“I know, there is still a lot of skepticism on co-productions, simply because the case history is not large enough. Yet, I can tell you that a whole new slate of films is on its way. What amuses me is I know that this skepticism will (become) enthusiasm when the first breakthrough co-production film comes into being in the market.” said Cristiano Bortone, Managing Director of Bridging The Dragon, in a previous interview with CFI in May. Soon after the interview, U.S.-China co-production The Meg became a huge hit after many previous co-production attempts had fallen short. Produced by Warner Brothers and China Media Capital’s Gravity Pictures, the film was released in August and went on to overtake Kung Fu Panda 3 as the highest-grossing U.S.-China co-production of all time, earning $527.8 million worldwide.
The enthusiasm for co-production has likely been enhanced by the success of The Meg, as evidenced by the great turnout of Bridging The Dragon’s recent Sino-European Co-production Lab, which took place from November 11-14 in Beijing. “This edition of the Lab has been the biggest ever,” said Cristiano Bortone, “with a record number of submissions and participants. The quality and relevance of the attendees shows the growing interest in this topic.”
The Lab offered pitching sessions for each project selected from different European countries and China, round-table discussion dwelling on different topics of Sino-European interaction and arranged one-on-one-meetings with well-known authors like Oscar-winning director Stefan Ruzowitzky (“The counterfeiters”) and new Chinese talent Li Wei (screenwriter of Zhang Yimou´s new film “Shadow”) as well as experienced mentors such as Jeffrey Chan (Bona Film Group, CN) and Paul Brett (“The King´s Speech”).
This year’s lab put a strong focus on the emerging sector of family entertainment. As Abe Kwong from Chinese Magilm Pictures noted, currently in China, except from the Pixar animations, there are not yet too many films in cinemas targeting families. However, a quickly changing generation will demand more and more films of this type. This is where European film professionals with rich experience in this field will be able to contribute.
At the center of many discussions was the fast development of Chinese society that has an impact on the taste of the public. As Cai Gongming from Road Pictures-distributor of Cannes winning “Shoplifters” – stressed, Chinese audience is becoming increasingly diverse. “This is how more genres and subjects find their entrance into the market. These trends reflect the unexplored potential of China and predict that there are many opportunities not only for future co-productions but also for more sophisticated European films”. As Elliot Tong from ARRI China confirmed, even big companies like Alibaba and Dadi Pictures nowadays tend to make bigger investments in smaller art-house and experimental film projects. Paul Brett from Flying Tiger pointed out that “Chinese middle-class now has enough money for two things: entertainment and travel. This is changing the type of stories they want to see. Europeans need to listen and learn more about the real society in China in order to be able to develop content for this market.”
Jeffrey Chan emphasized the importance of official co-production treaties: “Even if an official treaty is sometimes not necessary to achieve the shooting permit, it facilitates and enables minority co-productions and creates a good and supportive film environment between two countries.”
Over all, participants reacted enthusiastically to the three days event. John Wallace (Black Sheep Productions), who presented the Irish project “Ping-Pong,” said: “Everybody we’ve met from the Chinese part is giving us very direct feedback and it has been a very encouraging experience. I really appreciated the informal atmosphere where attendees can closely get involved with each other.“
Leontine Petit, Lemming Film CEO and Chairman of Bridging the Dragon, summarized the program with the following words: “This year’s edition of our Project Lab with a great number of highly experienced attendees from both sides has been a fantastic and very fruitful time. I can guarantee that we will soon see more and more varied Sino-European co-production projects happening.”
P.S. The 5th Sino-European Production Seminar is currently accepting applications. The seminar will take place in February 2019 in Berlin in conjunction with Berlinale. For more information, click HERE.