China urges film co-productions

Cash, creativity and piracy protection seen

Complete Shanghai film fest coverage

SHANGHAI -- Chinese filmmakers should work on more co-productions with overseas partners, a senior film industry regulator said Tuesday at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

"All co-productions will be treated the same as domestic films in China," Jiang Ping, vice chairman of the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said at a forum about co-productions.

While Jiang's pronouncement is not news, its repetition for the international audience here signals SARFT's recognition that cooperation with overseas partners could bring creativity and cash to China's strictly monitored film industry.

Co-productions, which must submit to China's censorship guidelines, fall outside the legal limit of 20 imported films allowed to share boxoffice revenue in China each year.

One recent co-production, "Forbidden Kingdom," starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li, brought in more than 170 million yuan ($24 million), according to Zhang Xun, managing director of the China Film Co-Production Corp., which coordinates foreign co-productions.

"Forbidden Kingdom" was the result of a partnership between U.S.-based Casey Silver Prods. and Beijing-based Huayi Brothers, and is China's highest-grossing co-production so far in 2008.

In addition to U.S. co-productions, co-productions with Japan, Korea and Hong Kong are becoming more and more popular, according to Yu Dong, president of the Beijing PolyBona Distribution Co. the largest distributor of Hong Kong films in China.

Yu said that co-productions with overseas partners can bring funding and distribution help to Chinese filmmakers.

PolyBona distributed director Peter Chan's co-production "The Warlords" in 2007 and director Stephen Chow's "CJ7" in 2008. Both were co-productions with Hong Kong firms.

But differences in filmmaking culture and technology, especially when it comes to special effects, can hinder partnerships between Chinese filmmakers and partners from overseas.

Ng See-Yuan, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, suggested that Chinese regulators use different censorship standards for co-productions and domestic films.

"Otherwise, co-productions will be forced to get closer to Chinese movies and lose their distinctiveness," Ng said.

Ng was among first Hong Kong producers to cooperate with Chinese film companies, starting with "New Dragon Gate Inn" in 1992.