'Be realistic about your film'sinternational potential' and 'don't ignore your home market' were the twostrongest messages delivered at a seminar on the global distribution of Chinesefilms at the Shanghai International Film Festival this week.

Speakers includingOcean Films' head of acquisitions Thierry Decourcelle reminded Chinesefilmmakers that the space for foreign-language cinema remains small - despitethe global success of films such as Hero and Kung-fu Hustle.

"It's becoming much more competitive with new countries such asKorea releasing films," said Decourcelle talking about the French market whichhas traditionally been receptive to Chinese cinema. "Foreign-language films,including Asian films, only have 5% of the [French] box office and that's afigure that hasn't changed for ten years."

Local filmmakers werealso advised to focus on domestic audiences. "Make Chinese films and make filmsthat work for the Chinese market," said Arclight Films' Gary Hamilton. "Ifinternational audiences will also respond, then come to us, but it's importantthat foreign films work in the domestic market first."

Fortissimo Films'Michael Werner suggested that Chinese filmmakers push for restrictions to belifted on local horror films. "Horror fuelled the Korean and Thai filmindustries because it's easy to sell internationally and it's a genre thatallows filmmakers to hone their craft." He added that this might be easier toachieve once China introduces its long-gestating ratings system.

Panellists also advisedthat filmmakers should consider bypassing a theatrical release in difficultterritories such as the US where even a platform release can cost US$500,000.

"DVD can be very successful," said Hamiltonwho recently launched a US distribution outfit focussed on the sell-throughmarket. "The Twins Effect made a lot of its budget back from sales to[US pay-TV operator] Starz Encore and Sony [Pictures Home Entertainment]."

The seminar was one of a seriesof lively discussions at the festival that have featured high-profile speakerssuch as Harvey Weinstein, Columbia TriStar international production chiefGareth Wigan and Hong Kong star Jackie Chan. Topics discussed includedmarketing, piracy and China's quota system.

Although China'sMinistry of Propaganda recently announced that the Shanghai festival wouldbecome a local rather than international event, this year's edition appears nodifferent to previous years. Of the 200 films that are screening, around 160are overseas titles.

The festival, whichkicked off on June 11, also ran alongside the 11th Shanghai International Film& TV market (June 12-14), although the emphasis was mostly on TVprogramming with companies such as NBC Universal and China Central Televisiontaking large booths.

Overseas stars have beenthin on the ground but that should be remedied before the closing night thisSunday (June 19). The festival is set to host the China premiere of BatmanBegins on Saturday and Morgan Freeman is expected to attend. The film opensin China on June 29.