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Iron Man 3 Dan Mintz

Written By King on Friday, November 2, 2012 | 5:10 AM

'Iron Man 3' Producer Dan Mintz Reveals China Co-Production Status, Offers Advice to Hollywood (Q&A)


The Beijing-based 'Looper' producer discusses the latest "Iron Man" speculation, how the Chinese industry is changing and how Hollywood can crack the world's fastest-growing major film market.

Dan Mintz, American producer and CEO of Beijing-based studio DMG Entertainment, first arrived in China in 1989 to shoot scenery for a short TV commercial. He essentially never went home.
 
“The hook for me was about seizing a moment in time,

Mintz recently told The Hollywood Reporter by phone from Beijing. 

“New York City, where I was born and raised, is the greatest city in the world, but it was already built. Seeing China at that time, I felt that if you spent five years here, you would see 30 years of growth and history - and you could take part in that.”
 
Mintz founded DMG in 1993 with Chinese partners Peter Xiao and Bing Wu and put his experience to work in the local market, shooting commercials for TV, which were still rare in local broadcasting.

Fast forward a decade (or roughly 60 years in China time), and the company had established itself as one of the major marketing and advertising firms in China, with offices in five cities and clients including Volkswagen and the NBA. In 2009, DMG co-produced the government-sponsored pseudo-propaganda vehicle The Founding of the Republic, marking the country’s 60th anniversary.
The romantic comedy Go Lala Go! came in 2010. And the company’s first Hollywood co-production, Looper, was released this fall, earning $20.23 million in China (as of October 21) and $61.9 million in North America, with $75 million for all international territories—a $30-million budget hit.
DMG is currently co-producing Iron Man 3 with Walt Disney's Marvel Studios, a big step up for the company into studio franchise entertainment. When the film’s official trailer dropped online on October 23, it generated the desired buzz among fans, thanks to its stark mood, swift pacing and the presentation of Ben Kingsley in the role of the Mandarin. But within the industry, and among China-watchers, a more skeptical response soon emerged. Where was China?
As the Chinese box has boomed in recent years, becoming the world’s number three film market behind the U.S. and Japan, Hollywood studios have taken a keen interest in forging co-production agreements with Chinese studios, because such status ensures easier entry into the market and entitlement to a higher take of Chinese box-office receipts. On the Chinese side, the understanding has been that any co-production must share copyrights, investment and returns with a Chinese partner, and have Chinese elements integrated in to the story, in order to qualify.
The Iron Man 3 trailer reveals no Chinese cast or settings, and with a May 3 release date looming, many have been skeptical about whether a promised China shoot is even going to take place. A recent warning from the country’s entertainment regulator, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, saying that it plans to crack down on films that try to exploit the co-production terms by including only token Chinese elements, has only escalated the uncertainty and speculation.
 
Mintz spoke with THR about the lessons Looper taught him about the Chinese audience, the recent public doubts swirling around Iron Man 3, and his advice to Hollywood on how to crack China.

Mintz: We’re very pleased with it on a lot of levels. First off, it’s a great film. And then the way China was integrated into the story and the way it was released were both kind of trailblazing. There’s never been a modern film in Mainland China that approaches the future. What will Shanghai look like in 40 years? That had never been done. Every part of the film that had some China facet attached to it that was challenging, but in a way that helped the story. And that’s what we want. Getting that particular day-and-date, on September 28, at the very start of a Chinese national holiday—you couldn’t have gotten a more challenging time to try to bring out an international film in China [‘day-and-date’ is a simultaneous worldwide release date in multiple major markets, which typically boosts a film’s box office performance]. Even though we collaborated on the film as a Chinese studio, it was an English language picture with an international cast. It’s not at all easy to get a film like this into the Chinese market on a national holiday. So that was kind of historic and I think it showed the way we’re perceived in the market and the way DMG films are going to be handled in China.

Mintz: Okay, first off, Iron Man 3 is absolutely a DMG co-production. Obviously I can’t talk about story, but we’ll be filming in China before the end of the year and we’ll have an announcement about Chinese cast members sometime very soon—all will be revealed.
About the co-production issue, of course, it’s kind of sensitive. What I will say is that I’ve lived in China for 20 years and we’ve been working at this a long time—and there’s no single loophole to be exploited, like some have been suggesting. You can’t waltz in thinking you can get around something. It just isn’t there. This market doesn’t work that way. The big things that happen do so because they’re wanted to happen. It’s like filmmaking itself; it’s all in the minutiae. It’s about your reputation in the market, based on what you’ve delivered, and the relationships you have.

Mintz: Let’s talk about cycles. If you’re in a place for a good amount of time, you start to recognize cycles, which really helps you strategize. I’ve noticed a pattern of people focusing on the wrong things. As an example, when I first showed up in China in 1989, getting an official certificate to open a business was very difficult, even as a Chinese person. As a westerner, it was almost impossible. So people were so focused on getting this piece of paper that when they did get it, they’d often realize they hadn’t even spent the time figuring out how they were actually going to build a viable business in China.
The same thing happened here recently within the film industry. Everyone had been so focused on the official quota number of how many films are allowed into the Chinese market, that they neglected to really examine every other step of the process. If you actually look at it, the China Film Group controls every aspect of distribution—how much you can market, when you’re put in, against what competition, and how long you stay in. So when the rule changed to allow more foreign films in, everyone celebrated. But look what happened. At the start of the year, some Hollywood films were brought in under the new quota and did quite well. But then they started to move them, so studios weren’t getting a day-and-date. And then they started to put Hollywood films up against each other, as with The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man—the same genre, on the same day, with neither of them getting day-and-date. So they lost, who knows, half of what they might have made in China. So here’s another example of narrow focus.
Now it’s the same thing with co-productions, and the co-production approval process. Do you see what I’m saying? They’d love you to focus all your energy on trying to crack this so-called co-production formula, because as soon as you do, you’ll realize it never was the most important thing.

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