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Movie Town's Starring Role
New TV and film center in north China promotes its advantages to movie makers
By Ji Jing | VOL.10 November ChinAfrica ·2018-11-08

Shanghai-based Dragon TV's reality show Top Funny Comedian filming at Dachang Movie Town (COURTESY PHOTO) 

It's not every day you happen to see a dead wolf, an elephant and a horse just lying around. But then this is no ordinary location. The animals are just some of the weird and wonderful props used at a special effects makeup studio located in the Dachang Movie Town, Dachang Hui Autonomous County in Langfang City, north of China's Hebei Province. 

Xiao Jin Special Effects Makeup Studio, founded by stylist Xiao Jin in 2010, has participated in the production of the 2014 fantasy film The Ghouls and made over 30 wolves, 40 sheep and 10 horses for the 2015 Sino-French co-production Wolf Totem. 

Xiao decided to move his studio in Beijing to Dachang as his studio at that time could no longer satisfy the expansion needs of his business. 

After some initial hesitation, he visited Dachang following a friend's recommendation. "I never imagined such a beautiful place so close to Beijing," said Xiao, more than satisfied with the environment and facilities on offer. More importantly, the town's strong industrial chain proved to be the decisive factor in his decision. 

"For instance, the movie The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang, in which Jackie Chan plays the leading role, was shot in that town while we were responsible for its special effects. It's very convenient," said Xiao. 

The Xiao Jin Special Effects Makeup Studio in Dachang Movie Town (COURTESY PHOTO) 

Ideal film location 

Established in 2016 by real estate developer China Fortune Land Development Co. Ltd. (CFLD), the town covers an area of 148,667 square meters with six world-class film studios and three TV studios. It has attracted over 100 enterprises forming an industrial chain incorporating innovative project incubation, shooting, post-production and copyright trading. In addition to films, TV shows such as Impossible Challenge and National Treasure broadcast on China Central Television were also filmed in the town. 

The town is expected to embrace new opportunities for development as a program aimed at bridging film projects with investors was launched at the Film and Tourism Forum held on September 15. The program was launched by Dachang Movie Town and Beijing-based film consultancy Juyinghui. A 1-billion-yuan ($145 million) foundation funded by CFLD was set up at the forum to provide financial support for potential movie projects. 

Zhu Yuqing, founder and CEO of Juyinghui, said the program aims to build a platform for film producers and private investors to cooperate with each other. 

Zhu said although Dachang Movie Town has excellent infrastructure, few movies were shot there because the venue was not well-known among directors and producers. The program is designed to attract interest from those within the industry. 

More specifically, under the program, 50 film projects will be selected from over 100 candidates using an evaluation system developed by Juyinghui. 

The system employs electroencephalogram test, facial expression analysis and questionnaires to test the audience's response to a movie in a bid to improve the editing process. The test is conducted on 125 people in a special cinema with hi-tech equipment. However, in cases where a movie hasn't started shooting, the evaluation will be based primarily on questionnaires to determine whether a concept should be developed into a film. 

10 projects out of the 50 will be chosen to join the workshop launched at the forum. 

The movie town will offer a series of favorable policies for the 10 films, such as allowing them to set up offices in the town rent-free for the first year and providing financial support. The administrative approval processes for the films will also be fast-tracked. 

Attracting filmmakers 

The Hebei Provincial Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has set up an office in the town to provide one-stop administrative approval services for cultural and innovative enterprises and projects in Dachang, Xianghe and Sanhe counties in Langfang. 

"We can expand our business by off­ering an evaluation for film projects while Dachang Movie Town will make its industrial chain more complete by attracting more films to be shot there in the process," said Zhu, who is optimistic about the future of the town. 

He said Dachang Movie Town has special geographical advantages as it is close to Beijing's sub-administrative center Tongzhou District. After Universal Studios in Tongzhou finishes construction, a media and film industry belt spanning Chaoyang District, Tongzhou and Dachang will be formed. 

It's estimated that there were nearly 30 movie towns in China as of September 2017, most of which are located in coastal areas in east and southeast China. For instance, east China's Zhejiang Province has six movie towns which are either operational or under construction. 

However, in spite of the large number of movie towns in China, Beijing has few such venues due to the cost of land. 

"If one can make a movie in Dachang, why should they go to Hengdian?" said Zhu, referring to one of China's biggest film and television program production centers in Zhejiang. 

However, he pointed out that in order to stand out among the vast number of movie towns in China, the town needs to increase its competitiveness by offering something unique. "For instance, if directors can turn their creative ideas into finished movie products in the town, surely more people will be willing to come," he added.  

(Comments to niyanshuo@chinafrica.cn) 

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