Recap on The 5th Sino-European Production Seminar in Berlin

The 5th Sino-European Production Seminar hosted by the Berlin-based producers association Bridging the Dragon in partnership with the European Film Market took place in conjunction with the 2019 Berlinale on February 13th.

In collaboration with the Norwegian Film Institute, the events kicked off with a gathering on February 12th where filmmakers networked, and upcoming Chinese director Joe Chow presented his new film Priestess. Throughout the following days, in morning panels and afternoon roundtable discussions, film experts from all around Europe were provided up-to-date information and case studies on different topics regarding the Chinese film industry. Zhang Fan, project manager of Bridging the Dragon, discussed the latest trends of China’s local market, pointing out that the intense growth of Chinese box office revenues slowed down in 2018 due to reasons like the tax evasion scandals and the overall uncertainty of the general economy. However, the number of screens and the interest of the public are still growing as shown by the record of admissions during the Chinese New Year in the past weeks. She furthermore noted, the Chinese remake of the Italian film Perfect Strangers, reaching an incredible box office of € 82 million, created a new interest for remakes of European films.

American lawyer Stephen Saltzman, who has been consulting major mainland distributors for years, discussed the recent issues between the US and China. The ongoing trade war and last year’s law regulations against the outflow of capital and the control of production costs in China have created a recent drop of film investments in Hollywood. However, Saltzman assured that the crisis will create a natural selection, letting only the good players survive and thereby increasing quality.

Various roundtable discussions in the afternoon gave participants an opportunity for in-depth talks with Chinese and European experts. French producer Franck Priot from the production company Ghosts City spoke about his experience in line producing Crocodile and Toothpick Bird, which is currently the biggest Chinese TV series in France. He pointed out that most of the challenges were rooted in cultural differences and filmmaking procedures.

Chen Lizhi from Spire Media, Beijing-based company which collaborated on Zhang Yimou’s film Shadow, shared thoughts on story development for an evolving Chinese audience.

Well-known Taiwanese producer Patrick Huang (Flash Forward Entertainment) who had two films selected in this year’s festival, elaborated on the challenges of co-productions. He stated that unless your based in China, having a good partner who can build relationships is ideal, especially due to the fact that the financing systems between the two industries are so different.

Antoine Simkine, head of the producer’s association ACE Producers and partner of Bridging the Dragon concluded: “Producing in China seems to raise many problems. But this is also a very exciting territory, and we need to learn faster in order to really make use of all its opportunities.”

Following the seminar, Bridging the Dragon also hosted the second session of the 4th Sino-European Project Lab from 14th to 15th February which, through individual pitching sessions and one-to-one-meetings, aims to facilitate the co-development of the 17 selected projects.