Before Jackie Chan found fame, he spent some of his youth in Australia. When he was 7, Chan’s parents moved from Hong Kong to Canberra where his father worked as the head chef at the American Embassy. Chan moved back to the Australian capital when he was 22, when he attended a local college and worked as a construction worker. His time in the building industry was shortlived, however, and he soon started on the path to stardom with his breakthrough role in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978).
Chan’s parents stayed in Australia until their deaths. To commemorate them, the action star, now 63, has helped to fund a scientific education centre at a cancer research institute in the Australian capital.
“It is about time I did something for Canberra to remember my parents. I really thank you Australia and Canberra for taking care of my parents for 46 years,” he told reporters.
So perhaps it is fitting for Chan to star in the first ever China-Australia co-production too. Called Bleeding Steel, the film is said to have cost $60 million to make. It is backed by Village Roadshow and Heyi Pictures, the filmmaking arm of online video platform Youku Tudou, and scheduled for release in China in December. Set in Sydney, it follows the story of a special forces agent (played by Chan) who gets caught up in a conspiracy as he protects a young woman (Australian actress Tess Haubrich) who is a witness in a major case.
The co-production is also the first Chinese film to purchase a completion guarantee. Hollywood producers have used such guarantees for years, but the specialist insurance is new to the world’s second biggest film market. The purpose of the guarantees is to give comfort to the film’s investors that the project will conclude on time and within budget. If that fails, the guarantor pays for the cost overruns out of its own pocket. In return, it takes a percentage – usually up to 3% – of the film’s budget as its fee.
“Initially, those in the crew were very confused: why would we pay to have someone on set all the time to make sure we are doing our job?” Liu Kailu from Heyi Pictures told Yiyu Guancha, an entertainment industry blog.
“Indeed, the completion guarantee has caused some trouble, giving us additional workload, and incurring extra expenses. However, the more we work together, the more we appreciate what they do. They gave us a lot of supervision but they also gave us help and guidance to make sure we delivered everything on schedule.”
Film Finances, the UK-based completion guarantor that worked on Bleeding Steel, believes that more investors will see the value of the service that it provides.
“A lot of people think completion guarantees are not going to work in China because more often than not, the script is not even ready by the time filming starts. The culture here is ‘film as you go’. But we won’t reject those projects,” says Ye Heqing, Film Finances head in China. “What we are hoping to do is institutionalise the process of commercial filmmaking in China and to help set up standards and procedures.”
Prior to the filming of Bleeding Steel, the guarantor spent more time with the studio than it normally would with a Hollywood production. “In other countries, planning and budgeting are very clear and transparent. Chinese productions, on the other hand, are much more flexible and relaxed. In the West, we use emails for everything but in China, all the communication is done over WeChat. But at the end of the day, these are not irreconcilable differences. We just have to adjust accordingly,” says Ye.
When asked if Film Finances would offer the same kind of guarantee for a film by Wong Kar-wai, a Hong Kong director notorious for altering the script a few hours before the scene is shot (Wong’s films are plagued with delays and reshoots), Ye said he was ready for the challenge.
“Of course, if there are directors that have a similar style to Wong, we’d be happy to collaborate under the right terms. But I doubt they will make up the majority,” he insisted.
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