Chinese-Australian co-pro ‘At Last’ to shoot in Queensland
Australia-China co-pro ‘Guardians of the Tomb’ (formerly ‘Nest’) stars Chinese mega-star Li Bingbing.
The official co-production treaty between China and Australia entered into force in 2008. Since then, despite growing interest in working with the burgeoning film power, only a handful of official co-productions have been made. They include The Dragon Pearl, 33 Postcards and The Children of the Silk Road (made under a MOU prior to the signing of the treaty).
However in the past 18 months, things have started to shift. The biggest co-pro to date, Kimble Rendall’s Guardians of the Tomb (formerly Nest), shot on the Gold Coast early last year, and gangster film Dog Fight shot in Victoria last September. Both films are now in post.
Two other projects, Pauline Chan’s My Extraordinary Wedding and Nadia Tass and David Parker’s Tying the Knot, have been issued provisional approval but are yet to enter production.
This week, at a networking event in Beijing, the latest China-Australia co-pro was unveiled.
A collaboration between China’s Monumental Films and Australia’s Rodman Films and Story Bridge Films, At Last follows a couple from Beijing who become caught in a complex art heist while on holiday in Australia. The writer-director is Yiwei Liu and producers are Jackie Jiao, Todd Fellman, Charles Fan and Vanessa Wu.
Casting is currently underway with production expected to kick off in Queensland in mid-July. Financing will be provided by Orient Image Entertainment, Gravity Films, Shineland Media, China Lion and Screen Queensland.
Screen Australia’s head of business and audience Richard Harris said there has been increased interest in Australian-Chinese co-productions of late, with four announced since late 2015.
“This upswing in activity is the result of seven years of engagement with the Chinese screen industry and the sustained support of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television in China,” he said.
“China is currently the world’s second-largest movie-going market and co-productions are an essential growth stream for the Australian industry. This is over and above the existing appetite for Chinese television and film productions being shot in Australia.”
Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Vieria estimated At Last’s Queensland shoot would provide around 200 jobs and $10.8 million for the state’s economy.
“Queensland producers have been working extensively to build relationships with Chinese producers and it is fantastic to see another official co-production in our State,” she said.
At Last was announced at a Beijing event hosted in partnership with Ausfilm and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, designed to further Australian-Chinese working relationships and identify co-production opportunities.
In attendance were Ausfilm members including Screen NSW, Film Victoria, Screen Queensland, Screenwest, City of Gold Coast, Soundfirm, Spectrum Films, Show Group, Stage & Screen and The Appointment Group.
Standalone production companies were also present, including Sydney Films, which announced a slate of 14 films that will be developed to qualify as co-productions. Overall, the company plans to identify 20 existing or potential co-production films with an investment budget of $400 million.
Ausfilm has been actively working to build the Australia-China relationship, hosting the Australia China Film Industry Exchange in partnership with Screen Australia and the Australian Embassy in Beijing for the last seven years. More recently, it has brought delegations of Chinese filmmakers to Australia under its Familiarisation Program to scout locations and meet with Ausfilm member companies, line producers and HODs.
Heyi Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures Asia shot in Sydney for six weeks this year on Jackie Chan sci-fi Bleeding Steel as a direct result of these ongoing intiatives, says Ausfilm CEO Debra Richards.
While the official co-production treaty only covers features, many Aussie producers are also finding success producing TV with China. The first Chinese TV drama to shoot in Australia, Speed, recently wrapped filming in South Australia with 57 Films handling local production.
Upcoming project Butterflies Across the Sea will be the biggest budget Chinese television series to have been filmed outside of China. It’s set to shoot between May and October around Sydney and is a co-production between Horgos Buer Culture Media and Pauline Chan and Deidre Kitcher’s Opal Films International.
While China grants only a small number of foreign films a theatrical release each year, Aussie films have enjoyed some box office success in China of late. Hacksaw Ridge grossed $80 million and was granted an extended theatrical release, a rare feat for a foreign film. Kimble Rendall’s Bait 3D also grossed some AUD$24.4 million back in 2012.
The Death and Life of Otto Bloom has also been shortlisted for the Tiantan Award at the 2017 Beijing International Film Festival.