Charles Morris Jr. – the VP of Acquisitions and Development of Global Genesis Group talks about how he found animation success in China.
Charles tells how their animation success in China has led to not only more Chinese partnerships but also attracted more American partnerships as well.
He also talks about their new division – a talent management company that manages directors, writers, and some actors. After listening to his insights – you’ll want to be managed by Global Genesis too. I know I did.
Inspirational Quote – Sarah Breathnach: “The world needs dreamers, the world needs doers. But, above all, the world needs dreamers who do.”
The China/Hollywood Greenlight Podcast
Episode #5 – Charles Morris
Caryn: This is the China Hollywood Greenlight Podcast, episode #5
Caryn: This is Caryn McCann the host of the China-Hollywood Greenlight Podcast which is a Podcast about creating and distributing content for both Hollywood and China. If you like the show – please go to iTunes, subscribe, and leave a rating so other people can find the podcast. The more we work together, the more opportunities will be out there for everyone.
Any links mentioned in the Podcast can be found in the show notes. At www.China/hollywoodgreenlight.com/podcastand look for episode #5.
Before I introduce today’s guest, I’d like to start out with a motivational quote, to encourage our listeners to continue on their path to achieving their own green light. And today’s quote comes from Sarah Ban Breathnach, and she said, “The world needs dreamers, the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.”
Today’s guest is Charles Morris, who is the VP of Development of Acquisitions of Global Genesis Group. His company has made in-roads in China And he’ll tell you how? Here is the interview.
Charles Morris is the Vice President of Development and Acquisitions, at Global Genesis Group. The company’s core business is the production and distribution of television IPs, feature films, and documentaries, as well as creating and developing its own original IP to generate global branding. Global Genesis Group is a full-service production and distribution IP management company.
The company has made inroads in China. For example – its animation film Troll: The Tale of a Tail was co-financed with a Chinese partner. Additionally, another animation project The Moomins and the Winter Wonderland in May this year has secured distribution in China. The Moomins is based on a Finnish book series that launched a Japanese-Finish-Dutch TV series in the late 70s. This year’s China deal marks the first time in 87 years that the beloved Moomins brand will have a theatrical release in China. So, welcome Charles, thank you for coming to the show today.
Charles: Thank you for having me.
Caryn: Great, well, I told the audience a little bit about you. But, why don’t you tell us more about yourself and your business?
Charles: So, yes as you said, I’m Charles Morris Jr. I’m the VP of Acquisitions and Development for Global Genesis Group. We are a fairly new company. We’ve been around for 5 years now. We are a production and distribution company. So, like when we tell people, we are a 360-degree company in a sense that we can, we start things from inception to development of the script, to production, to post-production, and finally to distribution.
We are a worldwide distributor where we go to all the markets and exhibits. We were just in Toronto, Canada. We’ll be in MIPCOM and in a couple of weeks. And we’ll have a room at AFM in November. So, that’s who we are, and we also have offices in Los Angeles, California, and Anderson, Nevada, which is just outside of Las Vegas.
You know, Global Genesis Group, is the parent company. We have an entertainment division in Los Angeles. In Las Vegas, we also have Galaxy Post Labs, it’s a post-production facility. They are a subsidiary of ours. We have Dynamic Transmedia, which is our social media marketing branch. And also, we just opened Global Management Associates. Which is our management company, so we’re taking on directors and writers, and some actors.
Caryn: Oh, how new is that Global Management Company?
Charles: A there was an article on “Deadline” about 6 weeks ago. We just, it’s very new. We have a couple of up-and-coming directors attached and we’re working with them. So, we’re open to talking to people and submissions, sign people up, and that.
Caryn: You wear many hats.
Charles: We try yeah. We’re working on that.
Caryn: Great, great. Well, shall we start with the questions? I know that no two days are the same in this business. But, some of our audience is established, some of them are new. Tell us a little bit about your day, like what are 2 or 3 tasks that you do on a typical day?
Charles: Well, I usually don’t have a very typical day. So, right now, for example, our Executive Vice President, is in Beijing. We’re actually shooting the real live-action bookends, for Troll. So, just to go back and I’ll get back to your question. So, you know, we got this script of Troll about 2 years ago. They’ve been trying to make a Scandinavian/Canadian, co-production, that they’ve been trying to make for about 8 years, at that time.
