07 Mar 043: Is China Out, Southeast Asia In?
Kevin Geiger has worked for Disney in Burbank and Beijing. He discusses China’s changing media environment, the increasing difficulty of co-productions, and getting money out of China. He now believes South East Asia is where the action is and works from Taipei as an independent producer, professor, and consultant.
IS CHINA ROLLING UP THE WELCOME MAT?
If China is giving the cold shoulder to foreign film executives, Kevin says that’s policy-based. However, the ‘private’ sector still has a lot of interest in working for foreigners for their resources, insights, and (in Kevin’s case) the validation of working with foreign consultants.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
Of course, if someone wants to do a deal with you, see if they can transfer 1 RMB (.16 cents) into your bank account. If they can’t or won’t – walk away. In truth, if they can’t do it – it means logistically they have no way to get that over or maybe they are fake. For example, Kevin has himself had bad experiences where Chinese “partners” said they had a lot of money. But when it came time for them to sign they disappeared. Worse, in one case this Chinese “partner” was forging bank documents and it was all a scam.
IP IS NOT ENOUGH
Besides a script, you need a strategic relationship that your target wants that you are key to. Thus, you need some resources you can offer beyond that IP (i.e. distribution, investment partners, etc.)
See our blog How To Find A Chinese Partner.
STRUGGLE TO PRODUCE CONTENT FOR OVERSEAS CHINESE
Nevertheless, overseas Chinese will have an outlook different from mainland China. As a result, there’s no silver bullet to appealing to the Chinese worldwide. Kevin alluded to a gap between Mainland China and the rest of the world. In particular, you first have to ask yourself – where can you distribute? What is your hook? What would be attractive to a distributor?
See our blog – 3 Ways for Hollywood and China to Combine Their Strengths.
CHINA DOESN’T WANT FOREIGN WRITERS
Furthermore, Kevin says China may only want some foreign technical consultation. Not necessarily foreign writers. On the contrary, what they really want is to broadcast their culture to the world. Specifically, they want distribution. Really, China doesn’t care about making foreign writers rich. Rather, If you want to work with China, focus on your short game that piggybacks on top of some Chinese long game.
Moreover, China cares about the entre a foreign writer can give them to the global market. Therefore, don’t lull yourself into your part of China’s long game.
WRITERS NEED TO BE PRODUCERS TOO
Finally, if you are serious about attracting Chinese money or distribution – attract the US or foreign sales agent or distributor first. Thus, it’s not enough to have your CV and your script. What are the attachments (money, people, distribution) you bring? Distribution is king.
QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO ASK YOURSELF
A. Why are you thinking of getting involved with China? Why do you want to create Chinese content and/or do co-productions? Are you doing it for pure business reasons? Do you have some cultural connection to China?
B. How are you going to make money doing it? Begin with the end in mind. What’s your end game?
C. How are you going to get that money out of China? It’s more difficult to move money around in general now. The pandemic has seen an increase in fraud and scamming. Even in your own country, you may have to now take extra steps to prove to your bank you are who you are so you can do a transaction. Moving money in and out of China is difficult.
BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS AND TARGET SOUTH EAST ASIA
In the meantime, China has blocked the major American streamers from operating in China. Southeast Asia (South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, etc.) is hot. For instance, Southeast Asian IP is attracting a broader audience. Therefore, if you are a South East Asia creative ally or partner – there’s an opportunity to be had and money to be made. However, just don’t sprinkle Asian elements on your American script and expect it to sell. Your story needs to resonate with the local audience.
China Hollywood Greenlight Podcast – Episode 43
Kevin Geiger, Taiwan-based Producer, Professor & Consultant
HOST: Caryn McCann
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Podcast: The China-Hollywood Greenlight: https://chinahollywoodgreenlight.com/podcasts-2/
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GUEST: Kevin Geiger, Producer, Professor, and Consultant