Last month, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, together with online video portal LeTv, hosted a conversation between celebrated Chinese director Yimou Zhang and Oscar-Winning director Ang-Lee, also a Tisch alumni. Yimou Zhang, who directed the opening and closing ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympics, was currently promoting for his upcoming movie “Coming Home.” The two extensively discussed on working with Hollywood crew and the potential cooperation between Chinese and Hollywood filmmakers.
With the booming film industry in China, an increasing number of Hollywood productions begin to set their eyes on the Chinese market. By casting well-known Chinese actresses like Fan Bingbing and Ziyi Zhang, these Hollywood productions manage to increase their popularity in Asia and bring hundreds of thousands of Chinese audience into the cinema. In addition, promotional tours in China have started to become a routine for Hollywood movies. According to LA Times, Beijing looks to be replacing Tokyo and Hong Kong as the must-visit stop on publicity tours for big-budget Hollywood films.¹ Hollywood blockbusters including the “Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Caption American:The Winter Soldier” all make their appearance in front of Chinese audiences, hoping to attract local press and increase Chinese viewership. Naturally, Chinese investors have also become one of the biggest clientele for Hollywood production. For instance, Beijing company DMG Entertainment co-produced “Transcendence” along with Alcon Entertainment, and took an active role in its publicity campaign.²
At the same time, Chinese filmmakers never cease their effort of trying to establish their business abroad. Each year, outstanding Chinese movies compete to be nominated for an Oscar award for best foreign film. Director Yimou Zhang’s works, namely Ju Dou (1990) and Hero (2002), have notably made up two of the three Chinese films ever nominated. During the conversation, he revealed the possible partnership with Hollywood producers on a “large-scale” project. However, for Chinese filmmakers to succeed in the U.S. market, there is still a long way to go. Ang-Lee shares his experience of working in Hollywood. “You have to master the Hollywood style,” Lee responded. “When America built the movie industry, they also built the culture of movies. These are the basic rules of making movies that we all understand.”³ Zhang, while expressing his envy of Ang-Lee’s excellent ability to adapt to both the Chinese and American cultures, also acknowledges that cracking the U.S. market is a challenge to him, especially because he does not speak fluent English. Language is one thing, but what is needed more is how to master the American way of handling things.
With the second-largest market in the world by box office receipts and more than 17,000 screens⁴, Chinese films are undoubtedly looking forward to a bright future.
¹ Julie Makinen, “China Visit Is Becoming Priority for Hollywood Stars Touting Films.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 01 Apr. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
³Foundas, Scott. “Directors Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee Talk Censorship, Hollywood Partnerships at NYU Event.” Variety. N.p., 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
⁴ Mar, Kevin. “China B.O. up 27% in 2013.” China B.O. up 27% in 2013. N.p., 06 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.