US producers aiming to work with China were advised to find the right partner and make films that Chinese audiences can relate to at the US-China Film Summit on Tuesday (Nov 2).

Organised by The Asia Society and LA- and Beijing-based Orb Media Group, the event brought together around 500 producers, academics and press to discuss the challenges in Sino-US co-production.

“The important thing is who is your partner”, said director Rob Minkoff talking about his experiences on US-China co-production The Forbidden Kingdom. “We were engaged with some people and it became clear as we were marching to production that we were not set up right. We needed to make changes and fortunately ended up with Huayi who are probably the most experienced [Chinese company] in terms of marketing motion pictures.”

Minkoff is gearing up for 3D action adventure Chinese Odyssey and this time is working with China Film Group and Beijing Galloping Horse Film & TV.

Panellists also discussed why some co-productions - like The Forbidden Kingdom - work in both the US and China, while The Karate Kid was a huge hit worldwide but fell below expectations in China.

The portrayal of Chinese kids beating up Western kids was highlighted as a problem for Chinese audiences - but Karate Kid producer Ken Stovitz said genre is also important. “Audiences want their money’s worth but not human stories from America - they want technology, explosions, animation.”

In an earlier panel, Endgame Entertainment CEO Jim Stern urged producers to respect their Chinese counterparts’ interests. “One thing Hollywood doesn’t do a good job at is making money for our partners,” said Stern who is developing a Marco Polo project in China that is being scripted by Ann Peacock (The First Grader). “It’s important to find shared goals and mutual interests so you can grow as a partnership.”

China’s box office grew by 80% in the first half of 2010 and many of the top-grossing films were co-productions, although mostly with Hong Kong.