China Canada Gateway — more opportunities for filmmakers at WFF 

Twelve Canadian film collaborations pitch for spots with Chinese producers

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Twelve writer/producer teams from across Canada have been named as the finalists for the China Canada Gateway Film Script Competition, part of the Whistler Film Festival (WFF).

The teams will pitch their movie projects to three Chinese production companies and three international experts, with the aim of making films suitable for both the Chinese domestic and international markets.

This is the second year of the three-year event at WFF, following a memorandum of understanding between Telefilm Canada and the China Film Group.

"We really had a wonderful quality of applicants this year," said Jane Milner, the WFF's director of China Canada Gateway for Film. "This is in terms of understanding and meeting the criteria for applying for a Canada-China co-production.

"I think in the first year, a lot of people pulled existing projects off the shelf and didn't always give a lot of thought as to whether they were appropriate for what we were trying to do. This year, almost everybody did work specifically for the Chinese market."

At least three of the 12 projects will be chosen for development, with potentially millions of dollars in production financing on the table for the winners.

The announcement was made by the WFF in a release on Thursday, Oct. 31.

The 12 teams were selected by jury members Eva Cao, Head of Productions, Huayi Brothers International and Victoria Hon, Producer, Director of International Cooperation, Hairun Pictures and include:

Clash – written by Chester Sit, produced by Josh; Deception and Honour — written by Sandy Yates, produced by Shari Hamrick, Alianza Films International; Hockey Sole — written and produced by Deborah Hu; Hunting Sasquatch — written by Mark Leiren-Young, produced by Tony Wosk; Keyboard Warrior — written by Osric Chau, produced by Jessica Dhillon; Little Big Fish — written by Simone Stock and Shawn Tanaka, produced by Misha Skoric; Rebound! — written by Alistair Stewart, produced by Chris Nanos, Radke Films; The Art of Wushu — written by Sandra Feldman, produced by Tasso Lakas; The Hot Pot Engagement — written by Rui (Mary) Zhang, produced by Massey Brothers Film; The Immortal — written by I-Fan, produced by Ori Kowarsky; The Shanghai Hotel — written and produced by Adria Budd Johnson and Eric Johnson; and Zamboni — written by Brian Dick and Tricia Finn, produced by Brian Dick, Gun Lake Pictures, executive producer Sacha McLean.

Milner said that she has been learning more about the Chinese culture and the way business is done in that country and has found it fascinating.

"You think you know it and then six months later things change because it is growing so fast. It's the wild west," she said.

"I'm not just talking about 'screens are growing, the box office is growing.' It is, absolutely, by a ton every year. I am also talking about audience sophistication and what they are looking for in entertainment. It's on an up-growth curve. It's incredible."

The three Chinese production companies at the table are Edko Film, representedby Executive Producer Mathew Tang, Xian Film and TV Producton Co. Ltd, represented by CEO Wang LE, and Beijing Guoyingshengshi Culture Communication Co., represented by President Zhiping Zhao.

One of the unexpected outcomes of last year's pitch day, is that unaffiliated Chinese production companies are coming to the 2013 festival to check out the Canadian talent, Milner said.

"They are coming to watch what's going on. If they see something they like, there are other opportunities (for pitching Canadian companies)," she said. "There are lots of opportunities that aren't that obvious."

Another for the filmmakers of one project picked last year, The Eddie Zhao Story, was that one of the international experts acting as an advisor in the China Canada Gateway program jumped in as a distributor.

"I fully expect others to do this this year," Milner said. "The expert went to the filmmaker and said 'I like your project so much and when the movie is made I want to talk to you about the international distribution."

This year, the panel of experts vetting the pitches are Elisabeth Costa De Beauregard Rose, president of International Sales and Distribution, Voltage Pictures; Kirk D'Amico, president and CEO, Myriad Pictures, and Mark Slone, senior vice-president of acquisitions, Entertainment One.


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