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REPORT: Sino-European Project Lab 2017

by Cineuropa

(Chinese novelist/screenwriter Yan Geling at the Sino-European Project Lab)

For the third year running, the producers’ association Bridging the Dragon has organised its Sino-European Project Lab. This year, the first module of the event took place from 13-16 June, ahead of the Shanghai Film Market in the city of Nanjing, and was organised in collaboration with ARRI, local institutions and the local film industry.

After the success of the previous editions, the aim of the initiative this year was still to foster the development of projects suitable for the European and Chinese film industries to collaborate on, through the support of qualified tutors, speeches and in-depth discussions, ultimately offering selected film professionals from both sides the chance to strike up personal relationships.

(Conference on "How to shape great stories" by script writer Philip LaZebnik (behind many animation blockbusters such as Mulan, Pocahontas, Prince of Egypt) and script specialist Alex Jia)

Cineuropa, a partner of Bridging the Dragon, collected feedback from some of the participants.

Li Zhu, producer (One More Pictures, China)
"I was very impressed by the quality of this year’s projects, and this leads me to see the increasing potential of collaborations between Europe and China. At my company, we are now looking with great interest at talents from Europe and at good projects that we could localise for the Chinese market and turn into a co-production. Some of the projects here seemed very promising, like Whisky and Noodles (from Sinner Films). Its shooting location (Scotland) is very exotic and new to China, and of course, Chinese people like whisky! It’s a typical amusing British comedy that could also have the potential to be a big success in our country. We like to produce big-budget, commercial movies, but also indie, low-budget films like Melody (from Madeleine Films). The film portrays strong, universal feelings, and the connection that the writer, well-known French composer Laurent Couson, has with the city of Qingdao is very promising. The success of the lab this year makes me feel confident enough to proceed with our plan to create a Chinese-European film fund to support projects from both sides.”

Toke Westmark Steensen, producer (Zentropa Productions, Denmark)
"Zentropa is already involved in several projects with China, most of them targeted at the commercial market. In the case of our project Autumn River by promising new director Tzu Yang Chen, we were testing the feasibility of a more arthouse film. We feared that it would be very difficult to pique any interest from the Chinese side due to the present situation of their market, but judging from the feedback we got, we now see there can be a real chance to make the film even as a co-production. The Chinese audience is quickly becoming more interested in more exotic and sophisticated films, and this opens up many new possibilities for us Europeans."

Philip LaZebnik, tutor, screenwriter of animated blockbusters like MulanPocahontas and Prince of Egypt
"It was my first trip to Asia, and although I was here as a mentor for the Chinese projects, I myself learnt a lot from this experience. It was enormously illuminating to meet with film-business professionals from China, to discover the unique characteristics of making films here, but also – beyond the differences – to realise how much they ultimately have in common with us. Great stories are the same everywhere."

Jin Rui, Gourmet Films (China)
"I am always looking for films that have something special. That’s why I was interested in a project like Mumu by Taiwanese producer Patrick Mao (Fast Forward Ent), a tale of reincarnation, the cycle of life and death, and destiny. But the lab was also very interesting because it offered the chance to listen to some inspiring and useful talks by experienced producers like Rikke Ennis (TrustNordisk) and great writers like Yan Geling (one of the most popular Chinese novelists and screenwriters)."

Oliver Damian, 27 Films (Germany)
"I am currently developing a feature-film project called Blow In, a cyber-thriller to be shot in China as part of an EU-Chinese co-production structure. Nowadays, China offers a huge possibility for certain types of project to get financed and to maximise their market potential. Bridging the Dragon helped me tremendously to understand this market better, to receive valuable feedback on the financing strategy and identify possible reliable partners. I am really excited to have entered this growing network of film professionals." 

Frédéric de Goldschmidt, Madeleine Films (France)
"The workshop allowed us to go beyond cultural differences and get an idea of how our story could become interesting for a Chinese audience. And this was thanks to tutors like renowned director Baoping Cao, who gave us a precious insight into their storytelling."

Xi Chen, Zorba Production (France)
"The BTD lab in Nanjing was fantastic! The participants’ profiles were so rich and diverse, ranging from experienced producers to writers, filmmakers and festival curators… Everyone had the chance to learn new things from each other. That's the miracle of sharing. Our company, Zorba, has a very special positioning, as it is specifically dedicated to co-productions between Asia and Europe. For this reason, the BTD lab is the perfect place for us.”

Mandy Rahn, senior manager of International Support Programme at ARRI (Germany)
"Partnering up with Bridging the Dragon this year and joining the project lab in Nanjing has been a great and inspiring experience. As ARRI is also based in China and is interested in enhancing business relationships with this new market, this workshop allowed us to increase our network and to share expertise in an open, creative and very professional atmosphere. Today’s young, talented Chinese filmmakers might benefit from our International Support Programme, and I am happy that the event allowed some of them to be introduced to us."

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