Spotlight: Film industry pundits see future of U.S.-China Co-pros as two-way street

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by Julia Pierrepont III

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- After the astonishing success of U.S.-China co-pros such as "The Meg" in 2018, the pressure is on to keep the lucrative trend going.

"The Meg," a Chinese-American co-production released by Gravity Pictures in China and Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States, grossed more than 530 million U.S. dollars in the global box office against a production budget of around 150 million dollars.

The movie is the most successful co-production of all time and considered a bright harbinger of the future by many Hollywood insiders.

Xinhua asked entertainment industry pundits to weigh in with advice on how to increase the chances of future successes.

"I can't tell you how many WWII and missionary scripts I've received from foreign producers," lamented Ben Erwei Ji, co-producer of "The Meg" and managing director of China's Reach Glory Entertainment.

"For co-pro material, look forward, not historical. Target young audiences. Do comedies about current life, Sci Fi, something happy, funny, or family-oriented instead," he advised.

"If I'm going to give one piece of advice to my Hollywood friends, it's to be humble and to be ready to learn from China first," Zhou Yuan, former head of Shanghai Media Group and co-founder and EVP of Linmon Pictures, said in recent East West Bank post.

"Then set up with a Chinese partner that you feel is a good fit and have chemistry with, and work together on one or two projects," he advised.

Rong Chen, senior vice president of Perfect World and CEO of Perfect World Pictures (USA), concurred, "Find the right partner. That makes everything else easier."

"And don't spend too much money or time to mingle with people who cannot make projects," advised Zhou, since there are as many wanna-bes in China as there are in Hollywood.

Alexis Garcia, a partner in Endeavor Content / Perfect Village, also stressed the importance of strong local partners in China.

"Our knowledge of the United States and international capital markets just aren't the same as local China market expertise. So, everything we do in China, we do with local partners."

Christina Chou, agent and development executive at Hollywood power agency, Creative Aritsts Agency (CAA), advised producers to broaden their point of view.

"Producers are asking me now, 'Can we make it more Asian?' That's a great first step, but we need to move to using a different, more authentic lens for each individual project, not just a Western lens."

Chinese companies are equally particular when choosing their American producing partners. "We are definitely looking for partners that have a great work ethic and strong track records in the Hollywood industry, with great connections to Hollywood talent," explained Zhou.

Xujun Ying of China Media Capital and Gravity Pictures and Executive Producer of "The Meg" disclosed at the Asian Society Summit, "We did 'The Meg' because our Chairman's vision was to embrace the world and work closely with Hollywood and hopefully learn the trends and tricks of moviemaking."

"We definitely need Hollywood's expertise and their extensive knowledge of the industry to help us to deliver better quality projects to the public," Zhou concluded.

Ying said, "Before this, it was unimaginable for a Chinese company to control the IP and a franchise from the ground up. Now we've done 'Kung Fu Panda 3' and 'The Meg,' two huge successes. We'll definitely be making a 'Meg 2.'"

Lindsey Conner, co-chair of the entertainment and media practice at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, forecasting that the co-pro business was in for a significant upswing.

"U.S. imports will likely need to increase to maintain the Chinese box office," he predicted.

"In China, young Millennials watch movies and shows on mobiles and ipads. If we want them to stay with cinema, make things that are a good theatrical experience," urged Carrie Wong, Sony Pictures' head of Local Film & TV in Greater China.

"Make something very particular for them, not just CGI movies - also dramas, like 'Dying to Survive,' nostalgic things from their childhood, or the late 1980's. They like that and can relate to it," she reported.

Comscore's senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, expressed the hope that there would be more China-based productions that reflect the taste and culture and Chinese point-of-view, that could be produced in a way that will enable them to crossover in a more profound way to audiences outside of their country of origin.

Michael Tiberi of Worldclass Masterclasses stressed that educational co-productions are also the wave of the future. "Online education is a $268 billion market and lucrative co-production opportunity for China and the U.S. producers. We can create high quality and celebrity masterclasses together that the whole world can learn from."

Jiang Wei, CEO of Legendary East and GM of Wanda Media, added, "You can see the trends that are working: 'Project Gutenberg,' the Hong Kong thriller; 'Operation Red Sea'; 'Wolf Warrior II.' And comedies, family-animation are always big." Enditem

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