We got the script and made some changes. We actually got it to our Chinese partner. And they were very interested. They wanted to make a Chinese centric and so we added the bookends like the Princess Bride. The Chinese grandfather goes in to read a book to his Chinese, his grandson, and he, they open up the book. And then we go into the animated world, of Troll. And so, right now, Kevin Munroe, who is directing it, Kevin did “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” the animated movie about 8 years ago and he just came out with “Ratchet & Clank” last year. So, he was a very accomplished animated feature, live-action director. I’ve seen the footage, I mean, it looks amazing. It looks like a Speilberg film. So, we have huge hopes for that. So, getting back to what I do is – I’ve been talking to my boss, he calls me on WeChat from China. And we’re trying to do as much business as we can, while he’s over there shooting that.
But, on a daily basis, my job is just divided into acquisitions, development, and production. So, I’m looking at new TV and film projects for acquisitions so I’m either reading scripts, and watching trailers, or watching screeners and that’s for worldwide distribution. And then I’m always talking to producers, as far as the projects in development. We have a dozen or so projects in development including TV series and feature films. And so, we’re giving script notes, we’re talking about casting, we’re talking about locations. And finally, as you said when you introduced us, we develop our own intellectual properties. So, sometimes, we’re writing – whether we’re doing synopses, treatments, or working on scripts. So, every day is kinda different because it depends on what the focus is for today – whether it’s acquiring something for distribution or the projects we have in development, pre-production, or production.
Caryn: You mentioned that you got this project going on in Beijing right now. How did you find your Chinese partner? How do you suggest the listeners find a Chinese partner?
Charles: Well, we got introduced to a gentleman that, he’s an American citizen, but he’s Chinese. And so, he’s a producer, he’s worked in the industry a long time. He’s an actor and he’s the one who introduced us to Spring Era Films who is our partner on Troll. And they’re the ones that are distributing “Moomins ” in China for theatrical. And so, this business is all relationships. And so, people we’ve worked with a long time said this gentleman was looking for a partner and projects. And so, we contacted him. And it’s just about starting relationships and taking meetings. And we met in offices in Los Angeles, we’ve been to China. We were at the Beijing film festival introducing Troll. Our President, Rick Romano was there with Kevin Munroe, the director. The banner on the stage – it was like a 50ft long banner with our movie on it. And so, it was a pretty big intro of what we are doing. And so, on top of it shooting in China with actual Chinese actors, is just going to enhance the project.
Caryn: Was this middleman, if you want to call it, American-Chinese actor/producer – is he with Spring Era Films?
Charles: No, he’s a freelancer. He works with us, he works with other Chinese companies. So, but we have a good relationship. We run across a lot of people that are saying, hey we have Chinese financing and it’s about to get finalized and such. And so, in our case, we had to basically find and start a relationship with an actual Chinese producer. He flies to Beijing and he goes to the companies, and he sits in the meetings. And it’s not just phone calls over here. He’s actually there. And he’s very well, respected over there. So, and then now, of course, we’ve been over there a couple of times. And so, now we have that personality of a relationship with the companies over there. And Spring Era is just one company.
We’re doing in early 2018, we’re going to be shooting a movie for another Chinese production company. And we’re going to be basically providing production services. So, it’s not going to be our film. But, they’re going to be shooting over here in America. So, that’s a completely separate company. And that deal should be announced in the next month or so. But basically, because of one relationship – it opens up other relationships. And they see how we’re doing business and how we get things done. If we say we’re going to do something, we accomplish that. And that’s impressed our Chinese partners and the word has gotten around. So other Chinese productions from those are now in contact with us, in talking to us.
Caryn: Well, as you said, once that door opens other companies, especially Chinese companies hear about you and contact you. But before you even get the door open- it’s just kinda like meeting so many people. You just met the right person.
Charles: Met the right person.
Caryn: You gotta go out there and meet people.
