Three lucky Canadian writer-producer teams could see their dream projects on the Chinese big screen and beyond following Thursday's (Nov.29) announcement of the winners of the Whistler Film Festival's (WFF) groundbreaking China Canada Gateway For Film Script Competition.
“It's really the first of years to come of doing some great business with our partners in China and I'm really excited for the opportunity for Canadian talent to be able to work at that level and for us to be the place that it's happening,” said WFF's executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw. The China Canada Gateway initiative will take place in Whistler for at least the next two years.
The contest brought in three major Chinese studios to hear project pitches from 13 finalists chosen from 109 applicants, during a marathon session in the Whistler Conference Centre Thursday.
The creative teams outlined their projects to studio executives and a panel of international film industry veterans, with an estimated $15 million in total funding available in for the films.
Chinese studio Galloping Horse selected the romantic comedy Blush, written by Richard Bell and produced by Elizabeth Yake (It's All Gone Pete Tong) as their project.
“Every time I come here something really magical happens. I think the first time I came (to the WFF) I sold a film, which was really good,” said Yake.
Beijing Hairun Pictures picked The Eddie Zhao Story, written by Guy Bennett (Punch) and produced by Raymond Massey, who took home WFF's 2004 Borsos award for best Canadian feature for the mockumentary The Papal Chase, which starred Canuck prankster Kenny Hotz of Kenny vs. Spenny fame.
“This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me!” yelled Bennett to loud applause. “I always imagined that there would be flashbulbs going off in front of me, why did it take so long?” he joked as photographers snapped shots.
The project is based on an Los Angeles Times story about a Chinese immigrant to America who turned into a private eye helping other landed Chinese after he was tricked out of his life savings by an American conman.
Finally, Wuxi Studios picked Butterfly Tale, written by Heidi Foss and produced by Marie-Claude Beauchamp (Edge of Madness).
“We really feel strongly about this idea about being a real co-production, a real exchange of talent and of professionals and also a real exchange of culture,” said Beauchamp. Wasting no time, the creative teams met with their Chinese backers immediately following the announcement, with projects expected to go into production next year, although the timeline ultimately depends on the needs of the proponents. Each project's estimated budget is $5 million.
The films are expected to be sellable on the Chinese and international markets and will be co-produced using Canadian and Chinese production teams. The China Canada Gateway for Film Script Competition is the first national effort of its kind, and the first that has received the blessing of Beijing-based China Film Group, one of the most renowned production companies in China.