South Australian film production company AMPCO Films has just signed a two picture deal with China and created Australia’s first official co-production film fund.
Led by Adelaide based Executive Producer Mario Andreacchio the films are worth $15 million with the first beginning pre-production in July. Romantic comedy Tying the Knot directed by Nadia Tass with producer and writer David Parker is a co-production between their company Cascade Films, AMPCO and Shanghai Film and Video Technology Company.
The second, an action/adventure film, Shimalaya will begin in August. Based on the true story of the world’s greatest aviation airlift in World War Two it is a collaboration between Chinawood Media Corporation, represented by Adelaide production company KOJO and AMPCO .
"It's taken us five years,” said Andreacchio. “After we did The Dragon Pearl that then gave us the foundations upon which to build our china production policy and what we're aiming to do is two to three China co-(productions) per year.”
AMPCO’s first co-production with China was a family film starring Sam Neill that topped the box office in its opening week in 2011. Using the culturally significant Chinese dragon as one of its main characters it was a risky venture.
“We had to go through this process of negotiation and trust building that we were going to be respectful and honourable in building a Chinese dragon,” said Andreacchio. “The final dragon that we produced they were so delighted with, it is now the benchmark as to how you create a Chinese dragon (on film).”
Andreacchio realised he wanted to make films in the Chinese market when he saw large American film studios like Warner Brothers establishing there.
“We very early on realised that you ignore China at your peril and we could see the influence China was having on the world industry,” he said. “The Chinese industry at that stage was expanding at a rate of 40 per cent per annum.”
Over time Andreacchio created the China Australia Screen Alliance, organised three film forums with the Australian Embassy in Beijing and took two delegations of Australian filmmakers to China.
AMPCO has now launched the China Co-production Film Fund to encourage and facilitate future co-productions. Working under a film treaty it allows Australian filmmakers to access a market that only distributes 34 foreign films a year yet is worth almost $3 billion.
“The film fund that we've set up isn’t just for finance it's also to help people put their co-productions together,” Andreacchio said.
“What we're trying to do is help encourage co-productions in a way so that they don't need to reinvent the wheel. Because it is a very complex process and a time consuming process we have started to establish quite a distinct pipeline that can connect Australia to China.”