Bulletproof your script for China

Here are seven ways you can get your script on Chinese production companies’ radar screens with a bulletproof script.

1. MAKE IT A CO-PRODUCTION

Make your script a co-production. First, you can’t compete with every major studio gunning for those few 34 foreign film quota slots. Leave that competition behind by aiming to make your film a co-production. This involves (naturally) your story is related to China; Chinese talent fills at least one-third of above-the-line and below-the-line jobs.

lanterns-2376150_6402. ADD CHINESE VALUES

Appeal to China’s values. The Indian movie “Dangal” was a huge hit in China.  And sports dramas are a new area so everyone was surprised. But the movie emphasized family ties which are integral to Chinese culture.

3. HIGHLIGHT CHINESE SOFT POWER

You don’t need to write the next Wolf Warrior to know that nationalist pride pulls in big numbers in China. You don’t need to fly the Chinese flag but do find ways to add some insight into Chinese history, culture or mythology to your story.

4. FIND A CHINESE READER FOR YOUR SCRIPT

See my article on   “Where to Find Chinese-Americans to Add to your Co-Pro“. You can also reach out to Chinese groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

5.  SOLUTIONS TO SCRIPT CENSORSHIP

In my previous post  “4 Ways to Beat the Chinese Censors”  I outlined ways to avoid censorship trouble. Here are the problems and solutions:

No Ghosts → the hero dreamt them up.

There are no bad cops in China  →  bad cop ends up in jail.

Avoid time travel / supernatural stuff →  rebrand as science-fiction.

No corruption in China   →  shoot your film in America.

6. HIRE CHINESE INTERNET STARS

Photo by David Woo (CC BY-ND 2.0)

You’ll have to have Chinese actors to qualify as a co-pro. Many Chinese “A” list stars are booked on multiple projects (at one time) plus cost millions. Consider China’s internet stars who have millions of fans. In the article, “Bilibili Stars Bypass China’s Fame Machine” the online video sharing platform – fans are becoming China’s newest virtual idols.

The article told how a young Chinese guy, Xiao Yiqing has become famous. Xiao “…took fame into his own hands, uploading video content on Bilibili beginning in 2015. He now posts roughly one video a week, often combining animation with his own vocals in an ancient-style music genre called gufeng. He has more than 900,000 followers on the site.”

7. ATTACH TECHNICAL TALENT

Intel Free Press (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Instead of trying to compete with the studios to attach a hot director to your script – go after different talent. The article “Building the Industry Behind China’s Unbelievable TV Shows” highlighted China’s need for VFX experts. It said “China’s television industry is a billion-dollar business, especially with the explosive growth of online streaming sites. Yet for years, Chinese audiences have mocked the low production value of visual effects (VFX) in domestic shows as wumao texiao — “50-cent VFX.”

China is decades behind the U.S. in visual effects. Why not attach a top VFX expert to your script? Chinese production companies are hungry for this expertise.

What other below-the-line talent do you think would attract a Chinese studio? Leave a comment below.


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