The industrialisation of China's film sector was a major topic of discussion at the recent 8th Beijing International Film Festival. Some filmmakers cited the success of “Wolf Warrior 2”, which amassed a record 5.68 billion yuan (Bt28.4 billion) at the box office, and “Operation Red Sea”, which won the award for best visual effects at the festival, to say China’s film industry has come of age.
The construction of Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis in Shandong province might have boosted the filmmakers’ optimism. Built across 166 hectares for 50 billion yuan and expected to open in August, the film complex is a comprehensive cultural industry project with a super large film and television industrial park. It will comprise 52 high-tech studios, including the largest studio and only fixed underwater studio in the world.
Since it will have world-class sound, mixing and animation facilities, as well as costumes, props and equipment processing plants, some believe the Qingdao film complex will boost the production of mega-scale films and help China’s film industry to “go global”.
However, some believe China’s film industry has a weak foundation and it still has a long way to go before becoming as influential as Hollywood.
Industrialisation of movies is based on specialised mass production of films, large-scale industrial parks, highly efficient engineers and technicians, steady and quick-to-duplicate assembly line production equipment, and a comprehensive industrial chain comprising among others shooting, post-production, distribution and screening facilities.
But China still lacks an adequate number of high-tech studios, and advanced shooting and post-production equipment. As a result, some films have to be sent to the US, Japan or South Korea for post-production.
To overcome this problem, China needs to combine funding inputs from enterprises with considerable government support to fully industrialise infrastructure construction and production level.
China should, by providing “one-stop” film and TV drama shooting services, create a standardised film industrialisation process, and use competitive subsidy policies to reduce shooting and production costs. The public-private model being explored by Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis should set an example. Wanda Group and the Qingdao government contributed 5 billion yuan to the Qingdao film complex as its special film development fund, which offers a 20 per cent to 40 per cent subsidy to the films made there.
Qingdao has also set up a special fund to support film and TV drama enterprises that establish a base there, offering them a subsidy of up to 10 per cent of their business revenues.
In terms of software, China’s film industry should try to inculcate in the talents and professionals a profound global vision based on Chinese elements. A special symposium at the film festival took a positive step toward this goal, by discussing how to make new directors more efficient and productive, and promote a high-standard industrialised film system through cultivation of talent.
A good story
Last year, the Chinese mainland’s box office hit 55.9 billion yuan, making it the world’s second-largest film market. In the latest round of reform, the establishment of a new film management bureau under the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee highlights the strategic position given to the film industry.
How to tell the world a good Chinese story and project a stronger Chinese voice is a big cultural mission for the Chinese film industry. For this, China needs to deepen the reform of the entire cultural industry and give full play to the market’s invisible hand and the government’s visible hand so that the “problems” can be solved, and China can become a truly great movie-making power.
This article was first published in Beijing Youth Daily