EFM Panel Explores What to Expect in Post-pandemic Euro-Asian Co-operation

On 19 February 2023, the producer’s association Bridging the Dragon in collaboration with the European Film Market (EFM) held its annual panel. For the first time the event included a wider angle to delve into the triangular synergies between Europe, China and other regions of Far East Asia.

After two years of struggles, the Chinese film industry is quickly recovering. The Spring holiday window showed the affection of the local audience to movies with a very strong box office performance and this let us foresee that the market may come stronger than before. The festival also shows this sign of vitality with six Chinese features premiering, including two in the competition section, the largest selection of Chinese films at the Berlinale to date. Meanwhile, other Asian regions have developed a vibrant audiovisual industry which is now for the first time looking beyond their internal market.

With specialists coming from Europe and different Asian regions, the panel “Moving East: Perspectives of collaboration between Europe, China and Far East Asia” held a thought-provoking discussion on the potential of Euro-Asian collaboration also addressing the unique conditions in each individual region.

Eunjung Yoo, the CEO and producer of Korean company BlessU Pictures, shared her observation on the expansion of Korean content in the global market based on her international co-production experience. “Everyone wants the next Parasite or Squid Game” she said, “and that’s how now Korean talents go global and we follow them. This is the spark of our internationalisation. On the other hand, with the success of Korean blockbusters in recent years, more and more filmmakers seek the chance to work with our country”. Yoo believes that indeed coproduction or any collaboration can bring new inspiration, yet one needs to note that it is an ongoing process which will require time. It may be hard for the Korean audience to accept exotic contents and in the beginning the collaboration with the European film industry is still easier on arthouse movies. On the other hand, there are strong possibility of collaboration between different Asian regions as shown by the constant exchange of IPs between Korea, Japan and China.

The importance of talents in international co-production is also echoed by Patrick Huang, the founder and producer of Taiwanese company Flash Forward Entertainment (with operations also in Mainland China). Until now there isn’t many successful cases of Chinese-speaking films with big international impact and the local industry is still relying mainly on the domestic market. One of the reasons is that Chinese talents are not known enough to the Western audience. In this sense the streamers could play a very important role by promoting Asian stars on the global market.

Carles Montiel, the Director of the Film division of Spanish group Mediapro Studio recently acquired by a Chinese fund, pointed out that the pandemic has naturally created many obstacles for co-production. With the abandonment of the Covid-Zero policy in China, the collaboration between Europe and China will resume and their group is now actively exploring all kinds of content which could link the two worlds.

The head of International Operation of the renowned Japanese Animation studio Production I.G. (Ghost in the shell franchise), the Italian born Francesco Prandoni, reminded producers to “do their research first” before attempting to work with Japan, the world’s third largest box-office market. Like Korea film projects in Japan are still mostly privately financed, but they tend to be even more local. Animation of course is one of the most viable genres but the several studios still work within their own internal circle and have each very unique personalities. Thus the need, when looking for partner, of identifying precisely the right one. “You can’t have a children song with a heavy metal band. You have to know what is the style of the partner you are looking for.” An interesting characteristic is that even within the country, studios often collaborate with each other in order to share their risk. From this habit it lies now the chance of potentially start working with international partners.

In conclusion, all speakers are aware of the fact that cultural and business elements still keep Asia and the West distant, but they see exciting possibility of collaboration in the post-pandemic era.