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International strategy of Chinese film

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Although
the cameo appearance of a  Chinese star in the Hollywood franchise Iron
Man 3 caused controversy  in China, the movie has still been considered
a good example of the  collaborations of Chinese and American
filmmakers.

Chinese  filmmakers are walking a tightrope between localization and  
globalization. Finding a happy medium is surprisingly like cooking fish,
 Raymond Zhou learns.As China's film industry rockets into  the stratosphere of amazing
box-office returns, the international market  becomes increasingly
enticing. Yet, only a fraction of its revenues  come from outside China,
and even that is often the result of counting  in the foreign receipts
of co-productions, which technically do not go  to the Chinese pocket.
Chinese film companies, however, are moving up  the learning curve. At a
Beijing International Film Festival forum, CEO  of Bona Film Group Ltd
Yu Dong maps out three stages that Chinese films  have to take to launch
a global entry.

随着中国电影行业的飞速发展以及相应的高票房回报,国际市场愈发诱人。然而,中国电影在海外市场获利甚微,甚至这些少得可怜的收益也常常都是进入了外国合资方的口袋,而不是进入中国制片方的囊中。但中国的电影公司正在努力学习着如何在国际市场上运作。在今年的北京国际电影节论坛上,博纳影业集团有限公司总裁于冬表示,中国电影的海外推广无外乎三个阶段。


"None of the steps can be skipped," he emphasizes.

他强调:“没有一个是可以跳过的”。


The first stage, according to Yu, is  
what he jokingly calls "dumping". Movies are bundled together and sold  
to foreign television stations, video websites and, in the old days,  
video distributors. The Chinese companies receive a pittance, e.g.  
$20,000 for 10 movies, or a mere $100,000 for the whole year's  
inventory. "There is little room for price negotiation. If you don't use
 the low-price strategy, they'll go buy Korean or Japanese movies  
instead," he says. "You have to remember there are some 5,000 movies  
produced annually throughout the world. China accounts for roughly 10  
percent, the US 10 percent, India more than 20 percent. And I'm not  
counting the 100-some pornography films from Japan."

于冬将第一阶段打趣地称之为“低价倾销”。中国将电影捆绑销售给海外电视台、视频网站以及过去的视频分销商。在这个阶段,中国企业获利甚微,举例来说,10部电影仅获利两万美元,或全年仅有

10万美元入账。他说:“在海外推广中,价格谈判的余地很小,如果你不依靠低价倾销,国际买家就会引进韩国或日本电影。要知道全世界每年制作约5000部
电影。中国大约只占其中的10%,美国占了10%,印度占20%以上。当然,这里没有把每年日本制作的约100部色情电影算在内。”


Whoever buys the Chinese stock will have  to find ways to make money out
of it. So, whatever platforms they can  find they will use to release
some of these movies, which means exposure  for Chinese stories and
Chinese actors, says Yu. "This will help cover  80 to 150 markets across
the world."

中国投资方将不得不探索新的盈利模式。因此,他们将利用任何一切可利用的平台来宣传中国电影,这意味着中国电影和演员的曝光率将大大增加。于冬说:“这将帮助中国电影覆盖至全球80至150个市场。”


For phase two, Chinese companies will  participate in the investment of
some projects with global reach and, in  return, will place Chinese
situations and Chinese actors inside the  stories. The cameo appearances
of several A-list Chinese stars in these  big Hollywood franchises have
caused controversy in China, with some  members of the Chinese public
complaining about the short shrift given  to these big names, but Yu
holds a different view. "No matter how small  the role, it is worth it,"
he says, citing the example of Wang Xueqi in  Iron Man 3. "This is
2013's biggest movie in the whole world, and the  global audience got to
know this Chinese actor," Yu says.

