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Chinese making production push

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A 30-person Chinese film delegation, in town for the American Film Market, dropped in on the Los Angeles headquarters of the Producers Guild of America for a hospitality event Monday that was equal parts meet-and-greet and territory soft sell.

Well, sometimes not so soft.

"If you come to China, we will give you very good terms," said a grinning Han Sanping, general manager of the state-controlled China Film Group Corp.

Noting that about 18 U.S. films have enjoyed co-production deals with Chinese companies during the past four years, Han said there has been surging interest in the market, where recent annual boxoffice growth rate of 35%-45% is expected to continue for several years.

"I kindly invite you to come to the Chinese market to take part in this gold rush," he said through an interpreter.

The PGA welcomed the approach by the Chinese film delegation, which drew several member producers along with guild president Marshall Herskovitz and executive director Vance Van Petten.

"The importance of the Chinese economy to the entire world is also of importance to our guild," Van Petten said.

Herskovitz told the group the PGA's mission overlaps the worlds of both art and commerce.

"In America, as you probably know, the film business has been a difficult marriage between the art of cinema and the business of cinema," Herskovitz said. "We in the Producers Guild are the ones who are most concerned about maintaining the balance (between the two)."

The film delegation's visits to the AFM and the PGA show its genuine interest in stoking more U.S.-Chinese co-productions, guild spokesman Eddie Michaels said.

"That's the kind of thing India began doing five years ago," Michaels said. "The fact that they are here, visiting the Producers Guild in a pro-active way, shows that they are very interested in bringing productions to China, especially American productions."

PGA brass and others were briefed on dos and don'ts of the Chinese co-production process by Zhou Jiandong, director of the film production department at the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Tips included:

  Chinese co-producers may be made with either state-ownedf or private partners.

  Story lines must involve a Chinese angle, but stories no longer have to be wholly based in China.

  One-third of the cast must be Chinese.

  Censorship review is conducted the same way as for Chinese domestic projects.

The China Film Co-Production Corp. serves as a liaison organization for prospective co-production partners and welcomes inquiries from U.S. producers, Zhou said.