Firms to take stars’ pay down to earth

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@ chi­

Nine ma­jor Chi­nese pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies of films and TV se­ries re­leased a joint state­ment on Satur­day say­ing no to so-called “sky-high pay­ments” for ac­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, fi­nan­cial re­mu­ner­a­tion for ac­tors can­not ex­ceed 40 per­cent of the over­all bud­get of any of their fu­ture pro­duc­tions. Lead ac­tors can only earn 70 per­cent of the cast’s to­tal pay, the state­ment added.

The com­pa­nies also set salary caps de­mand­ing that an ac­tor can get paid 50 mil­lion yuan ($7.3 mil­lion, in­clud­ing taxes) at most for an en­tire TV se­ries, and 1 mil­lion yuan tops for each TV se­ries episode.

The cam­paign was led by China’s three largest on­line me­dia stream­ing plat­forms: iQiyi, Youku, and Ten­cent.

The other six are Day­light En­ter­tain­ment, Huace Group, Lin­mon Pic­tures, Ci­wen Me­dia, Youhug Me­dia and New Clas­sics Me­dia.

The move fol­lows a re­cent joint an­nounce­ment by sev­eral na­tional-level gov­ern­ment bod­ies, in­clud­ing the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Tourism, the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Tax­a­tion and the China Film Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which all urged the film and TV in­dus­try to deal with chaotic sit­u­a­tions in­clud­ing ex­or­bi­tant celebrity pay and tax eva­sion.

Ac­tors must pay their own tax obli­ga­tions rather than pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies bear­ing the bur­den, and one’s pay can­not ex­ceed 50 mil­lion yuan for a TV se­ries no mat­ter how many episodes are filmed, China Daily learned in a fur­ther writ­ten ex­pla­na­tion.

“The cap is ra­tio­nally set and due to the ac­tors’ ac­tual con­tri­bu­tions,” the ex­pla­na­tion added.

“It will take ef­fect im­me­di­ately af­ter be­ing re­leased ... for the sake of a healthy in­dus­try en­vi­ron­ment.”

The mea­sure also comes on the heels of a widely pub­li­cized le­gal is­sue in­volv­ing fa­mous Chi­nese ac­tress Fan Bing­bing.

In May, for­mer TV host Cui Yongyuan posted a con­tract on his so­cial net­work ac­count in­di­cat­ing that the ac­tress was paid 60 mil­lion yuan for work­ing on a film set for only four days, and she signed a se­cret agree­ment to avoid pay­ing taxes as the con­tract showed she earned only 10 mil­lion yuan.

Though Cui later re­fused to con­firm that the con­tract be­longed to any spe­cific in­di­vid­ual, he also pointed out such mis­be­hav­ior is com­mon in the in­dus­try.

This in­ci­dent stirred wide­spread on­line dis­cus­sion and heated pub­lic de­bate.

Tax au­thor­i­ties of Jiangsu prov­ince, where Fan’s stu­dio is based, also in­ves­ti­gated her con­tract.

“A boom­ing film and TV in­dus­try can­not ben­e­fit only a few peo­ple,” said Rao Shuguang, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the China Film As­so­ci­a­tion. “A new and fairer (sys­tem) needs to be built.”

He de­scribed the sta­tus quo of the in­dus­try as “ev­ery­one works as la­bor­ers for the stars”.

“In China, many em­ploy­ees in the in­dus­try who have de­voted much to the visual arts are not as re­spected, such as screen­writ­ers,” he said.

“When reg­u­lat­ing stars’ pay­ment ar­range­ments, we also need to im­prove oth­ers’ salaries as well.”

He said sim­i­lar in­dus­try reg­u­la­tions are com­mon in other coun­tries’ film in­dus­tries in­clud­ing France and the Repub­lic of Korea.

“It’s also a way to make sure that enough money is used to im­prove con­tent qual­ity,” Rao said.

“Cre­ators of films and TV episodes can thus fo­cus more on their ideas rather than al­ways fac­ing tight­en­ing bud­gets.”

Nev­er­the­less, some peo­ple also fear the mea­sure’s im­pact will be lim­ited. For ex­am­ple, Huayi Broth­ers Me­dia, with which Fan is as­so­ci­ated, has nei­ther joined the cam­paign nor re­leased any pub­lic com­ment on the is­sue.

A re­port by Bei­jing News on Sun­day, cit­ing an anony­mous “busi­ness in­sider”, said there are no more than 50 ac­tors in China who can earn 1 mil­lion yuan from one TV se­ries episode.

Many ac­tors can earn much more via ad­ver­tise­ments or va­ri­ety shows.

“Af­ter all, the state­ment only in­volves nine en­ter­prises and is not com­pul­sory,” said Rao. “How­ever, they’ve set a good ex­am­ple for oth­ers to fol­low. Such com­mu­ni­ca­tion will fi­nally urge the in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion to draft rules in more sci­en­tific ways.”

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