Confab to demystify 3D for China filmmakers

Nation is still awaiting its first locally produced 3D pic

BEIJING -- At its inaugural 3D conference this week, a new investment advisory group hopes to demystify the revived technology for next-generation filmmakers in China, a nation still awaiting its first locally produced 3D pic.

The Defining China's 3D Entertainment Industry summit and exhibition at the Chaoyang Urban Planning Art Gallery in Beijing, set for July 16-17, will be hosted by Bai Qiang, CEO of the new, Hong Kong-registered firm 3D China; the China Film Assn.; and the Chaoyang District, the largest administrative area in Beijing.

Bai, an entrepreneur with no experience in the movie business, said Han Sanping, the head of the state-run China Film Group Corp., will share the stage with Chuck Comisky, director James Cameron's visual effects supervisor on 3D sensation "Avatar," which grossed more money from ticket sales in China than it did anywhere except the U.S.

"I feel the entertainment industry in China is kind of similar to the banking industry in NYC," Bai said. "The people working inside intentionally make it very mysterious, so they can live on their turf without the danger of being beaten by intruders."

Emboldened by a WTO decision in November that said Beijing must allow greater foreign access to China's film distribution market, a Hollywood invasion here appears imminent, with 3D in the middle of the charge.

3D movies skirt a government-imposed import cap, and Disney recently released "Toy Story 3" in 3D in China -- even before its U.S. premiere (a first) -- grossing $9.5 million at the opening to set a record for an animation pic in China.

China's boxoffice has grown immensely despite the fact the country has yet to produce a 3D film of its own. At least one, "Empires of the Deep," now in production, has gotten some skeptical media attention for its shifting crew and their lack of experience.

Bai recruited industry veterans to help him organize the 3D China event. Ellen Eliasoph, the former head of Warner Bros.' joint venture with China Film Group and a key organizer of the USA Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, will moderate a few discussions, including one with Han and panelists Liu Gesan, the chairman of the Beijing Film Academy's film and broadcast department; veteran Hong Kong actor, director and producer Sammo Hung; and Xu Jinglei, star and director of the 2D "Go La La Go," a hit now in theaters.

"In China, famous directors -- the Feng Xiaogangs and the Zhang Yimous -- they don't want to do 3D. They don't want to risk their fame," said Bai, referring to the directors of the forthcoming Imax film "Aftershock" from Huayi Brothers Media and of 2002's "Hero," the highest-grossing Chinese film. "But younger directors are coming to me every day asking how they can participate in this phenomenon."

Bai also said up and coming Chinese director Lu Chuan ("City of Life and Death") -- a CAA client -- will participate in the event, as will representatives from global hardware and software leaders 3ality, Imax, Panasonic, Sony and Technicolor. Also on Bai's bill are IDG China president Hugo Shong, a regular in discussions about film investment in China, and Hollywood producer Andre Morgan, who has a long track record of work here.

In the event venue's 215-seat, 3D-capable theater, Bai said Comisky will show a five-minute sample from "Avatar" as a part of a series of 3D shorts.

In August, Bai will officially launch the advisory function of 3D China with two silent partners. One can't reveal his identity, Bai said, because he works for a state-run postproduction company.
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