Thanks to its good word-of-mouth and family genre, Kung-Fu Yoga, an action-adventure comedy film starring Jackie Chan in lead role becomes the highest-grossing film in Chinese movie market during the Spring Festival of 2017 and generated a box-office revenue of RMB1.706 billion. Along with the Railroad Tigers released in December 2016, Jackie Chan crowns box-office championship among New Year’s films by his two action films in two totally different styles. Both of these two films are produced by Shinework Pictures (China), a film company founded by Jackie Chan several years ago and dedicated to producing high-quality Chinese-language films.
Although the company has kept a low profile over the years, films produced or distributed by Shinework Pictures are all directed by or starring A-list directors and actors/actresses. Shinework Pictures also participates in producing a series of Jackie Chan’s movies. 2017 Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART) will kick off soon. Shinework Pictures will attend the FILMART as a buyer, not only showcasing its new works, but also seeking new cooperation projects and resources. We hereby interview Mr. Sun Rong, VP of Shinework Pictures and invite him to share with us how they successfully run Jackie Chan’s brand and their investment strategies.
Q： What key activities and roadshows that Shinework Pictures will be held at 2017 FILMART?
Sun: This year, we will attend the FILMART as a buyer, during which, we will negotiate with some projects and seek potential projects and excellent crew and cast. Meanwhile, our international distribution department will showcase our new works at 2017 FILMART. In particular, we will promote the international sales of Young Years directed by Feng Xiaogang and A Better Tomorrow directed by Ding Sheng. Shinework Pictures invests these two films and is responsible for their international distribution.
Q： Jackie Chan and Kung-Fu films starring Jackie Chan are always key advantageous resources for Shinework Pictures, such as Dragon Blade and Kung-Fu Yoga, this recent Spring Festival blockbuster. Do you make any changes when promoting Jackie Chan’s Kung-Fu movies in the Mainland market? Why Kung-Fu Yoga aired during 2017 Spring Festival doesn’t hold any roadshows as normal?
Sun: Shinework Pictures will be the only platform to produce Jackie Chan’s Chinese-language films in the future. As we own this high-quality resources, we will be very careful about the sustainability of Jackie Chan’s brand. Thus, we are very cautious to promote Jackie’s films. On the one hand, we will try to differentiate Jackie Chan’s films and bring innovative films to audiences. On the other hand, we will protect Jackie Chan’s brand and won’t excessively exploit it in any film promotional activities.
Our team has worked with Jackie for many years. We know his requirements and know how to best use his brand. Thus, Jackie very trusts us. We work with each other very well. This is also why we have insisted on promoting Jackie’s film by ourselves. This year, Kung-Fu Yoga doesn’t organize any domestic roadshows. Many people ask us why. Different companies adopt different promotional strategies. The reasons are complex. We consider many factors, such as cast schedule, the interval with Jackie’s last film and distribution strategy. Before the domestic premiere in the Mainland, we organize 5-6 roadshows overseas. The word-of-mouth accumulated overseas would spread to the Mainland, giving a reference for audiences to make final decision. Thus, overseas roadshows could help domestic promotion to some extent. Actually, roadshow is not necessary for ensuring the box-office success and it is just an promotional activity. The producers will decide in line with their own situation.
Q： How Shinework Pictures selects investment or cooperation film projects? What kind of changes do you see in terms of audience’s tastes in the Mainland market?
Sun: We consider multiple factors when selecting projects. The priority is given to Jackie Chan’s brand films, his story and films directed by him. Frankly, Jackie will decide at his own discretion, but we will give him suggestions. Jackie has reserved many projects and several projects have been carried out at the same time. We normally select projects with good scripts. Among Jackie’s films, we normally select ones that mix with different stories and styles. For example, Railroad Tigers is an action comedy adapted from a classical revolutionary story, while Kung-Fu Yoga is one of classical Jackie’s action comedy. In 2017, we will release The Foreigner starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan. So, each film is different and we deliberately select different styles.
We are very careful when investing non-Jackie’s films. We prefer high-quality and reputable directors, such as Feng Xiaogang and Ding Sheng. In addition, we also independently produce some medium-sized films. We select films based on our market experience, considering what kinds of genres and when will meet audience’s tastes and how to make innovation in film genre. In this part, we will work with some new directors, expand and guide the projects based on a producer-centered approach. We won’t do some projects just for catering to the market taste. Instead, we try to make breakthroughs and guide audience’s taste. Sincerity is the most important.
Audience’s tastes have always changed or updated. The number of moviegoers will be increased in small cities and towns with the populations in the first-tier cities saturated, which will affect the overall audience’s taste and aesthetics. So, the term “Town Young People” has been popular in the filmmaking industry in recent years. It sounds that meeting their needs will occupy the market. I don’t think this trend won’t be changed forever. Our audiences grow fast. You’ll find that audience’s needs take changes each year. They need innovative films. We couldn’t stick to the old path. If our works couldn’t catch up with audience’s aesthetics, the works are doomed to fail.
Q： What film festivals or markets will your company attend in 2017? Do you have any key investment and projects planned?
Sun: This year, we will go to several key markets such as Cannes and Toronto. Apart from the distribution of those two movies, we are negotiating several projects. So we will promote them at key international markets. This year, Jackie has two films to begin shooting. One will be co-produced with Sony. I couldn’t tell the other one, because it keeps secrete at this moment. Young Years and A Better Tomorrow invested by us will be screened this year. Other co-production and independently produced projects include Golden 72 Hours produced by Eric Tsang and directed by Chin Ka-lok that will begin shooting in March and Rose Manservant produced by Terence Chang that will begin shooting in the middle of the year as well.
Q： Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu films have always been the most popular Chinese-language films in the overseas market. How do you deploy the distribution of Jackie Chan’s films in overseas market? Any differences between domestic and overseas promotion?
Sun: Jackie’s films are of course the most popular Chinese-language films in Asia and the rest of the world. We adopt different promotion strategies in different regions. Of course, apart from sales promotion, Jackie’s films shoulder the responsibilities of promoting and exporting Chinese culture. We will respond to the requirements of the SAPPRFT to organize some exhibition and communication activities in some regions.
Overseas promotion is greatly different from domestic promotion. Jackie and action comedy films are the key selling point for overseas audiences. Other crew and cast are not that important in overseas promotion. In addition, the pace of overseas promotion is varied with domestic promotion. Domestic promotion is complex and different promotional strategies are needed at different stages, while overseas promotion only needs one final version. So, we normally need to balance between these two promotion plans.
Q： Now, Chinese-language films increasingly cooperate with overseas filmmakers. What strategies does Shinework Pictures consider in overseas distribution market?
Sun: We establish an independent overseas distribution department to better capitalize on the international influence of Jackie Chan’s brand. With increasing international communication, it’s important to have a team that could bridge the communication among different markets, either for Chinese films going to the international markets or Hollywood and other countries to co-produce films with Chinese filmmakers. As we are specialized in overseas distribution, we are familiar with the overseas market and keep good cooperation relationships with all kinds of film festivals and markets. With Chinese films raising their invoice in the international market, Chinese market will increasingly integrate with the international market. Thus, we urgently need to make some deployment.