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August 6, 2020

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Roll the credits! Shanghai a star in film and TV production

SHANGHAI lays claim to being a hub for TV and film production in China, and that distinction has been gaining traction in the past three years, thanks to increased government subsidies and the creativity of veteran and emerging artists.

Shanghai produces about 100 films a year. There are now more than 7,000 production companies in the city, a third of China’s total. The city’s nearly 400 cinemas had box office receipts of more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.44 billion), about one-sixth of the nation’s total.

The successful completion of the Shanghai International Film Festival recently added to the city’s stature in the industry.

A major event marking the re-opening of cinemas in the city, the festival had 1,146 screenings of 322 movies, and almost a third of 150,000 viewers traveled from outside of the city to watch the movies.

Most of the international movies shown at the festival were delivered via Internet, due to delivery difficulties and coronavirus complications. Some took more than weeks for even digital delivery.

“We signed the contracts and paid up even amid earlier uncertainty whether the festival could go ahead,” Wang Ye, deputy director of the festival center, told media.

“Looking back, we were bold,” she said. “Somehow, we believed the festival would go on.”

Wang’s optimism and determination are seen by many working in Shanghai’s film and TV industry as a good harbinger for the future.

The municipal government, in 2018 guidelines, expressed its goal of turning the city into a major film-production hub. Districts have followed suit.

In late July, Songjiang District raised its subsidies for film projects with an investment of over 20 million yuan to 12 million yuan from 5 million yuan. Other support includes rental subsidies for production sites and rewards for top box-office films and TV works screened on major platforms.

The policies are producing results. Songjiang alone attracted 549 new companies to the industry in the first half of the year, up 124 percent from the same period a year earlier.

“The city of Shanghai understands TV and film industry and is very effective in implementing relevant government policies and services,” said Zhao Yifang, founder and chief executive of big production company Huace Group.

She was speaking to reporters in Songjiang in early June at the launch of a project to build an international film and TV center for the Yangtze River Delta region.

A month later, Tencent signed a contract to create a “smart” film and TV industry base in the district, aiming to provide services based on its cloud technology.

The accelerating development of Shanghai’s film and TV industry has led to higher-quality productions in recent years and expanded the industry to include more art-house films and those by first-time directors.

“A First Farewell,” co-produced by Shanghai studios, tells the story of two children who herd sheep. The movie was among the first to be screened when cinemas reopened in late July.

“Wild Grass,” another Shanghai production, recounts the rapid changes of the 1990s through the experiences of two young women and a young man. It is scheduled to be screened in late August.

“It was lucky for us, a relatively young and new team, to receive support and encouragement when we encountered difficulties,” said Xu Zhanxiong, director and screenwriter of “Wild Grass.”

The film was supported by the Shanghai Cultural Development Foundation at the screenwriting stage and received additional help from the city during production.

Not surprisingly, Shanghai is becoming a magnet for more celebrity producers and directors.

“So Long, My Son” won Silver Bear awards for both best actor and actress at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival. It was director Wang Xiaoshuai’s first feature release since he co-founded Dongchun Films in Shanghai in 2016.

Wang rose to international fame when he won the Jury Grand Prix at the same festival in 2001 with “Beijing Bicycle.” The Shanghai native spent his childhood in the city of Guiyang and most of his early career in Beijing. Though still based in Beijing, he now spends more time in his birthplace than earlier.


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