23 Mar 025: China Is Starving for good projects
China-based producer Natacha Devillers discusses China’s financing dilemma and the challenge of expensive Chinese writers.
Natacha Devillers has been in China for over 15 years. She’s seen the film industry rise and fall and is confident it will rise again. After the 2018 Fan Bing Bing tax evasion scandal – Chinese financing took a nose dive. How does she attract Chinese financers now? By making her projects a win-win endeavor. Because she is so experienced in the China market – she can also bridge the gap between the Western and Chinese film crew mind set.
3 KEY POINTS
- DO CHINESE STUDIOS WANT MORE PATRIOTIC FILMS? Chinese studios say they are looking for big, patriotic films. But this can backfire. As we saw in “The Eight Hundred” fiasco – this $80 million-dollar domestic film had its release cancelled. Some cultural research group criticized it for being too charitable to the depiction of China’s Nationalists who fought alongside China’s communist soldiers.
- BEIJING VS SHANGHAI: Natacha mentioned if she had to do her career again – she’d live in Beijing instead of Shanghai due to Beijing being the film capital of China. She did say Shanghai had more trees and was more walkable. She also said if you need to choose between two Chinese film markets – Beijing or Shanghai – go to Shanghai. At the Beijing film market – many Beijing execs won’t attend the market and just do business out of their company office. It’s easier to have face to face meetings with these same executives at the Shanghai film market.
- THE CHINESE MINDSET: Natacha mentioned how she helps Western filmmakers navigate making films in China. The challenge is the western producer or director – according the Chinese crew – take too long. According the westerns – the Chinese crew works too quickly. She says you have to balance. find a balance between desire for perfection and the imperfection of speed. But Chinese working quickly has its advantages in that they can be super flexible. The downside is someone who you thought committed to your project, sometimes never materializes due to some cultural miscommunication or some unexplained reason.
- CHINESE WRITERS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN WESTERN WRITERS: Natacha revealed that it’s more expensive to hire a Chinese writer than western one. But she feels it’s a challenge for Western writers to write for the China market. As you know I’m launching a screenplay database called The China List. Producers can either find scripts and writers. I will also add a writing gigs section so producers can ask for submissions tailor made for their individual needs.
- ENDURANCE: Pick only project you are passionate about. It could take you more than three years to get your film off the ground.
- WESTERN DISTRIBUTION: A Chinese producer may be keen to invest in a western film not per say for the Western distribution opportunities – but more of a return on investment. However, due to the huge global shut down of the Chinese and international film industries, almost everyone will be starting with a clean slate and keen to explore new and different opportunities.
China Hollywood Greenlight Podcast – Episode 025
Host: Caryn McCann
Guest: Natacha Devillers, Producer
China Blue Films / Les Petites Lumieres