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Co-Productions

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Echelon Studios is open to helping film producers develop co-productions between China and other countries.  Here is a brief background on co-productions.
To start, let’s get back to that distinction of “official” versus “unofficial” co-production, and talk about why that is so important. An “official” co-production is one that is being co-produced by production companies located in countries that have negotiated and signed an official co-production treaty between them. “Unofficial” co-productions are projects created between companies in countries that do NOT already have a relevant treaty in place.
International co-production treaties define mutually agreed-upon conditions and procedures for creating productions that share resources between the countries involved, providing an outline of the rights and responsibilities of each party in the process. This helps to standardize how productions can be jointly developed, financed, produced, and then distributed in each territory, while complying with the laws of both countries. On a practical level, co-production treaties help the cooperating companies/countries to work together more efficiently, with less risk of misunderstanding, which saves time and money. This encourages more co-productions to be created, which is ultimately the reason treaties of any kind exist: to facilitate agreement, which increases trade.
Unlike an official co-production produced under the terms of a recognized treaty, an unofficial co-production agreement has to be created from scratch. This can complicate the process and increase costs and risk. Issues like identifying import/export restrictions related to moving money, production equipment, and/or key personnel (writers, directors, stars, producers) across borders of two non-treaty countries have to be figured out on a case by case basis by the production teams and their lawyers. Finding that common ground I mentioned between the laws and trade regulations of two countries who have not officially agreed to cooperate on such matters can cost significant amounts of time and money, which can break a deal.
It may surprise you to learn that the US has no official co-production treaties in place, with China or any other country. The reasons why would require another article, but by definition, any US co-production is technically “unofficial.” This is not meant to imply that unofficial co-productions are bad; it just means that co-productions that are created without an internationally recognized treaty in place to guide and protect the parties involved makes them riskier than official co-productions if disputes arise.
China, on the other hand, has negotiated and signed filmmaking co-production treaties with many countries. This reflects an increasing interest in extending Chinese cultural awareness internationally, via so-called “soft power” initiatives, which is a stated top priority for China’s leadership. China’s President Xi has spoken extensively about the importance of people in China developing a “Chinese Dream,” which has been summarized as promoting respect for Chinese cultural history and traditions while looking towards their own place in an evolving future. Accordingly, Chinese co-productions are encouraged by the government not only to increase trade, but also to facilitate a greater understanding of and appreciation for Chinese culture around the world.
Of course, in spite of the increasingly connected world we live in, there are still very real cultural differences that affect what we watch and how we want to watch it. For a growing number of people in the US, the abundance of affordable big-screen TVs and high-speed Internet connections have made watching content at home a more attractive alternative than going out to a theater to watch a movie. In China, though, although there is also a huge market for watching content at home, and the technical means to do, the opposite is true….
Thanks to a rapidly expanding middle class, the theatrical movie-going experience in China is increasing at a phenomenal rate. New theater screens are being built in China at a rate of around ten per day, Chinese box office revenues are currently #2 only to the US, and are projected to become #1 by the year 2020. In terms of money, the revenue from theatrical distribution now accounts for about 90% of the total profit of movies in China; the remainder comes mostly from television sales. Unfortunately, due to piracy and other factors, home video and online markets contribute very little to the financial success of a film project, so in the Chinese market, theatrical success is the make-or-break goal.
An additional challenge is that before a film can screen in theaters, a film must obtain two clearances. The first is a permit from the censorship authorities. This is an approval from China’s ratings board which certifies that a film’s content isn’t offensive according to local standards. The second is an actual distribution license. The rationale behind the distribution license is to help protect the business prospects of local Chinese films by maintaining a certain level of Chinese cultural focus in their market, and this is where the true value of creating an official Chinese co-production becomes clear….
Unlike local Chinese productions, whose release potential is technically unrestricted, theatrical distribution licenses for foreign films in China are currently limited to a total of just 34 per year. This means that a small indie film vying for a foreign distribution license in China is competing against Hollywood studio films with huge marketing budgets and influence.
On the other hand, projects that can obtain official co-production status by being shot under a treaty, such as the one between China and India which was just announced, are particularly attractive to Chinese companies and investors, for this reason: once a project has been certificated as an official co-production, then it is considered to be a “local” film in BOTH markets. And since “local” films are NOT subject to the licensing restrictions placed on “imported” films, they can therefore be assured that as long as they can clear any censorship hurdles, they are allowed to be theatrically distributed in China, which is understandably a key requirement for film investors in that market.
