To Search for a Sustainable UK-China Film Collaboration Model: Unlocking Issues Around Film Distribution Mechanisms

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Journalism Media and Cultural Studies

Abstract

This AHRC funded UK-China Creative Industries partnership development project enables academic partners working with film industry partners in the UK and China to develop mechanisms of distributing films in each other's country. Supported by key industry bodies and public-facing media companies, the partnership includes industrial survey, round-tables, in-depth discussions and analyses of practical examples.

The project team will design an online survey to be sent out by all partners to their contacts throughout February, March and April 2019, to gather initial data regarding challenges in film distribution faced by companies in both the UK and China. Two fieldwork trips to London and Shanghai will enable partners to visit selected companies and organisations after accessing the survey data to obtain further industrial intelligence. All data gathered will be used as research materials for academic partners to contribute to their research-backed solution initiatives, to be discussed with all industry partners at the workshop meetings. The meetings will be held at the end of each fieldwork trip. All activities are set out to enable knowledge transfer between the industry and academia, and vice versa. They also aim at discovering key underlying differences, and working towards engineering solutions that will ultimately increase the international trade of films between the UK and China.

A final digital report regarding the partnership development project will be distributed by all partners and made accessible to the public.

Planned Impact

This project aims to develop a sustainable knowledge transfer oriented, research-industry collaboration platform where information around film trade between the UK and China is transparent, shared by both academic and industry partners on the project website. The partnership is a model which performs a research function to generate solutions driven consultancy with an interest to an aim to support the UK film industry's ongoing international trade with China.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Main Findings from 2019:

The following issues have been identified related to film distribution between the UK and China

- In 2019, the UK has distributed more Chinese films than China has done for UK films
- There are some flexibilities around China's import film quota system, but not many UK companies are aware of that.
- There are several public organisations supporting UK films and their export to other countries, but these supports are not consistent, neither do they have enough expertise about markets outside the EU and US, such as China.
- Audience in China do not have a clear idea about what a UK film should be, because a UK production is oftentimes a co-production by default (with the US or other EU countries).
- Filmmakers on both sides are not confident about the UK-China Film Co-production Treaty, neither on the creative idea of a co-production. The biggest challenge faced is to have a good script, a narrative that will engage with the audience from both sides.
- Most streaming platforms in China do not have an individual category to separate UK films to the European category.
- It takes too long for a co-produced film to finish, with too high costs
- There is a lack of comprehensive knowledge available in English about the Chinese film market in public
- Communication barriers continue to be a problem to enable more traffics and collaboration

There are several new commercial possibilities/opportunities related to the research topic:

- To support a UK cinema chain brand to enter the Chinese market
- To design a co-production development scheme to support first stage script development of future co-production, with partners

Main Findings in 2020:

- The UK cinema sector heavily depends on Hollywood in terms of programming for cinemas. This became a huge issues during the pandemic year, where many Studios were holding back their film releases. There was a period of time that the UK had very little new films to release or to plan ahead of cinema distribution.
- In contrast, China recovers from COVID-19 quickly, leading the global industry. It's local box-office is not dominated by Hollywood but instead, its local productions. Therefore, while the studios are holding back films and it has caused a huge problem for the supply chain around the world, China was not affected as much as other countries, like the UK.
- UK film distributor's releasing plan is closely tight to China's schedule, when a film was pulled from release at the beginning of the pandemic in China, the UK film distributor was not allowed to release the film in the UK. (Detective Chinatown 3) This is serious issue in particular for British film companies that rely on their business in releasing Chinese films in the UK.
- British film 1917 received £69 million box-office in China.
- British animation IP Oconauts's secured a theme park deal in Shanghai. The theme park was launched in December 2020.

More findings can be found in our public report: "UK Films in China" 2020 - available for download on www.ukchinafilm.com
Exploitation Route Outcomes in 2019:

- All research and insights from the project are available to the public via the project's website: www.ukchinafilm.com.
- Evidence is shared regularly via the PI's active commentary publication.
- Although the funding is finished, the project is ongoing and the PI is constantly seeking further funding to sustain it. The website is being updated and manage voluntarily by the PI.

Outcomes in 2020:

- The PI registered the project as a non-profit organisation to continue its activities and seek expansion.
- The UK-China Film Collab (UCFC, now a limited company by guarantee), supported the largest Charlie Chaplin retrospective in collaboration with Hainan International Film Festival.
- UCFC launched its first edition of Future Talent Programme and recruited 8 members to work on their own projects that are in line with the organisation's founding missions.
- UCFC have launched its subsidiary in Scotland, with activities planned in parallel and strategies to apply for public fundings in Scotland.
- UCFC have published over 5 media commentary articles to share its latest findings and insight with a wider public.
Sectors Creative Economy

