Hual­ly­wood can be model for oth­ers

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By LI YANG

liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s cen­tral govern­ment is urg­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to sup­port the devel­op­ment of a cul­tural in­dus­try which does not pol­lute the en­vi­ron­ment and re­lies on in­no­va­tion. Pro­mot­ing a cul­tural in­dus­try can also ad­dress the lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ en­thu­si­asm for boost­ing growth through in­vest­ment and gen­er­at­ing rev­enue by sell­ing land, and let them fo­cus more on the devel­op­ment of ser­vice sec­tors.

The Wuxi govern­ment in Jiangsu province turned a de­serted iron and steel fac­tory into one of the world’s largest film stu­dios, dubbed Hual­ly­wood, two years ago.

Since then, the boom­ing Chi­nese film in­dus­try and in­creas­ing out­sourc­ing of dig­i­tal film pro­duc­tion from for­eign film­mak­ers have trans­formed Hual­ly­wood into a fast-grow­ing film pro­duc­tion cen­ter in China.

When the Wuxi govern­ment claimed it would in­vest 10 bil­lion yuan ($1.61 bil­lion) to build Hual­ly­wood, 80 per­cent of film stu­dios built by lo­cal gov­ern­ments was los­ing money.

“You can un­der­stand the pres­sure we were un­der back then. But we are dif­fer­ent,” said Yan Heping, deputy direc­tor of Binhu district com­merce bureau of Wuxi, the main spon­sor of the project.

The gov­ern­ments built the stu­dios mostly to fol­low the cen­tral govern­ment’s order to re­vi­tal­ize China’s weak cul­tural in­dus­try and boost in­vest­ment. Hun­dreds of stu­dios sprang up overnight in old fac­tory work­shops, vil­lages and sight­see­ing spots in sec­ond- and third-tier cities.

Many were de­serted soon af­ter one TV se­ries or a film was shot. The artis­tic in­no­va­tion and post­pro­duc­tion are mostly done in big­ger cities like Bei­jing and Shang­hai be­cause of the rich pools of pro­fes­sional tal­ent there.

Hual­ly­wood em­braced the lessons from such ex­pe­ri­ences. “We are con­fi­dent with the prospects of China’s film mar­ket, and we made a pri­or­ity of the tal­ent is­sue from the very begin­ning,” Yan said.

Hual­ly­wood of­fers pref­er­en­tial poli­cies not only for in­vestors and com­pa­nies, but also for artis­tic tal­ent.

“As long as you think you have an artis­tic dream and the tal­ent to pur­sue it, we pro­vide you a liv­ing space and a work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for free to help you use your tal­ent to re­al­ize your dreams,” said Shi Juan, Hual­ly­wood’s gen­eral man­ager.

Yan said: “Tal­ent is what we need most. If we have enough tal­ent, we can nat­u­rally at­tract more in­vestors. The post­pro­duc­tion and cre­ation stages of the stu­dio can also take root in Wuxi.”

Wuxi govern­ment pro­vides monthly sub­si­dies of about 500 yuan to col­lege grad­u­ates work­ing there. It is the only city govern­ment in China to do so.

A large num­ber of col­lege stu­dents and in­de­pen­dent artists flock to Hual­ly­wood. Hun­dreds of post­pro­duc­tion and artis­tic cre­ation firms from home and abroad set up branches in the Wuxi stu­dio. Some even moved to Hual­ly­wood out­right be­cause of suf­fi­cient hu­man re­sources, low hous­ing rent and low tax rates.

In the stu­dios of a post­pro­duc­tion com­pany that had moved from Hong Kong, which de­clined to be named for this re­port, about 100 young peo­ple are busy with the last phase of dig­i­tal pro­cess­ing of the spe­cial vis­ual ef­fects for a Hol­ly­wood block­buster that will be re­leased soon.

With a ham­burger in one hand and a com­puter mouse in the other, the young peo­ple who are fo­cus­ing on com­puter screens seem no dif­fer­ent from video-game play­ers in an In­ter­net cafe.

“They are the core of our com­pet­i­tive­ness,” one stu­dio man­ager said. “They can learn the skills of us­ing the new­est soft­ware in the in­dus­try in two to three years from our mas­ter tu­tors from the United States. Then they can work on their own.”

Wang Fei, man­ager as­sis­tant of Hual­ly­wood, said: “The main ad­van­tages of for­eign stu­dios in the dig­i­tal film in­dus­try are their soft­ware. We are de­vel­op­ing our own soft­ware. The young peo­ple trained and work­ing in for­eign com­pa­nies will play a big role in help­ing China catch up. South Korea is strong in this field just be­cause of its huge in­put in de­vel­op­ing its own soft­ware and young tal­ent.”

Ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment plan, Hual­ly­wood will re­al­ize an an­nual pro­duc­tion value of 20 bil­lion yuan by 2017, when it will have 500 film in­dus­try en­ter­prises and 30,000 to 50,000 em­ploy­ees.

Although the pro­duc­tion value last year was only about 2 bil­lion yuan, both Yan and Shi are con­fi­dent Hual­ly­wood will soon en­ter a pe­riod of rapid growth. The na­tional ad­min­is­tra­tion of film in­dus­try named Hual­ly­wood a na­tional dig­i­tal film in­dus­trial park, the sec­ond of its kind af­ter the dig­i­tal in­dus­trial park in Bei­jing’s Huairou county.

But the Huairou stu­dio is owned by a state-owned film pro­duc­tion group and mainly of­fers ser­vices for SOE film pro­duc­tion firms. Hual­ly­wood, on the other hand, wel­comes all kinds of film pro­duc­ers re­gard­less of their own­er­ship.

Hual­ly­wood is still ex­pand­ing and will be­come an in­ter­na­tional film in­dus­trial base for shoot­ing, pro­duc­tion, pub­lish­ing and trade.

“I am happy to see more and more lo­cals visit our film in­dus­trial park. They like the book­stores, cafes, bars, museums, restau­rants and stu­dios, all of which are re­lated to films and artis­tic works. Serv­ing the peo­ple is what the cul­tural in­dus­try is all about,” Shi said.

The stu­dio of Hual­ly­wood in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, was pre­vi­ously a work­shop of a steel fac­tory.

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