埃施朗工作室致力于帮助电影制片人开发中国与其他国家的合作作品。这是一个关于联合制作的简要背景。
首先,让我们回到“官方”与“非官方”联合制作的区别,并谈论为何如此重要。一个“官方”合作生产是由生产公司联合生产的,这些生产公司已经在两国之间谈判并签署了正式的合作生产条约。 “非官方”联合制作是在尚未制定相关条约的国家的公司之间建立的项目。
国际联合生产条约界定了相互同意的条件和程序,以创造在有关国家之间共享资源的产品,提供了各方在此过程中的权利和责任大纲。这有助于规范如何在符合两国法律的情况下,在各个领土上共同开发,资助,生产和分配产品。在实践层面上,联合生产条约有助于合作公司/国家更高效地合作,误解风险更小,从而节省时间和金钱。这鼓励创造更多的合作生产,这最终是任何形式的条约存在的原因:促成协议,增加贸易。
与根据公认的条约生产的官方联合制作不同,非正式的联合制作协议必须从头开始。这可能会使流程复杂化并增加成本和风险。诸如确定与两个非条约国家之间跨境转移货币,生产设备和/或关键人员(作家,导演,明星,制片人)有关的进口/出口限制等问题,必须根据生产队和他们的律师。在两个国家的法律和贸易法规之间找到我没有正式同意就此事进行合作的共同点,可能会花费大量的时间和金钱,这可能会造成交易。
你可能会惊讶地发现,美国没有与中国或任何其他国家签署正式的合作生产条约。之所以会要求另一篇文章,但从定义上讲,任何美国的合作制作在技术上都是“非官方的”。这并不意味着暗示非官方的合拍作品是不好的;这意味着如果没有一个国际公认的条约来制定指导和保护有关各方的合拍作品,那么如果发生纠纷,它们会比官方的合拍作品更危险。
另一方面,中国同许多国家就电影制作合作条约进行了谈判和签署。这反映出人们越来越感兴趣地通过所谓的“软实力”举措来扩大中国的国际文化意识,这是中国领导层的首要任务。中国国家主席习近平就人民在中国发展“中国梦”的重要性进行了广泛的交谈,中国的梦被总结为在不断发展的未来中展现自己对中国文化历史和传统的尊重。因此,中国的合作生产不仅受到政府的鼓励,还有助于增进对中国文化的理解和欣赏。
当然,尽管我们生活的世界越来越相互联系,但仍然存在着非常真实的文化差异,这些差异影响着我们所看到的以及我们想要看的东西。对于美国越来越多的人来说,大量价格合理的大屏幕电视和高速互联网连接使得在家观看内容比外出观看电影更具吸引力。不过,在中国,虽然在国内观看内容的市场也很大,而技术手段也是如此,反之亦然。
由于中产阶级迅速扩大,中国戏剧电影的经历正以惊人的速度增长。中国正在以每天十个左右的速度建造新的影院屏幕,中国票房收入目前仅排在美国第二位,预计到2020年将成为全球第一。在资金方面,现在戏剧发行占中国电影总利润的90%左右;其余大部分来自电视销售。不幸的是,由于盗版等因素的影响,家庭视频和在线市场对电影项目的财务成功影响甚微,因此在中国市场,戏剧性的成功就是成功或失败的目标。
另一个挑战是,在电影可以在影院上映之前,电影必须获得两个许可。首先是审查机关的许可证。这是来自中国评级委员会的批准,证明电影的内容不符合当地的标准。第二个是实际的分配许可证。发行许可背后的基本原理是通过保持一定水平的中国文化聚焦在市场上来帮助保护中国本土电影的商业前景,这正是中国合作制作的真正价值变得清晰的原因。
与中国本土制作的发行潜力在技术上不受限制的情况不同,中国外国电影的发行许可证目前每年仅限于34部。这意味着,一部在中国获得国外发行许可证的小型独立电影正在与好莱坞电影公司进行竞争,这些电影有着巨大的营销预算和影响力。
另一方面,根据刚刚公布的中国和印度之间的条约可能获得官方合作生产地位的项目对中国企业和投资者特别有吸引力,因此:一旦项目已被认定为正式合拍作品,则被视为在“BOTH”市场上的“本地”电影。由于“地方”电影不受“进口”电影的许可限制,因此可以放心,只要能清除任何检查障碍,就可以在中国进行剧本分发,这是可以理解的电影投资者在这个市场的关键要求。