Charles: You know, we go to all the markets and actually we just signed a big IP out of England, called 12 Guardians. And so, that’s an animated project. It’s like a trilogy and it’s beautiful – and it has a lot of Chinese – I mean it basically takes place in China. So, it has a lot of kinds of background to the whole Asian culture and the whole Chinese culture. And so, that is something that we’re going to be doing in China. So, we are in development with that. But that just came about because we are at the Cannes Film Festival at our booth. We had Axel: Adventures of the Space Kids which is a Chinese animated feature that we’re worldwide distributors on. And Axel was done by Versatile Media in China. So, that’s coming out this fall. And so besides Moomins the gentlemen Robert (Hartshorne) and Steve (Salam) of 12 Guardians walked by and saw this big poster about Axel. And they saw Versatile Media they knew it was a Chinese company.
So they said ‘Hey you have this relationship with Versatile?’ And we said, ‘Yes. They said, ‘Yeah, we have this animated feature that takes place in China’. And so, our relationship with China is helping build not only more relationships in China but, with other producers around the world that want to get in the door.
Caryn: That’s perfect. And as success breeds success. So, congratulations on that. Now, tell me, on the flip side of success – what roadblocks did you encounter on a past project, and what did you learn from it?
Charles: Well, the biggest obstacle is always financing. It’s always getting the money. Look we meet people all the time – great creators and great producers. And there always is a ton of great ideas out there. And there are very creative people. But just because you have a great idea and a great script and maybe even actors attached doesn’t mean you’re going to get a movie made because somebody has to pay for it. And so, it’s like putting a puzzle together. You got to find the right people at the right time who want to invest in something and invest in the thing that you are pushing at them. And so, we’ve recently had a project – everything looks like it’s going forward and the contracts are signed. And then things happen, and the money never arrives. So, then you just have to move on and push forward.
Caryn: How did you push forward? How did you solve that problem?
Charles: Well, then you go find other people, you go find other investors. And you have to start the process over. I mean, it’s all about perseverance – you can’t give up. You just have to know, if one door closes, you have to find another door that opens. And you might have to knock on 20 doors. But this business is about. As I said, there are tons of talented people out there that aren’t getting projects done and completed. But, you have to just keep knocking on the doors and keep pushing through obstacles. And there is always a way to do it. So, it’s just a matter of finding a way that fits at that moment in time.
Caryn: So, the obstacle is finding financing, and sometimes it drops out. And so, the solution you found obviously is, you have to be perseverant. You have to be knocking on many doors. And that helps that you have so many good relations, that you have a track record. So, you can go to other people for financing. Is that correct?
Charles: Yeah, yes, that’s exactly right.
Caryn: Okay. Speaking of financing and other pain points – if you could magically solve 2 pain points, what would they be?
Charles: (Chuckling) Well, 2 pain points I guess is – in this industry you’re dealing with a lot of people and a lot of creative people and people have egos. And so, you not only have to get people to buy into what you bring to the project and what our company can bring to the project. But even Spielberg doesn’t walk onto a movie set and get a 100% of his ideas through. I mean, he has to get a movie financed. They have to have a script. The people that finance a movie, the studio, the distributors, whoever is distributing – everybody has noted. So, it’s not like, even though the most talented people, the biggest people in this industry can just walk in and do something 100% their way.
Unless somebody has all the money and they wrote the script and they are going to self-distribute then you can make all the decisions. But once you bring in another person, or another company into that mix then it becomes a collaborative process. And once it’s a collaborative process, there’s a lot of egos, and you need to be soothed and compromise is a big thing here. And so, it’s a way to be tactful, it’s a way to understand where people’s creative energies are being spent. And if you have to divert them in a direction that makes more sense – you know, we come at it in a lot of sense from two different viewpoints. I mean, were filmmakers, so we could look at something creatively. Yeah, we’re also a distribution company so we have to sell it. So, those are a lot of conversations I have with people.
It’s like, look, I mean, we could do it like this, and that would be the best festival movie ever. You know, it’s going to go to all these indie festivals, and all the people that love indie films and going and watching festivals are going to say this is the best movie ever. And then you try and distribute it and sell it to a worldwide market. And it doesn’t have the same effect. Because people, basically around the world might like things more genre-oriented. There is a fine line and a fine balance between being artistic and being creative. And also, doing something that’s saleable and marketable. And so, sometimes, those things clash. And so, it’s one of those, it’s a balancing act.
