“We have a huge market and we want to share it with you,” said Zhang Xun, President of China Film Co-Production Company today at the U.S./China Film Summit in downtown L.A. However, Xun warned the crowd that successful Hollywood co-production in China requires a shift in the kind of Chinese characters American films depict. “We want films that are heavily invested in Chinese culture, not one or two shots,” she said, referencing films like Disney/Marvel’s Iron Man 3 without mentioning them by name. “We want to see positive Chinese images. China has been opening up for 30 years and I think both U.S. and Chinese screenwriters want to write positive images,” Xun added, citing that there are still too many depictions of Chinese roles as drug dealers or criminals. A department of the Chinese government, the CFCC, is in charge of all administration and coordination for foreign film co-production. Last year, several films like Expendables 2, Cloud Atlas and Looper were hoping for co-production status but ended up hitting the big screen in China as purely foreign imports.
Xun’s remarks in a translated Q&A came after a morning of panels for the fourth annual confab. Running for a full day for the first time, the U.S./China Film Summit ends with a gala dinner tonight. Studios such as Warner Bros, Fox, Paramount and DreamWorks Animation are serving as sponsors of the event and execs from the likes of DWA and Vintage Roadshow Asia are participating Organizers announced today that they would soon start holding quarterly events on topics such as foreign sales in China and doing post production in the Middle Kingdom. AFM, which gets underway tomorrow in Santa Monica, will see a record influx of Chinese companies and execs, with more than 100 distributors and producers from more than 50 companies.
The CFCC chief also said that for a film to be a true Sino co-production and not an assisted pic it had to have no less than 20% Chinese investment, significantly feature Chinese talent with a joint script and joint ownership. “So then when the product is released it can be released directly into the Chinese market,” she added. Addressing issues of perceived censorship, Xun told the audience that the reason scripts had to be submitted to her organization for vetting and possible changes was so they could “assist” foreign filmmakers. “We want to help you avoid hot spots and trouble and to make suggestions that will actually save you money.” Xun added that the CFCC would never try to change the gist of a script, though issues of violence and slights against “the feelings of a third country” and negative depictions of other religions could stop a film from being made in China.
Earlier today, IMAX Chairman and President Greg Foster said that he expected the first Chinese production using IMAX cameras to be shot next year. Foster provided no details as to what that project might be except to tell me “that we’re looking at a number of options.” IMAX cameras have been used in China on non-Chinese productions such as Michael Bay’s Transformers 4, which is filming in Hong Kong. In his speech Foster also described the importance that James Cameron’s Avatar had in the mainland market for IMAX. “In just 14 theaters on the mainland, Avatar grossed $24 million in China alone in 2010, representing 10% of IMAX’s global revenue at the time,” he told the crowd. IMAX currently has 140 theaters in China and expects to grow to around 400 in the next few years, Foster added. That’s about the same as the company has Stateside.