A FILM production company is using China’s love of all things Australian and its growing appetite for western culture to break into the booming Chinese television market.
South Australian company 57 Films has forged a successful path into China and has two very different programs airing on China Central Television (CCTV) every week.
It has also won a contract to make a promotional film for the Qingdao Municipal Government to promote the city, festivals and events in 2017.
57 Films also has a contract with the South Australian Government to produce about 25 short promotional messages a year including news announcements, events and delegations to be featured online and in social media.
Director/Producer Paul Ryan said it was through this contract that the company first worked in China on a business mission to Shandong in 2014.
“In the relationships that eschewed as a result of being over there on a high level delegation, that’s how a lot of this work happened,” Ryan said.
“We’re now earning money from China into Australia.”
The company’s first big contract in China came through a partnership with Qingdao Television for the Chef Exchange program, making it the first Australian international production company to have a joint venture with them.
The show follows the travels of South Australian-based chef Jock Zonfrillo and Shandong’s Qu Jianmin in Australia and China.
“From the Chinese point of view it’s an opportunity to share true Chinese culture and food,” Ryan said.
“It’s also a chance to show off our pristine South Australian environment, diversity of products and abundance of seafood, which gives a little bit of a tourism and export spin-off for the quality of our food.”
Chef Exchange is now shown nationally on Chinese television following a broadcast deal between QTV and CCTV. Ryan said 57 FIlms was in discussions with Channel Nine to air the show in Australia.
The company is also having success on CCTV with a weekly sports program. It was engaged by the Port Adelaide Football Club earlier this year to produce a series of 30-minute documentaries to help promote Australian rules football in China.
Premiering on April 2, The AFL Show is shown on CCTV 5 in the prime time spot of 9.30pm on Saturdays and is watched by up to two million people a week.
“We’ve made 16 or 17 programs now and they have been incredibly well received in China. We were originally only planning on doing 10 but it’s just grown and grown,” Ryan said.
“I was really surprised in terms of the interest it’s generated.”
The shows follow the progress of Chinese national Chen Shaoliang who has come to South Australia to improve his Australian football skills while training with Port Adelaide. It also features segments on the rules and highlights from the weekly round of Australian Football League matches.
“Having a Chinese player coming to Australia showed skin in the game it was a masterstroke,” Ryan said.
“We certainly want to partner with them on an ongoing basis and see what we can do next year.”
“Port Adelaide is a very broad thinking club.
“They’re community minded and China is a great opportunity for them to grow their business.”
Until about five years ago, the bulk of 57 Films’ work was in Australia for mining, oil and gas companies. But a global downturn in the resources sector forced it to broaden its search for new clients.
“We’re a good example of why the focus on China makes sense for all sorts of businesses,” Ryan said.
57 Films won a contract in March with the Qingdao Municipal Government to shoot a high-level international promotional film to showcase the Shandong city to the world.
“We’re working on that right now and that’s a real honour to win an international tender like that.
“Our own focus has been more and more connections with China because to get television series up and productions of the scale that we’re now getting out of there is virtually impossible in Australia.”
Ryan said the biggest challenges in China had been learning the legal and financial models.
“It’s taken longer than I thought but now we do have money going in to an Australian Bank of China account and we travel back and forward very comfortably.
“It’s just taking the time to understand the bits that you need to know. I’ve just started Chinese tutoring and another producer here has as well and that initial change has become a really enjoyable thing.
“Like anywhere, it’s about relationships. It’s about being respectful and focused and attentive and the rest of it looks after itself.”