And it is, a pain-point to try and say, ‘hey, you know, you have a very beautiful movie. But, if you do things a little differently, we can make it more marketable. And so, you might lose a little bit of the artistic expression in a sense. But, it’s a compromise. It’s like, now, you can make a 75% artistic movie. But, give us a little bit so we can sell it around the world’. And then, of course, going back to what I said, earlier, yeah, if I could snap my fingers and we could have an endless amount of financing it would make things very easy. We could have all these things that we want to get into pre-production and production. And that would solve a lot of issues if you didn’t have to work on bringing in the financing as hard as you have to.
Caryn: So, it sounds like one of the big pain points is, you have to compromise with people with egos, plus the artistic side, the creative side versus the sales and marketing side. And then the second thing, of course, would be the financing.
Caryn: Yeah, exactly, exactly. But, you got this huge advantage over so many companies with I feel this Chinese connection. Now people are seeking you out. So, you’re the belle of the ball.
Charles: (Laughing) Yeah, well. When people are putting this up on that higher level – I mean, we’re still striving to get to a really good level that people know who Global Genesis Group is. And they know we get things done. And they know we make quality movies and also fun movies. Yeah, with Troll it’s a beautiful movie. I mean, Kevin Munroe the director – he’s brought in people who worked on Shrek and Madagascar. So, to get that kind of quality of people working on this thing, it’s a hard business. I mean, we don’t know how our animated movie is going to be – we’re competing against Pixar. We’re competing against Disney and DreamWorks. I mean, it’s not like when we go out into the theatres, people are going to say, ‘Hey, this is an indie movie that didn’t have its $150 million dollars to make it’. But you still walk into a theatre and you make it a choice to go see Troll: The Tale of A Tail or a huge studio picture. So, when you’re competing against the big boys, yeah, you got to do the best you can. And you got to make it the best you can. And it’s got to be at that same level.
Caryn: Exactly. So, what sort of projects are you looking for? Like, in the future, for film, TV, genre, budget range?
Charles: I mean, we have things in development and pre-production. We have a World War I drama that’s probably around a 10-15 million dollar movie with a young Belgian director. We have a horror movie with Tom Sizemore attached to it which will be an indie, lower budget. We have 2 of these animated projects that we’re working within China. As I said, 12 Guardians. And something called Moon Dog. It’s an amazing project. It’s like The Jungle Book in a sense. It takes place in the Himalayan Mountains. And there’s a young girl and a young boy and a wolf cub that gets orphaned. And the young girl adopts it and raises it like a dog. And at the same time, the young boy gets lost in the avalanche. And the wolf mother, who lost a wolf cub, raises the young boy as a wolf.
And so, the stories kind of parallel as the girl raises her wolf cub and as the wolf raises the young boy. Until they all meet together as teenagers. It’s a pretty amazing script. And so, we’re very excited to get that into pre-production.
Caryn: So, you got a period piece, among many. The period piece, the horror, animation projects with connections to China. Have you heard, I mean, you’ve got these great relationships with these Chinese companies. Have they given you any insight, as to what they might be looking for?
Charles: A lot of it has been in the news that not as much money is leaving China to come to productions in the United States. A lot of Chinese companies want to film things in China. And so, know, those are the types of projects we are talking to them about.
Whether we have a script that can be adapted to take place in like, Cabo San Lucas at a resort then why can’t we put it on an island off of China or something like that. Those are the conversations we have. We have a creature, a creature feature, called Hogzilla that takes place in the south. But supposedly in Hong Kong, they had problems with these giant wild boars. And so what’s the difference if we have giant wild boars in Arkansas or if we have them in Hong Kong or some rural city in China? And so, those are the kind of things we are talking about to them.
Caryn: Oh, okay good. That sounds great. I look forward to reading stuff in the trades about that. Okay, now this next question – what I wanted to ask is, if you could do your career over again, what would you do differently?
