Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu in his recent interview with me touts ”a next-generation entertainment company that’s lean and mean and scalable. Building an ecosystem for the bigger Chinese movie scene. Exploring a new pathway and being a pioneer. As we say in Chinese, ‘Being the first brave man who has the guts to taste the crabs.’” Here are the bullet points:
– On his complex network of companies: Of the $800 million he claims his new Harvest Seven Stars Media Fund has raised, Wu says about $500M is committed for eventual acquisitions and investments. But the capital won’t be called until a target is identified. “We’re actively looking for takeovers,” he says. “An exhibitor is not very interesting for me. My personal interest is mainly in digital distribution, or top-tier IP ownership.” As for individual movie projects, “Our position is we are always prepared to finance it all.”
– On skepticism about all the partnerships and deals he’s announced over the past 15 months: “In a way, I understand the skepticism but I’m not bothered by it. To me, I focus on the fundamentals of business. It’s how do I build lean-and-mean scalable high-value creation, great IP creation, great brand creation with the best talent for the content, very strong digital distribution, all distribution, partnerships with best partners in every silo, control pay and platform digital distribution and control the new generation of P&A which is social media marketing and viral. Those to me are the fundamentals.”
– On his planned Chinawood: It has morphed into a holding in Tianjin and an operational base to be set up in Shanghai. A recent partnership with Pinewood will be incorporated into Chinawood. The Shanghai facility is expected to house a few hundred production companies along the Pinewood model in England and Wu says it will be partly operational early next year.
– On partnering with a Hollywood studio: “I think we will probably have to. We probably won’t be able to completely stay in the independent world. There are so many people approaching us.” His theatrical distribution is still through only China Film Group and Huaxia but he will announce a “major partnership” in that area, too.
– On China putting Hollywood films up against each other: ”Last year was very difficult for the Chinese movies. Hollywood movies killed the Chinese movies. So it was very natural for the regulators to try to help the Chinese movies. But it’s a temporary measure.”
– On China’s censorship of Hollywood movies: “It’s not just a regulatory issue, it’s also a cultural and habit issue, an acceptance level issue. So I think this is understandable. I think Chinese censorship on a film is very relaxed. Unless you touch on a political taboo. It is very easy for us to get a film through. But given that, we follow the rules, also. I always follow the rules. No fake co-productions. We know how to make content agreeable and acceptable. We’re very good at that.”
– On the mistakes Hollywood agencies make doing business in China: “Hollywood agencies ought to play a much better role in the development of Chinese films. Otherwise they’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. [They] probably will have to change their business models in dealing with China. Currently, they’re continuing with a model they did with the Germans, the Italians, the Russians, the Indians, all the suckers that had money to come into Hollywood. I think, for China, there needs to be a more customized approach. We have real needs [that are] not being addressed. They come from the angle of ’I am Hollywood and this is what you should do with me’ rather than, ‘What can I do for you?’”
– On his immediate TV platform plans: A cloud based social TV platform, with a radio component, is expected to launch in the next year via Seven Stars. And Wu is involved in Tiger TV which will be a mixed martial arts channel launching late this summer in both the U.S. and China.
– On why Chinese films don’t travel: “You have to first redefine the definition of Chinese movies. I don’t believe Chinese movies should only have Chinese cast and talents shooting it with a Chinese story. The moment you have subtitles and you have to speak Chinese, you already limit your global audience. So that’s why I’m keen on making English language movies. English is still the global language and we can’t change that. Chinese creative storytelling still has a way to go. And we lack tremendous craftsmanship.
– On his deal with former Marvel chief Avi Arad: His Arad Productions is to develop four superhero franchises in the next 5 years, plus properties including live-action tent pole features, animated TV series, merchandising, digital platforms, and mobile applications. Arad’s first project with Wu will be the animated series Rise Of The Terracotta Warriors. Wu hopes to start pre-production this summer.
– On his deal with Fast & Furious 6 director Justin Lin: 17 or 18 projects in development with 12 or 13 already in 2nd or 3rd drafts of scripts. “There are one or two very close to being greenlit. I think Justin is the most talented Asian-descent director on the globe. Number one. Period. He’s the first Asian director that broke into the billion dollar club. We’re very honored to be his partner.” Lin also is working on a passion project based on an all-time Manga series which will take another year of development to ready. In between they’ll do a TV series and also “something fantastic which I can’t talk about right now”.
– On his new deal with producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam: The next project with the veteran French exec under their Angel Storm banner is Triangle, about a U.S. DEA agent investigating a case in Southeast Asia’s drug hub.
– On The Last Empress: Despite the death of Jake Eberts, it’ss being drafted by a Chinese writer before being passed on to a U.S. screenwriter for the English-language take. Gong Li is still attached.
– On the remake of John Woo’s The Killer: Plans for a feature were scrapped “because of the difference of opinion over the script” so it now will be become a TV series through one of Wu’s companies.