production shot in France, the TV series CROCODILE AND TOOTHPICK BIRD produced by Mango TV and starring well known faces like Bolin Chen and Crystal Zhang
The Berlin event will also include the second session of Bridging the Dragon yearly Sino-European Project Lab which will take place on February 14th and 15th. The Project Lab concentrates on the development of content suitable for Sino-European coproduction. After the first session that was held in Beijing last November, the representatives of the 17 film projects from Europe and China will meet again with tutors and producers from both sides in order to further develop their stories and expand professional relationships among the participants. The full-immersive think-tank will involve again recognized writing tutors like Li Wei, screenwriter of Zhang Yimou’s recent film SHADOW or famous author and director Dai Sijie (THE CHINESE BOTANIST’S DAUGHTERS).
The 17 selected film projects express a great diversity of genres and production models. From adventure comedy THE FAKE ADVENTURER from Munich-based production company TV60Film to the animation THE FATHER’S BOMB from the talented Memory Jungle Studio, from steam punk fantasy STEAM WORLD (Shanghai Te Shen Culture and Communication) to Irish black comedy PING PONG (Cowtown Pictures) telling the story of a group of old ladies travelling to China to compete in the world table tennis championship, from Taiwanese poetic art-house drama SALLI, depicting a lonely middle-age chicken farmer’s romance with a online English boyfriend, by Taiwanese Golden Bell award winning director Lien Chien-Hung, who was also selected in this year’s Berlinale Talents program to a special focus on the emerging sector of family entertainment, a program implemented with the support of the Embassy of the Netherlands in China.
As Cristiano Bortone, producer / director and Managing Director of Bridging the Dragon said: “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.”
More information about Bridging the Dragon and the event: www.bridgingthedragon.com