021 The Chinese mindset dilemma

021 The Chinese mindset dilemma

John McKay, CEO of POW Studios talks about the culture clash between East and West. He discusses how he deals with the challenge of getting money out of China.

He compares Hollywood’s linear vs China’s circular way of doing business. He also tells how he stays one step ahead of contract disputes.

In today’s podcast I announce the launch of a new China-Hollywood screenplay database. It’s called The China List. This is a membership website for Western and Chinese screenwriters to connect with producers, financiers, agents and managers  in the East and West.  Future plans include a film catalogue for filmmakers looking for sales and distribution, as well as  China-Hollywood mastermind groups, a China film crew finder and a lot more.  You can sign up now to be notified when we launch on The China List page..  


Additionally, I’m offering a special promotion. I’m offering the first 50 screenwriters free membership until the end of this year (December 31, 2019). Producers, financiers, agents and managers can apply for free membership. Stay tuned for news on the launch of The China List!

I’d like to start out with a motivational quote to encourage our listeners to continue on their path to achieving their own green light. And today’s quote is from…basketball legend Michael Jordan. He said, “You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”

Today’s guest is John McKay, CEO of POW Studios – a New Zealand production and post-production house. He recently completed a China-co-production and shares his insights. Here is the interview.

3 Key Points

  • LINEAR vs CIRCULAR THINKING: John mentioned Westerners tend to solve a problem in a linear fashion.  We go from point A to Point B. Chinese work in a more circular fashion. They work around the problem and worry it away. This is especially true with deadlines. John said he is wary of Chinese time frames. A lot of unexpected things happen towards the backend of production. Everything comes in a flurry.  He got used to it and factors that in.
  • THE MONEY PROBLEM:  Getting money out of China is a problem.  The Chinese government is making it hard for Chinese companies to work with foreign companies. His solution is to factor in extra time.
  • JURISDICTION– John says it doesn’t matter if you make the contract jurisdiction outside of China because it won’t work. He even thinks Hong Kong isn’t a great alternative jurisdiction-wise. He solves this by staying one step ahead in financing terms and stays in sync with what’s happening. 


  • KNOW YOUR CHINESE PARTNER: John said the Chinese film market was a bit like the wild West in that everything is up for grabs. So you need to tread carefully and find people with experience (and in my opinion – not just money) who know what they’re doing. 
  • PLAYING CATCH UP: John mentioned one reason Chinese companies take on foreign partners – is the foreign partner’s quality of work is better than what they can get in China. I asked how long until China catches up with western production standards. John replied probably within a decade. In the past China’s rote learning education system didn’t foster creativity. But China is changing fast and that makes it fascinating to work with. 
  • DEAL OVER DRINKS: John mentioned most Chinese deals are done over drinks. The Chinese want to get to know you and this is the preferred way to cultivate business partners. I didn’t think about this until after our interview but I asked John in an email later.


if you were a woman – do you think your potential Chinese partners would have invited you for a drink to discuss a deal? If not – what can western women do to not be shut out of potential deals?

I’ll read you his reply. John said: “Yes, I think maybe with the older generation your question regarding women and deals might be an issue. But the younger generation who tend to lead negotiations as the older generation don’t speak English are changing the gender “hierarchy”. Many are very intelligent, highly competent young women. So, in time I see this changing  but could be an issue now.”

Well that’s the show. Thank you for listening. To show your support – go to ITunes, subscribe and leave a rating so other people can find this podcast. 

China Hollywood Greenlight Podcast – Episode 21

John McKay

Show Notes

Host: Caryn McCann



Twitter: @KungFuRockChick


GUEST: John McKay

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