Berlin: China, Germany to Begin Negotiations on Co-Production Treaty

Illustration by: Eva Vasquez

Although China has co-production treaties in place with the U.K., Spain and France, no such formal partnership yet exists with Europe's largest economy.

Despite another unfortunate scheduling overlap with the Chinese New Year — the most important family holiday in the world's most populous nation — a delegation of Chinese film industry officials will be arriving in the German capital during the Berlin International Film Festival later this week to participate in a closed-door meeting with German government figures.

The meeting's official purpose is to discuss opportunities for greater collaboration between the two country's film industries, but sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the talks will also serve as the first stage of negotiations of a new Germany-China co-production treaty.

Although China has co-production treaties in place with the U.K., Spain and France, no such formal partnership yet exists with Germany, Europe's largest economy. Such treaties ensure that jointly produced projects that gain approval under the system are treated as "local content" in both countries, which allows them to bypass China's film quota system and reap a larger share of box-office revenue.

Gaining approval requires that a film includes significant Chinese storytelling elements, but the financial upside can be considerable. The most successful Europe-China collaboration to date is Jean-Jacques Annaud's Wolf Totem (2015), which earned $8.8 million in France and $110.5 million in China.

Participating in the talks from the Chinese side will be Miao Xiaotian, chairman of the state-owned China Film Co-Production Corporation, and Jiao Hongfeng, chairman of the government-backed distributor China Film Group. Their German counterparts will include representatives from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, as well as executives in charge of the FFA, Germany's national film funding institution, Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg and other regional film funds. 

The talks were set up by Bridging the Dragon, the Berlin-based association that works to forge connections between the European and Chinese film industries.

Co-productions between Europe and China indeed are on the rise. In 2015, there were just five, but 2016 and 2017 both saw more than 10 official co-productions.

"In recent years, China's film industry has been developing rapidly — we think there is great potential for more film cooperation between Europe and China," Miao told THR in advance of the meeting. 

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 15 daily issue at the Berlin International Film Festival.