Searching for a new sort of entente cordiale betweenfilmmakers from France and China was at the heart of "French Day" at HongKong's Entertainment Expo.
The day kicked off with a seminar on the common groundbetween the two industries. Interestingly, the lingua franca was English, withall six panellists from France, Hong Kong and mainland China using theAnglo-Saxon tongue.
Patrick Lamassoure, who heads France Film, said"French-Chinese co-productions are currently being hindered by the lack ofofficial co-production explanation of how the Chinese films can still qualifyfor up to four different kinds treaty between our two countries." That wasbefore he launched into an explanation of how the Chinese films can stillqualify for up to four different kinds of subsidy from the CNC, France's filmoffice.
Lise Fayolle, producer of Dai Sijie's The LittleSeamstress and his forthcoming Chinese-set drama The Botanist's Daughter,highlighted the wrinkles in the current system "I could only make these filmsqualify as European and therefore for French funding because Dai Sijie isresident in France." Even so for The Botanist's Daughter, which isbacked by EuropaCorp, Fayolle had to alter the script and find a productionpartner from Canada, which has had a co-production treaty with China since1997.
Sylvain Bursztejn, who recently produced Wang Chao's DayAnd Night (Ri Ri, Ye Ye), said that he managed to find backing fromEuropean cultural channel Arte "which invests whether or not a film it likesqualifies," but that the film would not have been made had his Chinese partnerLi Fang of Laurel Films not provided the majority of the budget. He too pointedto the advantages of closer co-operation which include access to money, qualityfacilities and international sales companies.
Yu Lik-Wai, Chinese producer and director of AllTomorrow's Parties, said that while there is a good level of understandingbetween the two countries, French producers should not expect too much fromChina. Censorship he said increases the pressure and slows the productionprocess.
Elliot Tong, a production executive at Andy Lau's FocusFilms who was recently the Hong Kong line-producer of La Moustache, saidit is perfectly possible to provide the same levels of production and budgetarycontrols as French producers are used to at home. But he too had to makecompromises, such as picking a crew which spoke good English and did away withthe need for translators, and recognising the importance of on-set catering forboth nationalities.
Veteran Hong Kong producer Nansun Shi, pointed to thelarge pool of Chinese equity money - flowing from the IT sector, retailentrepreneurs and true venture capital investors - available for production,but was once again cautious about ensuring that partners expectations were intune with each other. She sounded an optimistic note, however, when she pointedto the changing shape of the world market for film. "As markets forinternational films grow, it is becoming less important to get a US domesticdeal in order to achieve other sales."