Charles: I graduated from the USC Film School. You know, quite a bit ago. And I kind of, as I’m talking about creators and such, with egos – I had more of ego at that time when I was younger. And I kind of wanted to do it my way. I didn’t think networking was the way to go. I was a screenwriter and that someone was going to read my stuff and say I was the greatest writer that had come into Hollywood.
Caryn: Of course. (laughs) We all think like that.
Charles: Yeah, and so, I didn’t – I just submitted to a lot of places. And I didn’t really knock on doors. I didn’t – I had an opportunity at one time to be a P.A., I think – I forget. I think it was Moonlighting or 30 Something – a show a long time ago. When I was like – I’m not going to get paid $200.00 bucks a week to go get people’s coffee. But that was the attitude I had. It’s the complete opposite attitude of what I should have had. I should have been dying to be working on a set and bringing people coffee. And you know, I would have worked my way up from being a P.A. on a TV series. But again, I thought that someone would just read something of mine and send a limo to my door and Hollywood would open up to me. But it’s what I said earlier, about doing anything – it’s all about perseverance. There’s nothing else I really wanted to do with my life as far as a career. So, you know, it was a matter of finding out what didn’t work. And doing something different.
Caryn: Well, that’s true for all of us. We all went to school, and we all got out and thought exactly the same way. So, I completely understand. Now, what skills do you need, to be effective at, you know, development and acquisitions?
Charles: I mean, you have to be open-minded. You have to look at – you have to be able to read things, look at things, and kind of so see where people are taking their creative vision. And why they’re making the decisions even though they might be different decisions than you would make. So, I mean, going to film school, I had a great background in and watching movies, movie history, and just reading a lot of scripts. And especially as a writer to be able to take critique from people and in to listen to what’s not working and to listen to why your choices were wrong and to move beyond that and to try and force yourself and push yourself to do better. So, if I can take critique and I can take criticism then you hope that you find people that can also do that. But, you have to be tactful. I mean, you can’t just tell somebody ‘hey, you know, this really sucks’. I mean, there’s good in anything.
I mean, not anybody can sit down and write a 90-page or a 100-page script. And so, you have to give people props for the effort. There’s always good in something. I mean, if the idea is good, whether some characters are good, whether the dialog is good. And so, you focus on the good. And you try to say, ‘hey, this is really working. And well, these are the issues I have problems with and these are the things we need to work on’.
Caryn: You have a great attitude. I think a lot of writers and directors are now going to be sending you their CVs.
Caryn: They’re going to be wanting you to manage them real fast.
Charles: Well, it’s no – it’s what we say. And we get submissions for the independent movies for distribution that people spend $25,000.00 or $50,000.00. And hey, maybe the sound isn’t as great as it should be or maybe some of the acting isn’t as good. I mean, for somebody to go out and make a movie and make a feature film is a hard thing to do and accomplish that even though it’s not as polished as it could be – you have to give people props. And you look for the good and compliment the good.
And even beyond that, if you’re in development, if people are sending you scripts and stuff – there are always things that can be changed. It’s harder to change a completed movie if there is no more money, no more time to redo things. But when people have ideas or scripts, I mean, at that point, it’s an open book. And you focus on the good and tweak the stuff that needs to be worked on.
Caryn: Good attitude. Now, this next question is a little tricky. What question did I not ask that I should have asked?
Charles: (Laughing) I don’t know, it seems like I got asked good questions.
Caryn: How do you relieve your stress?
Charles: I, there’s a couple of ways. I go to church. I have a lot of friends at church. So, we talk about things on a spiritual level. I go to the gym and I run. It’s a lot of quiet time. But you know, that gives me time to think about the things that we’re working on, things that need to be accomplished. And the things that are going to have to get done.
Caryn: That’s an excellent answer. So, let me, anything else, you’d like to add to that?
Charles: Well I have a beautiful wife and kids, and so, I try to spend family time too. And they, those are priorities. I mean, you could get lost in this business. You could work, I mean, you know, my boss – he never sleeps. He’ll be calling China at 2:00 a.m. in the morning and he’ll wake up at 6:00 a.m. to start calling Europe. And it’s just one of those things that – it’s not a 9 to 5 job.
