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The authorities are leading an unprecedented overhaul of China’s drama sector, an industry that has been damaged by an over-focus on stardom and a chronic neglect of script quality.
“The industry is deformed. Scripts make great concessions to stars and directors in the pursuit of big audiences. The guidance is China’s first comprehensive move to sort out the industry,” Zhang Peng, a film researcher at the National Research Center of Cultural Industries in Nanjing University, told the Global Times.
A circular jointly issued by five central government departments on September 4 outlined recommendations for the drama industry, covering scripts, industrial structure, participants, streaming and a future development goal.
The circular said media industry associations should introduce cost allocation guidelines to help persuade companies to place less emphasis on top actors.
Broadcasting platforms should not regard famous stars as the sole criterion when purchasing dramas, the circular reads.
The phenomenon is a result of little effort being put into script quality, Zhang said.
“The script in most entertainment works usually is given less attention and fund-support than it should have, because most of the spotlight and money is given to stars, who are seen as the main factor affecting audience ratings,” Zhang argued.
China’s scriptwriters usually only get about 10 percent of a film paychecks, while starring performers get up to half, Zhang said, Despite this, movies with betterquality stories have shown they can win box-office glory. Action blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2 was a monumental success in China, with its story of a Chinese soldier saving the day in a war-torn African nation raking in 5.6 billion yuan($854 million) as of Wednesday, the Beijing Review reported. It was also the first ever non-Hollywood movie to break into the global list of the 100 highest-earning films of all-time. “The film depicts personal stories and emotions in the context of the nation. Its success is not a surprise as it differs from China’s typical, didactic mainstream movies,” Zhang said. Most Chinese film and drama series which tackle big topics such as war, the revolution and history fail to connect with viewers, especially those of the younger generation, Zhang told the Global Times. Goodbye Mr. Loser, which made a national splash by earning 1.4 billion yuan, was able to resonate with viewers not by using big names, but its beautiful script which tells normal people’s stories, he added. The circular says that investment and payment need to reflect creative values. The industry is asked to put forward suggestions on how to distribute earnings more equitably. China has a glut of dramatic works, but a shortage of films and shows that actually satisfy viewers, Ren Ran, a film industry commentator, wrote in the Guangming Daily. “Industrial prosperity cannot sim-