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Camille Chen (left), Bronwyn Barnes, WA governor Kim Beazley and Truly Sense Media president Hou Li at a recent Government House reception. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Film project boost for WA-China business

Bronwyn Barnes doesn’t fit the bill of your typical film executive. By her own admission the experienced company director is more at home on a remote mine site in Africa than on the periphery of a film set.

But it’s that perspective, Ms Barnes says, that makes her the perfect fit to chair Legend Media Group, which has launched an ambitious film project that promises to diversify Western Australia’s trade relationship with China.

Legend Media is pursuing the co-production of two feature films and a documentary series in collaboration with Beijing-based Truly Sense Media, the production arm of PPTV, a Chinese online streaming platform that is part of giant retail, e-commerce, technology and real estate conglomerate Suning Group.

PPTV has more than 300 million subscribers to its streaming platform. In comparison, Netflix had 137 million subscribers worldwide as of late 2018, according to CNN.

A heads of agreement has been signed between Truly Sense and Legend for the first film under their partnership, Pilbara, which will begin filming in September, for which a  high-profile delegation of Chinese film industry executives recently toured Perth and a range of possible filming locations in the Pilbara and the South West.

Both films and the documentary series will be designed to showcase the best of WA to the Chinese audience, by producing content aligned closely with Chinese culture.

“China is absolutely our main focus in terms of a market for delivering a product,” Ms Barnes said.

“This is a very clear focus for China, to partner offshore on arts and culture projects.

“WA provides background services in terms of post-production, filming and those sorts of things, and China is providing the talent and storylines that are really aligned with Chinese culture.”

To date, Legend has been funded by its four founding directors: Ms Barnes; regional general manager of land developer Peet, Paul Lakey; national president of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, Darren Cooper; and creative director and filmmaker Camille Chen.

Ms Barnes said despite three of the company’s directors having no prior experience in film, they simply could not pass up the opportunity to tap into China’s rapidly growing movie market.

The People’s Republic of China is poised to become the world’s biggest film market in 2020 in terms of audience numbers and box office revenue, with its 8,000 cinemas and more than 60,000 screens being added to on an almost daily basis.

“This is the clear opportunity that Legend’s business is positioned to leverage,” Ms Barnes said.

Ms Barnes said while the directors of Legend didn’t set out to boost WA tourism as its major focus, they understood the vast potential for flow-on benefits.

During a reception for the Chinese delegation to WA at Government House recently, Asian Engagement Minister Peter Tinley said that the project would help to broaden business engagement with China outside of the resources sector.

The sentiment was shared by Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Perth, Lei Kezhong, who described the partnership as the beginning of a “great new era” of WA-China relations.

Ms Barnes said with plans well advanced for the company’s first film, Legend would test the appetite for third-party investment.

“If there is strong investor interest we have the capacity to quickly green-light our second feature film project for production,” she said.

“We are China-ready, and we think China is ready to see much more of Perth and Western Australia.” 

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Peet (PPC)

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