So you have to be able to kind of separate, and say, ‘hey, you know, I’m working really hard. But, at this point in time, I’m going to spend time with my family. Or you know, I’m going to wake up early, and go to the gym, and focus on myself for a little bit. You know, you can’t just do this – I mean we do this 24/7 but, there have to be times in the day that you focus on family, or as I said, the church. Or going to the gym.
Caryn: I think you’re going to have like every writer and or director in L.A. is going to want you to manage them so. Good for you. You’ll get a lot of submissions now.
Charles: This business is all relationships. It’s all–
Caryn: That’s right, that’s right.
Charles: As I told a young director the other day, it’s like, look – not only do we want to distribute your movie and give you notes and help make it the best it can be but it’s not about this movie right now. We just don’t take things on as a one-off in a sense. It’s about what are the next 5 movies you’re going to do. And how can we help you do that? Whether it’s further financing or co-producing and distributing. And so, there are talented people and if you make relationships with those people then everybody wins.
Caryn: Yeah, yes. I like that, that’s great. Now, my last question is this. What advice would you give those aspiring to tap into the Chinese market?
Charles: Well it’s like, it’s the same advice in anything in this industry, it’s just perseverance. I mean, you just can’t give up. I mean, you have to find the right people. And there’s a lot of talk. Everybody – and I’m not just talking about China – but everybody in this business has a $100-million-dollar hedge fund that they can tap into. Except for no one ever taps into the $100-Million-dollar hedge fund. Just like we’ve met a lot of people who just say ‘hey, I’m working with this Chinese production company. You know, they’re about to finance my movie’. And I’ll see them in the same market a year later and they are still waiting for the movie to be financed. Everybody’s all talk until you find people that aren’t all talk. And so, you have to find the people and activities and the people who can go and say, ‘hey, you know, this is a good project, and I’m going to get it to my people in China. And if they like it, they’re going to move on it.’ And so, you’re just going to have to find those kinds of people.
Caryn: Yeah, yes. Completely, I agree. Charles, thank you so much, for coming on my podcast.
Caryn: You’ve given me and the audience some great advice, some great stories. And I wanted to just say, thank you again for joining us today. It was excellent.
Charles: Well, thank you for having me.
Caryn: Great, we’ll see you at the premiere.
Charles: Okay, great, thank you.
And now for my key points and takeaways. I start with my 3 key points as always.
1. New Talent division: Global Management Associates – agency for – directors, writers, and some actors.
2. Business is all about relationships. His Chinese partner may live in Los Angeles but he flies to BEI for meetings. It’s not just about making phone calls. You need face-to-face time.
3. His company’s successful track record in China has not only attracted more Chinese partners but also American partners who want to do business in China. The key is to have a track record.
1. We’ve all read in the news that Not as much $ leaving China to do production in the US. Chinese companies want to film in China. He mentioned they are adapting some U.S.-based scripts to be shot in China. However – in my option this is a balancing act because you can’t just change the location and names – you need to appeal to the Chinese audience. So, one idea I have is if you adapt your screenplay to be shot in China – find a Chinese reader who can give you some feedback. But as Charles said – more and more Chinese companies are looking to film in China, not the U.S.
2. Regarding if Charles could do his Career over again: he Didn’t think networking was the way to go. Didn’t really knock on doors. Take the PA jobs and move up the ladder. (esp. a good lesson for writers) because the stereotypical writer is more comfortable working alone, may not be a social butterfly. But networking is key.
3. As I mentioned a minute ago – Charles said you can get lost in this business. You need to have a life. Need to separate your work life and home life.
Thank you for listening to my podcast. To show your support – go to iTunes, subscribe, and leave a rating so other people can find this podcast. The more we work together – the more opportunities will be out there for everyone.
And I’ll see you at the premiere.
See you soon! Yī huǐ jiàn! 一会见!
The China/Hollywood Greenlight Podcast Episode 005
Charles Morris Jr.
Host: Caryn McCann
GUEST: Charles Morris Jr. Vice President of Acquisitions and Development of
Global Genesis Group.
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/globalgenesisgroup/
Charles’ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/charlesmorrisjr