AFI Launches Scholarship for Students to Develop Scripts About China

Getty Images

The program is backed by the media group IDG, whose chairman Hugo Shong called for a greater understanding of Chinese history and culture: "We love 'Mulan' and 'Kung Fu Panda,' but they could be made anywhere."

Relations between Hollywood and China are getting closer but there remains a need for greater understanding of Chinese history and culture, said Hugo Shong, who chairs the IDG media investment group, as he launched a new scholarship program with the American Film Institute.

The AFI/IDG China Story Fellowship, a program at the AFI Conservatory, is aimed at developing feature-length screenplays that foster greater understanding of Chinese history, culture and literature.

"China's history goes back over 5,000 years and there are a lot of stories still to be told by Hollywood. We love Mulan and Kung Fu Panda but they could be made anywhere. I want to the real China to be shown," he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

PHOTOS: China Box Office: 10 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time

Shong was speaking at the AFI's annual film fest, just before a gala screening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which was produced by AFI alumnus Stuart Cornfeld (AFI Class of 1975). Also attending were Ben Stiller, Kirsten Wiig and Sean Penn.

The fellowship allows for nine AFI fellows to travel to China for cultural research.

"I also want to encourage more co-productions between Hollywood and China. The quota system means you have big commercial productions with big actors, budgets. They are great but you want something more in depth," he said. "By initiating this project with AFI, I am hoping that together we can jointly encourage a new generation of American screenwriters to produce more and different kinds of screenplays about China."

Paige Devitt, Derek Ustruck and Lindsay Golder were selected from the AFI screenwriting discipline to be the first recipients of the AFI China Story Fellowships.

In August this year they traveled to China.

PHOTOS: 10 Hollywood Films Changed for International Release

"I stayed in Beijing and I got to see what it's like to be a Beijinger," said Ustruck. "I spent the time in the hutongs [the districts around ancient laneways]. It was really like New Orleans, where I'm from, in strange ways. He's given us such an extraordinary opportunity,"

Golder knew a little about China before she went.

"I felt it was better to get there and meet the people and see their lives," she said.

Devitt said she was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming China was.

"In Los Angeles, we're all trapped in our cars. We had an opportunity to further develop ideas we already had," she said.

In 1980, IDG became the first U.S. publisher to enter the China market. Today, IDG China publishes more than 60 joint-venture magazines, newspapers and websites for the Chinese market. Its portfolio of publications includes CEOCIO, Cosmopolitan China, Harper’s Bazaar China, and National Geographic China.

IDG also has investments in Legendary Pictures and Relativity Media, as well as major online firms such as Baidu, Sohu, Tencent, Soufun and Ctrip.