014: Robert Cain – How China Can Avoid Getting in Its Own Way

014: Robert Cain – How China Can Avoid Getting in Its Own Way

Today I interview China specialist – Robert Cain of Pacific Bridge Pictures.  He talks plainly about China’s lack of appreciation for good scripts, the challenges of co-productions and how the Chinese government gets in its own way.
He is candid in his opinion on China’s now life-long president (Xi JinPing) and the clampdown on working with foreigners.  Luckily he reminds us that China needs westerners’ expertise to get Chinese films to cross borders.

He offers advice on how to make your script appeal to the Chinese market. And he explains why it’s easier to get meetings in China than in Hollywood.



1. Money out of China:  Rob said it’s getting trickier to getting money out of China. One thing Rob does is advise international firms is how to set up a company in China and finding a Chinese partner.  My two cents – get expert advice before you find a Chinese partner.


2. Go to China: Rob mentioned that here in Los Angeles – the film industry tends to be hierarchical. But in China – that’s not necessarily the case. You can call up executives and set up meetings more easily in China than in the U.S.  I found this to be true myself.

3. Chinese vs American screenplays:
 Rob mentioned a problem he’d like to solve is getting the Chinese film execs to appreciate quality screenplays with empathetic characters, obstacles, and 3 act structures. I wrote a blog post about the difference in Chinese and American screenwriting (see the show notes). But Rob was very clear how he said he didn’t think China was making good movies at all unless occasionally by accident.

Rob compared South Korea’s government and how they loosened up their control of the entertainment business which resulted in globally appealing films, music and TV. The Chinese government (as we all know from the news is taking more control).
On the macro side – the government level – there’s nothing you can do. But on an individual level if you want to make a film or to projects for China – they must be designed from the ground up to appeal to a Chinese audience. You can’t shoe-horn an American script – change the names and Locations and expect Chinese producers to be interested.




1. WECHAT: Chinese people love We-chat. So, get a WeChat address and put it on your business card. Recently I was at the Hong Kong Filmart and everyone uses WeChat.


2. CONTACTS: Maintain your database of contacts. I know I’ve met an amazing amount of Chinese film executives and I’d like to pose a question to the audience. Which CRM (customer relationship management) app do you find the best? I use Insightly but am open to suggestions.


3. DON’T CHASE THE MARKET: Rob mentioned this and I’ve heard from several professionals about how Chinese filmmakers chase last weeks’ blockbuster and try to copy it. If rom-coms were dead two years ago but they were hot last week – then let’s shoot a rom-com. Or now – several Chinese producers are rushing to India to grab some magic that films like “Dangal” and “Secret Superstar “. But if you chase the market – you’re already 2 years behind because it will take that long to get your film on screen. Don’t chase the market. Write what you’re passionate about in your original voice. But to appeal to a Chinese studio – your script can’t be so one of a kind that your Chinese investors have no easy comparables. It’s the old cliché – it’s got to be the same yet different.

My own take. As Rob said, action films are always in demand. Sci-fi and comedies (Chinese comedies and that’s tricky for an American writer to pull off) can work. However, I myself stick with action. But in my scripts – the lead is female. What works for me is to follow the rule when it comes to story – “The same but different”.  The quote “same” for me is action films and the quote “different” part is – my action films are female-led and unlike most action films – my target audience – is women. The same but different.


China Hollywood Greenlight Podcast – Episode 14

Robert Cain

Show Notes

Host: Caryn McCann

Website: www.Chinahollywoodgreenlight.com

Podcasts: https://3staging.chinahollywoodgreenlight.com/podcasts-2/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CHGreenLight/

Twitter: @KungFuRockChick

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/2H1sMLn

A blog post that highlights the difference between the US and Chinese scripts: “How Chinese Films Can Attract an American Audience

Guest: Robert Cain, Business Strategy & Finance, Media, China specialist

Website: https://chinafilmbiz.com

Forbes:    https://www.forbes.com/sites/robcain/#21774f637230

Email:      rob@pacificbridgepics.com


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