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China eyes co-prod'ns with H'wood

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The time is now to promote Chinese filmmakers under age 40 to Hollywood producers, says Jonathan Shen, secretary general of the fledgling Young Filmmakers Commission.

"Chinese moviegoers are getting younger and more numerous, and the voices of China's young filmmakers will entertain their futures," Shen, a producer who helped expand China's TV coverage of the Oscars, said as he walked the halls of AFM.

Shen boasts that Chinese starlet Zhang Ziyi is a co-chairwoman, a fact he says will help him gather production funds from Chinese state companies and private firms from both sides of the Pacific.

Bill Stuart, vice chairman of the international committee of the Producers Guild of America, helped build Hollywood's bridge to the Czech Republic. Now he is keen to duplicate his efforts with China, which he says most PGA members still view as a "wild west."

"With $5 million and a notable American actor, we could soon see some nice-looking co-productions from China," Stuart said.

Leading the co-production charge in China is Warner China Film Hengdian Group, a state-backed joint venture whose "The White Countess," starring Edward Norton, was shot last year in Shanghai.

The commission was formed under the umbrella of the China Filmmakers Assn. with the blessing of Beijing's strict media regulators.

Shen hopes to announce the first independent, commission-backed project soon -- a World War II story he is writing with a team.

"We will take money from SARFT for only some projects, the rest we will do with complete freedom," Shen said, referring to the State Administration of Radio Film and Television.

The Young Filmmakers Commission comes at a time when Hollywood's ability to promote its stories and stars overseas is fast being duplicated across Asia, AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf said. He noted that Asian buyers at the market are up to 61 this year, from eight in 2001.

"We're soon going to see a watershed moment when we pick up a U.S. teen magazine with a cover where the actress doesn't speak English as her first language and the film she's starring in isn't in English," Wolf said. "It's more likely that that star is going to come out of Asia than anywhere else."