第二阶段,中国的电影公司应参与有世界范

围影响力的电影投资,以此将中国电影和演员推向世界。一些中国一线影星在好莱坞系列电影中客串出演,此现象在国内引起了争议,一些国人抱怨这些影星遭到了

忽视,但于冬对此持不同看法。他以王学圻在《钢铁侠3》中的出演为例,说:“无论是多么小的角色,这都是值得的。这是2013年全世界最火爆的电影,全球
观众都由此认识了这位中国演员”。


The third stage will involve Chinese  productions with international
participation. Yu says Wolf Totem, which  has just wrapped production,
is a perfect example. It is based on a  Chinese best-seller, but is
directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, a French  director with a track record
for incorporating wild animals in his  stories. It has reportedly
pre-sold $8 million in the European market.

第三阶段,中国电影将参与国际竞争。于冬
认为近期杀青的《狼图腾》就是一个完美的例子。首先它的剧本是改编自中国畅销书,但却是由法国导演让·雅克·阿诺(Jean-Jacques  
Annaud)执导的,他曾经拍摄过记录野生动物的故事。有消息称,《狼图腾》在欧洲市场已预售了800万美元。


This project is spearheaded by Zhang  Qiang, an executive of China Film
Group. "It tells a Chinese story with  Chinese characters and Chinese
emotions, backed up by Chinese  investment, but it has potential global
appeal," says Yu. Yu's Bona is  mulling similar projects, to be
co-produced with Fox Film Corporation,  which has a financial stake in
his company. "We may even produce movies  with dual language
soundtracks, a Chinese one for the domestic market  and English for the
international market," Yu says.

《狼图腾》是由中国电影集团公司副总裁张

强牵头的。于冬说:“这是一个有中国角色和中国人情感的故事。它由中方投资,但它具备全球吸引力。”博纳集团也正在考虑投资类似的电影,他们让福克斯电影
制作公司入股,合拍电影。他说:“我们甚至会针对国内市场和主打英语的国际市场,来拍双语电影。”


Yu is aware he can do only one or two  such co-productions each year.
For regular movies, those in the  mid-budget or small budget with no
possibility of hiring international  talent, he wants to have his teams
engage in international cooperation  and use that experience to serve
the domestic market. "By 2020, China  will surpass North America and
become the world's largest film  exhibition market, and our output will
reach 1,000 feature films a year.  Only then will we be prepared to set
Stage Three as our target," says  Yu. "Only then will we be able to make
international films with Chinese  emotions and become part of world
cinema."

对于定期拍摄来说,中等成本电影或小成本

电影无法吸引到国际人才。于冬意识到每年他能接手到的国际合拍机会只有一到两个。而他想要其团队能参与到国际合作中从而获得宝贵经验,并将这种经验运用到

国内电影的制作之中。他说:“到2020年时,中国将超过北美,成为世界上最大的电影展览市场,届时我们的电影产量将达到每年1000部。只有到那时,我
们方能进入第三阶段,也只有到那时,我们才能制作出带有中国情怀的国际化电影,并且真正意义上立足于世界影坛。”


Zhou Tiedong, until recently president  of China Film Promotion
International, a company that is heavily  involved in what Yu Dong calls
"phase one" of Chinese films' global  ambition, offers a different
take: "If you do not have a good story,  international buyers would not
touch it even if it is free. The film  industry is built on collecting
pocket money from each individual  moviegoer. In the US, the average
price for a ticket is still around $8  apiece. That means selling your
story to millions of such individuals."

对于于冬所描述的低价倾销,作为充分参与

了此阶段的亲历者——中国电影海外推广公司,其总经理周铁东对于于冬的观点提出不同看法:“如果你没有一个好剧本,国际买家不会碰它,即使它是免费的。电
影产业的收入来源于每位长期电影观众手中的零花钱。在美国,电影的平均票价维持在每张8美元左右。这意味着你的电影能够卖给数以百万计的人们。”


According to Zhou, Wolf Totem is no  longer a narrowly defined Chinese
story. It is about wolves and man's  relations with wild animals and
nature. So, it is global in its core.  "The crux is in the positioning
of your story. You can position it for  the domestic market or beyond
it. Of all the movies made in the US, most  are for domestic
consumption. There are only 50-some global movies that  reach the
international market and they represent Hollywood as we know  it."

