Sino-European interaction takes the stage in the virtual space at the sixth Sino-European Project Lab
- The tastes of Chinese audiences, co-production opportunities and Chinese box-office results were at the centre of discussions at the event, which took place from 25-29 November
Opportunities for Sino-European collaborations and trends in the Chinese film market were explored at the 6th Project Lab hosted by the Sino-European producers’ association Bridging the Dragon. Known for being the only think-tank focusing entirely on supporting the development of suitable content and creating new business opportunities between the two industries, this year, the Lab took place in the virtual space.
The intensive five-day programme kicked off on Wednesday 25 November. Over 90 participants from all over Europe, China and - for the first time this year - New Zealand crowded the online platform. Renowned Chinese screenwriters such as Li Xiao, author of the Chinese remake of the Italian film Perfect Strangers [+see also:
film profile] ($98 million Chinese b.o.) or Yang Weiwei, screenwriter of box office success Sheep Without a Shepherd ($196 million at the Chinese b.o.); state institutions including the China Film Co-Production Corporation (CFCC); market leading distributors such as Lian Ray Pictures or Dadi Pictures; Hengdian World Studios, China’s biggest film studio, which is also involved in distribution; Road Pictures, importers of high end arthouse successes like Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters and Oscar nominated Capernaum [+see also:
film profile], were present among European colleagues such as representatives from Universal Pictures; Berlin-based leading VFX and production house Rise Pictures; Dutch veteran Els Vandevorst from N279 Entertainment; Ghosts City, which line-produced the biggest Chinese shoot in France; Italian company Fandango; Main Road Post, a VFX studio involved in some of the most significant Russian blockbusters.
Experts spent 5 intensive days with participants to improve the market readiness of their projects as well as explore potential collaborations.
At the centre of many discussions were the latest trends of the Chinese market and the current taste of Chinese audience. Patriotic films which depict Chinese characters as heroes seem to be the main genre at the moment, and Generation Z (people born after 1995) will continue to be the main group of moviegoers. But there is an increasing space for other genres such as animation, fantasy, sci-fi and also – to some extent – art house. Due to the trade war and various other factors, in 2019, only 2 out of the top 10 films in China were from Hollywood, the lowest rate of the decade. This might leave space for foreign films coming from other countries, in particular Europe.
To improve the understanding of each other’s industry, Liu Chun, General manager of CFCC, coached the participants on co-production policies in China, and Stephan Bender, CEO of Film France, coached Chinese participants on the structure of European funding.
Mr. Liu mentioned that the box office in mainland China reached over €2 billion since the reopening of cinemas in July, and reached an encouraging amount of €470 million just in the week of National Day holiday last month — which corresponds to almost 85% of the amount from the same period last year and saw China overtake the US market for the first time. "The recovery of the film industry in China has fully proven that crises and opportunities co-exist", Mr. Liu said. The trend of online streaming was also discussed. Up until June 2020, there were 0,9 billion online streaming viewers in China. In 2019, 137 new theatrically released films produced in the year were broadcasted online, most of them small and medium budget films, and 789 new films only for online release were streamed.
In addition to the event’s traditional matchmaking meetings and group discussions, the practical sessions were for the first time open to a wider audience. The hands-on topics covered included co-producing with China, censorship, a who’s-who overview of the Chinese film market, and line producing Chinese movies.
Judging from the record-high attendance at the Lab and the vigorous exchanges which took place at the event, the enthusiasm to work together across cultures remains strong despite the challenges of this year, and collaboration is as strategic as ever.
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