The increasing economic cooperation between the Chinese and U.S is no tightly held secret, but its impact on the film industry is just now becoming apparent. China is notoriously strict about which Western films it shows, reportedly refusing to screen The Departed for implying that Beijing has military connections.
That tide is turning. Large movie studios are beginning to enter lucrative “co-productions” with partners in China, utilizing the resources of both countries to create international hits. This, of course, has business implications, such as Dreamworks opening a new studio in China.
But more relevantly, this is affecting the creative process too. Major co-produced blockbusters yet to be released this year, including Looper and Cloud Atlas, prominently feature Chinese characters and settings. Even Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man and other big superheroes, has entered a co-production to create a Chinese superhero movie with global appeal. Creative freedom has always been bounded by business constraints, but this is a surprising new form of synergy.
Who knows if this will become a lasting trend like product placement, but for the near future, it’s good to take heed of the business decisions behind new creative directions in film.