Censorship a Political, Economic Concern for Producers, Panel Says

Film controls limit export and distribution opportunities, filmmakers say.

HONG KONG -- China’s film censorship is not just a political issue but also an economic one, as it limits opportunities for producers to explore new markets and create a network of film distribution, says a leading Chinese producer.

In the “Asian Film Producers Forum” held in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Yu Dong, the chairman and CEO of Bona Film Group, a major Chinese production company responsible for co-producing and distributing films from China and Hong Kong, said that China needs to face the challenges of censorship as the country enters into the golden era of filmmaking.

“We need to have more stories, scripts and innovative ideas,” Yu said. “And to encourage creative and prosperous ideas we cannot waste investment and make use of existing censorship.”

Lee Tain Dow, a professor of Taiwan’s University of Shin Chien, also raised the topic of censorship in a related context stressing the industry’s transparency and government intervention.  

“To invest in a film is already a risk,” he said. “I don’t care if I lose money, but my bottom line is that [the government] must not lie to me. If such an event happens, it will be a shame on the entire industry.”

With the box office revenue in China reaching RMB10 billion ($1.5 billion), other issues were raised about how to deal with the increasingly global environment of filmmaking and growing investment in the region.

Yin Hong, a professor of journalism at Tsinghua University, said that system is a prior concern than funding in the Chinese film industry.

“We have about five corporations who are industry leaders,” he said. “If they build an effective system in the next two or three years it’ll change the industry. We cannot rely on one or two directors who make one film a year for box office success.”
Issues in co-production are also changing as experiences build up in international collaboration.

Nansun Shi, the executive director of Film Workshop, said that demand for Asian co-production is actually declining as foreign producers now want to make a film in China on their own.

“There are a lot of investors, but nobody knows who is who,” she added.  

The scale of collaboration has also expanded. When Bill Kong, the executive director of Edko Films, produced Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 1999 the Chinese box office was about 30 million yuan, and it was considered successful.

“We need to analyze why one film is popular and the other one isn’t,” says Hsu Li-kong, the chairman of Zoom Hunt International Prods. “There are criteria to tackle overseas audiences, and we need local flavor.”