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Doc Edge 2010 breaks the mould

The China Day presentation was informative, bilingual, and – with one panelist’s name (Shihui) translating as ‘Ten Flowers’ – artfully formed.

A fifteen-strong delegation attended from China, demonstrating the increasing openness with which the Chinese conducts its relationships with overseas organisations.

Attendees from LIC, the Hulunbier Institute of Natural History and Culture, China Newsreel and Documentary Film Studio, Inner Mongolia TV, the Sichuan TV Festival and the Guangzhou Documentary Film Festival were introduced and – although communication was difficult with some delegates not speaking English – hopefully made to feel welcome by the warmth of the applause.

The two presentations came from LIC, a network syndicator and the Guangzhou Documentary Festival (GZDOC) – see separate article.

Introducing LIC, Cheng Shihui quoted Napoleon Bonaparte: “Let the giant China sleep, because when it awakens the world will tremble.”

The popular perception of China as being huge, government-controlled and (potentially) difficult for foreigners to work might be based in fact, but there are plenty of other aspects to the country that bear further investigation – not least of which is the fact that the country has over 2,000 TV channels.

The country, in terms of the amount of TV content it consumes, is certainly awakening to the outside world. The quotas on international films released in mainland China don’t apply to television and, although some political censorship still applies – shows about Tibet are fine, but mentioning the Dalai Lama is not – international content makes up an increasing amount of the material seen on Chinese TV screens. Documentary certainly benefits from the increasing amount of content being made available.

One of the companies doing the math on the amount of content required for that number of screens is LIC. Originally a distributor for Aussie broadcaster ABC, LIC now has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, employing over 240 people all – in one way or another – delivering documentary content to Chinese stations and the world.

As a producer, LIC creating (Chinese-related) documentaries for the international market. It currently produces less than 10 hours a year for the international market, but is working to increase this amount.

As a network syndicator, LIC provides content across 300 of the 2000 channels, predominantly focused on 6 slots: Saga (1 hour, daily); Saga China (30 mins, daily); Fabulous Nature (30 mins, daily); Enjoyable Creation (30 mins, daily); The Real 50 Minutes (1 hour, weekdays); and Military Academy (1 hour, weekends).

Content for these slots is mostly acquired from, co-produced with or commissioned from international producers. (The exception is Saga China which sources both Chinese domestic content and stories of Chinese emigrees from overseas.) 80% of material is reversioned for the Chinese market, with around 20% produced either domestically or co-productions targeted for the domestic Chinese market.

Nonetheless, LIC is acquiring in excess of 500 hours’ content each year, mostly bought in packages through distributors.

The syndicator runs a novel deal of mostly providing the programmes free to stations, many of which are regional or local broadcasters, in exchange for the ad sales take during the screenings.

LIC has existing relationships with a number of providers, including Australia’s Beyond Entertainment and Shanghai Media Group, with both of which it has co-production partnerships. It also provides 90% of the content for Sohu a web portal which hosts and screens international documentaries.

The company uses Perth-based Peter du Cane, of Wildfilms Australia, as an Executive Producer for its international co-productions.

LIC is also keen for you to know that it offers a number of services for inbound filmmakers, from taking care of paperwork and permits to supplying inhouse bi-lingual researchers, production crew, equipment and facilities.

The Chinese delegation and many of the other international guests, some of whom attended AIDC last week, moved on to a reception hosted by Auckland City Council at the end of the day. Some of them only got off a plane from Australia at 3am, and one member of the delegation was fined $200 for bringing in a jar of Australian honey.

One might have hoped the welcome to NZ for international guests attending a conference more for NZ’s benefit than their own could have been a little more generous.

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