周铁东认为,《狼图腾》不再是仅限于一个
中国故事的定位。它是关于狼与人,野生动物与自然的关系。可见,其主旨是全球性的。“关键在于故事的定位。你可以将其定位在国内市场,亦或是超越国内市
场。美国几乎所有的电影都是定位在国内市场。目前为止他们只有约50部是主打海外市场的国际化电影,而我们所知道的好莱坞正是由这些电影所代表。”


Zhou insists that, to reach a global  audience, we should not only tell
stories about China, but more about  Chinese people. "We have not
learned how to penetrate the cultural  surface into the depth of
humanity. Our products are often made with  what I call 'strong cultural
discount', and that will hamper the  acceptance of foreign audiences.
Stories about human nature but with  Chinese cultural characteristics,
such as Wolf Totem, have the potential  to succeed on the wider market."

周坚称,我们的电影不仅要向全世界讲述中

国的故事,更要讲述中国人的故事。“我们还在学习如何将所要传达的信息从文化的表层渗透到人性的深度。在我们的电影中存在一种现象,我通常将其称之为“巨

大的文化折扣”,这种现象将阻碍外国观众对我国电影的认可。诸如《狼图腾》这样的带着中国文化特色的讲述人与自然的电影,具备在更大的市场上取得成功的潜
质。”


Zhou uses the analogy of fish to explain  his point. If a fish has too
many bones, only people who are ardent  lovers of fish as food will eat
it. But if you remove the bones and make  it into fish balls or fish
fillets, even those mildly interested may  choose it. A Chinese film has
to go through a similar process to find a  wider audience. "When we
make a global film, we must preserve the flavor  of fish, so to speak,
i.e. the Chinese elements that culturally  identify us. But if you
examine any film that sells across the world,  you'll find it does not
contain things that will be stuck in your  throat. It can always go down
smoothly. Any race, culture, age, language  group will be able to
relate to it. In that sense, you have to tell a  global story or even a
story of the whole cosmos."

“为了进一步解释他的观点,周铁东使用鱼

来作比方。如果一条鱼的鱼刺太多了,那么只有食鱼爱好者才会去吃它。但如果你把刺剔除,并把鱼制成鱼丸或鱼排,这样即使是那些对于鱼兴趣一般的人也有可能

去吃它。为了进入更广阔的市场,中国电影不得不经历这么一个类似的阶段。“当我们在制作国际化电影时,我们必须保持住鱼的味道,也就是说,必须在电影中保

有中国文化元素。但如果你去观察任何国际化的电影,几乎每部电影都剔除了会卡住观众喉咙的文化鱼刺。这样一来,任何种族、文化、年龄、语言的观众将都能欣
赏,电影方能获得国际化的成功。从这个意义上说,你必须能讲述一个面向全球的故事,甚至是一个面向整个宇宙的故事。”


However, there can be endless gradations  between total localization and
total globalization in terms of a film's  positioning. When it comes to
the treatment of a film story and its  details, there are thousands of
decisions and each one will require a  careful balance. Very often there
is no right or wrong, but collectively  a film may come across as heavy
on one end or the other. Occasionally, a  film may capture both the
domestic and the outside market, but it may  also be caught in the
middle, failing to appeal to either side.

然而,就电影定位而言,在本地化与国际化

之间似乎有无数个可分层次。在人们谈到电影故事的制作及其细节时,会产生成千上万的决定,而且每一项决定都需要同时兼顾好本地化与国际化。通常,不存在对
或错,但存在电影制作在某一端上用力过猛的情况。有时,电影可能同时占据国内和海外两块市场,但它也可能陷在中间,未能讨好到任何一方。


Debates like the one described in this  story, which I moderated, happen
every year as we move along – and up –  the learning curve.

正如我在文中所探讨的,随着我们学习国际运作,制作水平持续上升,那么这种成功每年都能够上演。

2016-06-23

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