12/12/2013 - 11:28

Chinese to fund WA films

12/12/2013 - 11:28

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The Western Australian film industry has become the latest to tap China's deep pockets with agreements struck for film projects worth more than $87 million to be co-financed by a Chinese animation company.

Chinese to fund WA films
Culture and the Arts Minister John Day

The Western Australian film industry has become the latest to tap China's deep pockets with agreements struck for film projects worth more than $87 million to be co-financed by a Chinese animation company.

The Shanghai Hippo Animation Design Company has signed deals with both The Vue Group and ZAC Films as a result of a targeted strategy by Screenwest and the Department of State Development to break into China.

Hippo is also intending to launch a private Western Australia/China Film Fund to co-finance future films, and has recruited two WA writers to help lead its creative and international expansion teams.

The fund will start off with $10 million and have a target of $50 million.

The agreement is an open-ended deal for Bunbury-based The Vue Group with three films under consideration for co-financing - the total production value exceeding $57 million and the potential for 50 new animation jobs.

They will be animated feature films presented in English but subtitled in Chinese to appeal to the world’s largest market for animation.

Over three years, the projects are expected to add $15 million in local production value to the South West with ongoing employment and development opportunities.

Hippo has also committed 5 per cent of China’s screen capacity to releasing the films once completed.

China is expected to have between 35,000 and 50,000 film screens within a few years - meaning the WA productions could potentially be showed on 2,500 screens during the official release.

Meanwhile, ZAC Films will co-produce at least three animated feature films with Hippo between 2014 and 2016 with the total budget exceeding $30 million.

It’s expected that at least 20 per cent of the work to produce the ZAC Films will be done in Australia.

Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said the agreements were particularly timely given news of Holden’s decision to cease manufacturing in Australia.

“This sort of agreement is really very timely and does provide some hope for the future and the further development of the economy, and the creative industries in particular to take advantage of a huge market in China,” Mr Day said.

“We need to take advantage of these opportunities within the digital economy.”

Chief executive of Hippo, Kerr Xu, said the agreements would also benefit the China film industry which was yet to make ground internationally.

"Here there is such a great pool of talent and such a great mentality - you’re always looking for new opportunities and new ventures,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity for us with this agreement to benefit from the talent and technology from Australia.”

The agreements come after four years of negotiations, which Mr Xu said was simply the Chinese way.

“That really is what it takes to make things happen.  It’s often said that it’s kind of difficult to do business in China but actually it’s not,’’ he said.

"We’re like a herd of animals in that once we are committed in that relationship we then [lose our brains] and will do everything we can to make it happen.”

 

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