Huallywood can be model for others
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.