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Franck Priot • Productor, Ghosts City

"Mientras descubríamos el mercado chino, trabajamos 12 horas al día durante 55 días, sin descanso"


- Hablamos con Franck Priot, productor de Ghosts City, una productora con sede en París y Pekín

Franck Priot  • Productor, Ghosts City

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

Ghosts City is a production company based in both Paris and Beijing that helps Chinese and French production companies to set up projects together. We chatted to Ghosts City producer Franck Priot at the recent Bridging the Dragon event.

Last year, you line-produced the biggest Chinese production ever made in France, the TV series Crocodile and Toothpick Bird, starring Chen Bolin and Zhang Tian Ai, and shot in Bordeaux. How was your experience with the Chinese crew?
Franck Priot: 
They were quite good at what they were doing. In this case, the director, cinematographer and sound designer were extremely skilled, with a lot of experience, and they had been working together for many years. However, France and China are very different countries, so the issues mainly arose from cultural differences. There were skilled people on both sides, but from time to time, everyone needs to adapt. Time management is very different for the Chinese: they don’t plan the way we do. Or they do plan, and then they change things at the last minute, whereas the French are used to planning things for good. 

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What were the biggest challenges in the collaboration?
The working conditions in China are very different from European standards – there is no limit in terms of working hours per day, and they just do as many hours as needed. We had to have two teams for all of the people working on set, like drivers, assistants and so on, who would change shifts every three days. We all worked 12 hours a day for 55 days, without a break, which is unusual, even for Chinese crews. But of course, they wanted to keep the budget as low as possible. The whole shooting process was very fast with three cameras on set. They were using every tool possible to create a look that was really cinematic and beautifully shot. Overall, our team consisted of 100 Chinese and 100 French crew members on set, of which, incidentally, 90% were recruited in Bordeaux – so it was a very demanding shoot for everyone. 

Why is it beneficial for European film producers to work with Chinese companies?
We work across various different stages of productions, from executive producer, via co-producer and line producer, to producer. As consultants, we help companies to sell the rights and negotiate co-productions, setting up deals, as an executive producer would do; we have our own projects. And for Crocodile, we handled the physical production of the 20 episodes shot in France, getting the money from TRIP, the French tax rebate. My partner Shu Ye even has a co-producer credit.

The main point is the learning process, and this can happen in various ways. The Chinese TV landscape is changing even faster than that of Europe, but their system is much more flexible. For example, classical broadcasts can be combined with VoD models. The broadcasting method is not so predetermined, but rather it’s more individually adapted to each project – in this regard, Chinese people are extremely pragmatic. Whatever brings the best financial results is the correct way to do it.

Do you think the future will bring more collaborations between Europe and China?
Definitely, since the investment capacity of China is on the up. China will be increasingly interested in more European elements, be they locations, technical or storytelling skills, ideas, remake rights, talents and so on. However, co-productions need a subject that can appeal to both sides, and this will never change. But the Chinese audiences are getting used to a wider range of movies, thanks to the increase in the number of foreign movies released in China: there were 121 in 2018, from Europe, India, Asia and so on.

I see an especially bright future in animation: the difference in costs is still an issue sometimes, but it is decreasing, if you take our tax rebates into consideration. I think that producing a high-quality CGI animation would be even cheaper in Europe right now than in China. I have also noticed that the decent Chinese cinematographers are already more expensive than their European counterparts, and general labour will get more expensive there in the long run, as the value of land in China is increasing very rapidly.

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