IP is an Industry Obsession: Part 9 of the First CFI Guide

Welcome to the ninth installment in a 10-part series of practical tips that will make up the CFI Guide to Film Production in China. Publishing each Friday from now until just before the annual U.S. China Film Summit and the American Film Market in Los Angeles in early November, the CFI Guide is built upon wide-ranging research and reporting checked against specific case studies and available official documentation. It is for writers and producers, directors, actors, and members of the film marketing and distribution chain who believe that working with China is a part of their future. With Chinese ticket sales up nearly 50 percent in 2015, and likely to surpass U.S. sales inside the next year, it’s clear that this market is too big to be ignored. CFI is here to help you better understand China’s filmmaking process and industry.—Jonathan Landreth, Founding Editor

Awareness and enforcement of copyright rules have become the norm in China, so too has the rush to invest in original intellectual property (IP). Dominating much of the industry discussion on China at the moment is the concept of “IP movies.” IP movies are predicated on intellectual property in the form of characters and stories that audiences already know from comics, games, TV series, or web series. Go Away, Mr. Tumor, China’s submission to the 88th Academy Awards, and Rock Dog, which hit screens later in 2016, are both based on popular online comics. The Tiny Times franchise originally came from a series of popular novels, and the 2015 coming-of-age film Forever Young was directed by talk-show host He Jiong and based on a hit song of his from 2004. Tech giant Tencent launched a program in 2014 to transition its own IP in the form of games, books, and anime titles into films in partnership with other companies.

While still not a guarantee of success, IP movies are an easier sell for local producers, as they carry with them a built-in fanbase that increases their chance of box office success. Ideally, the film becomes such a hit that it spawns further iterations and develops into a bankable franchise. Original IP will also be crucial for success in the industry’s nascent ancillaries and downstream market, which increasingly take a bigger part of the overall revenue pie. — Fergus Ryan

Read Part 10, “Private Studios Are Flourishing.”