Home / Entertainment / News Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Foreign Buyers Attracted by Chinese Documentaries
Adjust font size:

The China International Documentaries Conference was held in Guangzhou from December 3-9. A great many people appeared surprised to discover that Chinese documentaries have significant market potential with foreign buyers while they couldn't find their way onto the country's own television screens.

The conference could well be one of the greatest self-proclaimed "international" media Expos. With 500 representatives from 59 nations taking part, the event boasted 420 documentaries. As the only platform on the Chinese mainland for the country's filmmakers to trade with foreigners, 17 broadcasting companies and buying groups from nine countries were invited including the world-known National Geography, Discovery, NHK, BBC, ABC, and PBS.

Channel Zero Media (CZM) is China's leading media production company and specializes in the making and distribution of documentary programs worldwide. Company general manager, Zheng Qiong, explained to Beijing Youth Daily that her company was the only professional documentary agency in China.

When her last venture was going bankrupt in 2003, a Taiwan director saved the day by asking her to sell a documentary to him. But just how hard is it to sell a documentary to a mainland TV station? Zheng said, "Only some provincial TV stations have documentary programs and their common practice is to broadcast the films produced by their very own staff. They're not willing to buy any from outside."

Shooting documentaries is widely recognized as "non-profit" in Chinese film circles. A director revealed that every Chinese documentary would cost on average at least 50,000-60,000 yuan, but when they're sold to TV stations the price might only be 2,000-3,000 yuan per episode.

However, international buyers can offer much better deals. Discovery's "First-time Filmmakers" project has been held for four years in China. They invest 150,000 yuan annually in the project and documentaries by six selected directors are partly funded by Discovery. The company in turn owns final cutting rights and the copyright. When a documentary is released, Discovery can broadcast it throughout all Asia. That's to say, the company uses approximately 150,000 yuan to fund six filmmakers to make their own films at the lowest possible costs.  

The results are considered to be a win-win for all concerned. When Discovery's First-time Filmmaker stars of 2006 were just born, Zhu Chunguang, one of the previous First-time Filmmakers, was selling his work and discussing with Canadian TV to shoot documentaries about the Yangtze River. Some of his works have been nominated for foreign awards. He considers Discovery as a good springboard for his career.

Various Chinese subjects will be filmed by either Chinese or foreigners. Discovery Asia Channel has said that during the past three years, 25 percent of their documentaries were related to China. If the 25 percent were all done by Chinese directors, they will survive by dong this. At the same time, the world can see the most truthful China.

Zhao Liang, a 2004 First-time Filmmaker, suggested that the documentaries shot by Chinese but following foreign standards were nothing to do with thoughts and ideology. It was just a matter of technique and style.

Only if you record a true story will a documentary be great. But as the domestic market is so small and lacks life, the Chinese filmmakers have to go out to pursue careers. But will Chinese people like the standards of National Geography or Discovery? Will there be more documentaries which perfectly match the standards of Chinese people.

The country's filmmakers, who perhaps can't imagine a domestic revival at the moment, may consider those issues after they honorably return from abroad.

(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui, December 12, 2006)


Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- 2005 China Int'l Documentary Film Conference Opens
- CCTV to Shoot Mekong Documentary
- Chinese Documentaries Should Be Commercialized
- Discovery China Chinese Film Contest
- Discovering the Real Images of Modern China
- Discovering Real Images of Modern China
- Forbidden City Premieres in Southeast Asia
Most Viewed >>