Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Shaw Studios and Co-Production Models
On Friday, I had the opportunity to interview the business director of Shaw Studios about the practice of film co-production between the U.S. and Greater China. One of my goals for this project is to identify both financially and strategically successful models for co-production. My interviewee on Friday had some interesting insight into the process. Namely, he highlighted the fact that studios, especially major Hong Kong studios like the Shaw Brothers, have had extensive experience driving their own productions. When asked to collaborate with other studios, particularly other power players like those in Hollywood, the co-production process becomes a bit bumpy. His argument was that the successful Hollywood/Hong Kong co-production would include a highly respected independent producer/director combo and the strength of Hong Kong filmmaking infrastructure. This structure would essentially give the Hong Kong side freedom to manage the studio as they choose while the director and producer would focus on achieving the desired creative and financial results. The upshot is that in addition to competitive advantage driven by economies of scale in China and to a lesser degree, Hong Kong, film co-productions rely tremendously on a workable power dynamic between the different regional partners. While this is by no means new news, the delicate power balance between partners from both sides of the Pacific has been an important challenge in every one of the productions I have studied. The next step will be to better understand if the same model works as well within the Mainland context.