URL http://www.ukchianfilm.com
 
Description Since 2019, the project and the organisation's findings have been published by multiple international media outlets, such as FOCUS (China-Britain Business Council), South China Morning Post, CGTN, The Conversation, The Diplomat and many more. In addition, the UK-China Film Collab, now a non-profit organisation as a spin out of the initial funded project, is the leading voice in advocating its missions. Its research, public engagement and R&D have gained attention from stakeholders such as DCMS, British Film Institute, British Council, Department for International Trade as well as private film companies in both the UK and China. UCFC's media commentary articles and reports have also been quoted by academics and students to support their research.
Sector Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description UK-China Film Collab 
Organisation China-Britain Business Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Communication improvement, knowledge transfer, translation and facilitation
Collaborator Contribution - The project facilitated and supported a pubic event between the Association and Liverpool City Council, in Liverpool. - The project team co-organised an industry facing event with China-Britain Business Council in Shanghai.
Impact https://www.ukchinafilm.com/shanghai-film-distribution-and-exhibition-association/
Start Year 2019
 
Description UK-China Film Collab 
Organisation Shanghai Film Distribution and Exhibition Association
Country China 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Communication improvement, knowledge transfer, translation and facilitation
Collaborator Contribution - The project facilitated and supported a pubic event between the Association and Liverpool City Council, in Liverpool. - The project team co-organised an industry facing event with China-Britain Business Council in Shanghai.
Impact https://www.ukchinafilm.com/shanghai-film-distribution-and-exhibition-association/
Start Year 2019
 
Company Name UK-CHINA FILM COLLABORATION PROJECT LTD 
Description The UK-China Film Collab Ltd is an independent non-profit organisation set up to inspire film related collaboration and debates between the UK and China. The first stage of this project (February - October 2019) was funded by the AHRC's UK-China Creative Partnership Development Grants, with match funding from international partners. The AHRC funding was awarded to the School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University. For its official grant awarding information, please visit here. The Project was then incorporated as a limited company by guarantee on May 26 2020 to continue its activities and to raise further funding beyond academia. 
Year Established 2020 
Impact The main areas that we cover include co-production, distribution & exhibition, talent development and original project design. As a public facing organisation and facilitator, we are committed to knowledge transfer, dialogues building, communication improvement, R&D and policy advocacy.
Website http://www.ukchinafilm.com
 
Company Name UK-CHINA FILM COLLAB (S) LIMITED 
Description UK-China Film Collab (S) Ltd is a subsidiary of UK-China Film Collaboration Project Ltd, which will be used to apply for public funding in Scotland. 
Year Established 2020 
Impact The main areas that we cover include co-production, distribution & exhibition, talent development and original project design. As a public facing organisation and facilitator, we are committed to knowledge transfer, dialogues building, communication improvement, R&D and policy advocacy.
Website http://www.ukchinafilm.com
 
Description Britain in Shanghai 1937: Screening of The Eight Hundred + QA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Eight Hundred (2020, dir. Guan Hu) is a Chinese epic war film about Japan's invasion in China in 1937 and the famous battle took place at the Sihang Warehouse.

Professor Rana Mitter from the University of Oxford and Cedric Behrel from Trinity CineAsia (UK distributor) discuss the latest Chinese box-office hit epic war film.

This podcast was curated by UK-China Film Collab (UCFC) and chaired by Dr Hiu Man Chan, Founder & Director of UCFC.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DwDPKn15gg
 
Description Dancing in a Turbulent Time: Screening of Youth + Q&A 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Youth (2017, dir. Feng Xiaogang) is a Chinese film about the desire, ideal and struggle dancers in the military faced during the end of Cultural Revolution and the Sino-Vietnamese war.

This is a recording of Dr Huang Xuelei (The University of Edinburgh)'s talk and discussion about Youth. The session was chaired by Dr Xiang Fan, Specialised Programme Lead Curator at UK-China Film Collab.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnTtS1YE2B8&t=3s
 
Description Life Between Mainland and Hong Kong: Screening of The Crossing + Q&A 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Crossing (2018, dir. Bai Xue) was winner of the "Favourite Independent Film" category at the Guangzhou Student Film Festival in 2019. The Crossing follows Peipei, a schoolgirl who has taken to smuggling iPhones over the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border every day to earn money. The customs officials do not give her a second thought, due to of her school uniform and her innocent face, however, Peipei soon finds herself out of her depth.

Inspired by the stories of "Cross Border Children", The Crossing is director Bai Xue's breakout feature film and expertly uses realism to portray the films narrative. Bai Xue uses this to epitomise the struggles faced by teenagers in an ever-changing and evolving China

Bai Xue graduated of the prestigious Beijing Film Academy, she is recognised as a starlet of the next generation of Chinese filmmakers, before directing "The Crossing" Bai Xue also drew praise for directing short films. She won "Best New Director" Asian Film Critics Association Awards 2019.

Curated by UK-China Film Collab (UCFC), this is a recording of the discussion with the director Bai Xue. The session was chaired by Curtis Weir, International Film Relations Negotiator at the UCFC.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO1lyrkD5Lk&t=16s