Chinese-Australian co-productions got a shot in the arm at the Beijing Film Festival on Thursday with 15 features being announced, including films starring Jackie Chan and Li Bingbing
Fourteen of those films are part of a development slate worth $300 million that's been put together by production group Sydney Film. The 15th film on the slate, writer-director Yiwei Liu's At Last, has been awarded official Chinese-Australian co-production status, the seventh film to be designated as such.
At Last centers on a couple from Beijing who find themselves caught in a complex art heist while on holiday in Australia. It will shoot in Queensland, Australia, from July, injecting $8.1 million (AUS$10.8 million) into the local economy. Casting is currently underway.
Guardians of The Tomb, starring Li Bingbing and currently in post-production, is the most recent official co-production between the two nations since a treaty was signed a decade ago. Others have included Bait 3D and Children of the Silk Road, with My Extraordinary Wedding and Tying the Knot set to go into production.
At Last is being produced by Jackie Jiao, Todd Fellman, Charles Fan and Vanessa Wu, from China's Monumental Films, Australia's Roadman Films and Story Bridge Films.
Richard Harris, head of business and audience at Screen Australia, which manages the official co-production program, said: "We have seen increased interest in Australian-Chinese co-productions with At Last being the fourth feature announced since late 2015. This upswing in activity is the result of seven years of engagement with the Chinese screen industry and the sustained support of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television in China."
At the same time Sydney Film, part of the Pacific Holdings Group, said it was aiming to identify 20 existing or potential co-production films with an overall investment budget of $300 million (¥2 billion). All films will be shot in both China and Australia, with several productions intending to use multiple locations across Australia.
Among the 14 films already on the group's slate are Dalei Guo's comedies A Trip to Australia and Once Upon a Time in the Northeast- Artistic Youth, Trader Behind the Scenes, written by Dong Minghui and based on his own experiences of the China stock market crash in 2015, and Dream Reader Union, a sci-fi feature involving ancient Emperors and Dragon lore and a young hacker who discovers he is bound together with five strangers who are entrusted with saving the world from an imminent threat.
The films were unveiled at an Australian event at the Beijing Film Festival held by locations marketing agency Ausfilm and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The relationship between the Chinese and Australian film industries is deepening with Jackie Chan's Bleeding Steel the biggest budget Chinese feature ever to film in Australia. Australian films including Hacksaw Ridge and Bait 3D have enjoyed Chinese box office success and the number of Chinese films released in Australian cinemas topped 30 in 2016 with The Mermaid grossing more than $976,000.