Speakers at the Summit included US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin [pictured].
The ups and downs of cross-border film finance and production was the central theme at the Fifth Annual US-China Film Summit in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday (Nov 5).
US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin said at the event that co-operation between the US and Chinese film industries “can be an economic force for good, bringing prosperity and growth to both sides of the Pacific.”
“America and China each have the chance to maximise those benefits,” said Rivkin, a former CEO of the Jim Henson Company, “if we can both operate with the certainty and security that comes from strong enforcement of intellectual property rights and protection of investor interests.”
Referring to talks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation trade forum that began this week in Beijing, Rivkin stressed the “importance of completing our negotiations with China for a bilateral investment treaty (BIT). If we complete an ambitious and comprehensive investment treaty we’re going to ensure that American and Chinese companies can compete in each other’s economies on a transparent, non-discriminatory and fair basis.”
Rivkin was one of the keynote speakers at the Summit, staged as part of the Asian Society Southern California’s Entertainment and Media in Asia series at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
An audience estimated by the organisers at around 350 heard executives from leading US and Chinese companies talking about film, TV and digital production and distribution issues in the rapidly expanding Chinese market.
During a panel on corporate strategies, Bruno Wu. chairman and CEO of Seven Stars Entertainment and Media and producer of Hollywood Adventures, a Chinese project currently shooting in the US, said that while his company continues to make Chinese films, “American English-language content is a better business. I would love to take Chinese casts global but it has to happen step by step. I would love to see the Chinese language become the universal, number one spoken language, but it’s going to take a little time.”
On the same panel, Yu Dong, chief executive officer of Bona Film Group, which is doing a Chinese remake of Bride Wars with Fox International Productions, compared the sizes of US and Chinese film companies. The much lower market values of Chinese companies, said Yu, creates “a huge financing or merger opportunity for [US companies]. Our industry is not mature yet.”
During a session on new players in cross border film finance, Jeffrey Soong, partner at China Cultural & Entertainment Investments, said: “The holy grail is finding a project that will work on both sides of the Pacific. We all know it’s very difficult because of the differences in cultural sensitivities. Let’s all try to find some topics, find some common themes, find some elements from Hollywood that would benefit the movie, whether it’s star power, visual effects, stroytelling skills or the professional management of a production.”
And Lindsay Conner, partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, suggested that even if early attempts fail, such projects will eventually be embraced by audiences.
“As globalisation continues, as the Chinese box office becomes the number one box office in the world in 2018 or 2019,” Conner argued, “Americans will become more and more used to seeing themes and characters from all over the world, China very much included. So I don’t think we should stop pursuing this just because some film doesn’t succeed.”
Other panel sessions at the Summit covered US-Chinese crossover films, opportunities in episodic television and content convergence. Panelists included Dede Nickerson, head of production and strategic development at Sony Pictures Entertainment, China; Legendary East chief executive officer Peter Loehr; Allen Huilong Zhu, senior vice president of Youku Tudou; and Yang Xianghua, senior vice president at iQlYl.
The Summit’s other keynote speakers were Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix, and Miao Xiaotian, president of the China Film Co-Production Corporation.
At the gala dinner that concluded the Summit, Asia Society Southern California gave Chinese stars Vicki Zhao (Zhao Wei), Huang Xiaoming and Tong Dawei the 2014 Film Ensemble of the Year award for their work on Hollywood Adventures.
Fosun International and Studio 8 received the 2014 Film Partnership of the Year award in recognition of Fosun’s recent $200m investment in Studio 8. Maggie Huang, managing director of Fosun’s pictures, entertainment and derivatives division, and Studio 8 founder Jeff Robinov accepted the award.