Filmart panel explores selling and branding of Chinese-language films.

It is very difficult to sell Chinese films internationally but the rapid growth of the country’s own exhibition market means it no longer matters. That’s one conclusion that could be drawn yesterday from Filmart’s first conference session on selling and branding Chinese-language films.

“If you are recouping your costs in your own territory you don’t need to go outside,” said Singapore-based producer and distributor Lim Teck of Clover Films.
The success of local films in such territories as Thailand and Indonesia is dampening interest, he said, as is the lack of good marketing materials - and a good strategy. CZ12 was much more successful than Lost In Thailand - the two biggest local hits in China up to the end of 2012 - and it was no coincidence that one of CZ12’s producers, Jackie Chan, knows international marketing.

Sales agent Distribution Workshop’s Jeffrey Chan agreed: indeed, if the producer or financier or sales agent doesn’t have the right mindset, it is not worth picking up a title, he said.

“The hype and enthusiasm (for Chinese films) created by Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon has disappeared and the audiences have grown older and younger audiences are not interested and we have to start from scratch,” he said.

There is also a mismatch between what is being made in China and what the international market wants.

“The films that are doing well in China are romcoms and fantasies and they are very difficult to translate to the US market,” said Doris Pfardrescher, from distribution company Well Go USA. “What does well in the US for us is martial arts and action films, which have simplified stories and are about visual FX. They are easier to consume … That’s what we want but China is not making enough of them.”

The political humour and other cultural differences in some Chinese films cannot be understood by the mainstream audiences she targets.

“The focus now in China is being successfully in the local market,” said Chan. “And we enjoy the comfort of being protected.”

He would not predict whether there would be changes to quotas, when asked by Screen International. “I wish I could. Maybe in three to five years time there will be no more quotas … How would we survive because the battleships would sail into China … it’s why we have to strengthen and unite the Chinese filmmaking systems.”

China is now second only to the US in terms of gross box office and Chan said everyone is very curious about and interested in how the two countries might work together.