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


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.


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Description 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 flexibility around China's import film quota system, but not many UK companies are aware of that. They still think that the market is very difficult to enter, while not necessarily the case.
- 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.
- 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 EU 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
Exploitation Route All research and insights from the project are available to the public via the project's website.
Evidence has also been shared with project partners and stakeholders.
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.
Sectors Creative Economy

Description Key findings from this project have been acknowledged and shared by industry experts via their outlets. Two media commentary articles were circulated by an internationally leading industry magazine OZSEEKR. This is an evident which demonstrates knowledge transfer and cooperation between research and the industry, as how the project was set out to achieve. "Collaboration launched to examine ways into China for UK films" (20 Jan 2020) "Why UK cinemas should book 'Detective Chinatown 3'" (9 Jan 2020) In addition, the project's Principal Investigator has been actively publishing media commentary articles related to the research theme, in order to produce a further narrative impact. Below is all articles that have been published since the launch of the project in February 2019 and the momentum is still ongoing even after the project was finished in October 2019. So far, at least 16 articles have been published as the project's narrative impact building. Two summary reports of key findings were also published on the project's website, which is a new narrative that did not exist before in public knowledge. Selected media commentary articles (2019 - 2020): 16. "The importance of film diplomacy for cultural relations between the UK and China", Asia Dialogue, January 28, 2020 15. "Why should UK cinemas book Detective Chinatown 3", UK-China Film Collab, January 17, 2020 14. "The best performing Chinese film in the UK", UK-China Film Collab, January 12, 2020 13. "The best performing UK film in China", UK-China Film Collab, January 7, 2020 12. "Reasons to be hopeful: When the Legend of 1900 overtakes Charlie's Angels", Asia Dialogue, November 19, 2019 11. "The Special Couple: What film co-production tells us about the future of UK-China cultural relations", Asia Dialogue, August 15, 2019 10. "UK SMEs' creative exports to China: Animation, IP and more", Asia Dialogue, July 24, 2019 9. "Making history: Bohemian Rhapsody's Chinese release and the story of its translation", Asia Dialogue, July 8, 2019 8. "Hong Kong Protests and Responsibilities of International Media", JOMEC Blog, July 1, 2019 7. "UK Films at Shanghai International Film Festival 2019 and Cultural Diplomacy", Asia Dialogue, June 17, 2019 6. "Why the UK film industry should pay attention to Shanghai International Film Festival", CGTN, June 16, 2019 5. "Interview with Emma Xu, documentary category programmer, Shanghai International Film Festival", Take One, June 14, 2019 4. "48 documentaries at Shanghai International Film Festival: an interview with Emma Xu, documentary category programmer", Deep Focus, February 11, 2019 [CN] 3. "The Wandering Earth: why you need to see China's latest sci-fi blockbuster", The Conversation, March 19, 2019 2. "Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year and Provides the Potential for a Copyright Campaign", Asia Dialogue, February 1, 2019 1. "Mary Poppins's magic could transform the Chinese cinema scene", The Conversation, January 30, 2019
First Year Of Impact 2020
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.
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.
Start Year 2019