Shanghai Film Forum Delegates Talk Finance, Festivals

Marketing is no longer a dirty word in the new China and indeed a whole day was devoted to the topic on the second day of the Jin Jue International Film Forum at this year’s Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF).

In a session entitled “Increasing Film Market Value – Revolution of Marketing and Distribution”, speakers discussed movie marketing in North America, where TV advertising still dominates, and China, where film marketers have whole-heartedly embraced the internet.

And this being the new China, where nobody misses a marketing opportunity, the session kicked off with presentations by Shanghai film festival sponsors L’Oreal and film promoter Filmore Media.

Filmore founder and CEO Zhang Qingyong outlined the major platforms for film marketing in China as “focus media” (flat-screen TVs and posters in lobbies and elevators), mass transit media (buses and taxis), the internet, mobile phones and SMS – with expensive traditional media such as print and television coming in last.

This is in sharp contrast to the US where, as American Film Institute CEO James Hindman explained, television still accounts for 75% of film marketing spend. “New markets like mobile phones and the internet are growing very slowly,” Hindman said. “You get fads like when The Devil Wears Prada went on YouTube, then everybody went on YouTube, and then nobody did….the internet is not even 3% of the pie.”

In another sign of how the Chinese film market is evolving, the afternoon session quickly moved onto the subject that really interested everyone in the room – how to raise finance for new film projects.

Delegates quizzed speakers including IM Global’s Stuart Ford, Endgame Entertainment president Douglas Hansen and producer Michel Shane about how to access the current buzz financing mechanisms – including private equity, hedge funds and super gap.

US-based film financier Endgame in investing in Los Angeles and Beijing-based producer Ironpond Inc. But Endgame’s Hansen already had a working relationship with Ironpond principals Peter Shiao and Teddy Zee. Delegates observed that this emerging market is still some way off the private equity boom.

” China is still two to five years away from a situation where private equity will come in and feel comfortable,” said Shane.

That day can’t come soon enough for China ‘s growing ranks of private film companies such as Yu Dong’s distribution and financing entity Polybona. “Private companies can’t grow without external finance,” Yu said. “From their inception in the China market, private companies have been fighting alone. If they can’t hook up with capital they won’t succeed.”

The previous day (Sunday, June 17), the Film Forum – which has become the main attraction for visitors to SIFF – featured a summit of film festival chiefs including Venice director Marco Mueller, Sundance’s Geoffrey Gilmore, Dubai film festival chairman Abdul Hamid Juma and Pusan topper Kim Dong-ho.

The film festival rating system devised by European producers’ association FIAPF was criticised by Gilmore who stated that” “the mediocrity that organisation has perpetuated is one of the biggest failings of the international industry.”

The Shanghai festival has been granted “A-list” status from FIAPF although its film programming is not considered world class and it rarely features world or international premieres. The “A-list” rating is only granted to competitive film festivals, which means that it can’t be bestowed on Pusan which is arguably Asia ‘s most influential film festival.

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