Resort island forging new film production base

HAIKOU, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) — Though winter is often seen as a slack season for film production due to the cold weather, the movie company Ma Di works for has seen an increase in orders.

Ma is a project manager at a company offering film-related services such as costume design and prop creation. Her team is now busy preparing for a movie that will be shot on China’s tropical island of Hainan.

“In December, most cities in China experience cold winters, so it is infeasible to shoot movies in the open air. But in Hainan, we don’t have such problems,” said Ma.

That was one of the principal reasons why Ma’s company chose Hainan as its filming location. Preferential policies rolled out by the local government have also added to its increasing appeal to film companies, she added.

China’s southernmost Hainan Province has been seen as a natural studio, featuring a winterless climate, white beaches and beautiful scenery. In recent years, the local government has been tapping into these natural advantages, implementing a slew of policies to create an international movie center.

Since 2018, the scenic province has been hosting the Hainan Island International Film Festival, which now includes venture capital projects and a training club for young screenwriters.

In May, the provincial capital Haikou announced awards to boost the presence of film companies and movie releases. When a movie produced by a local company hosts its premiere in the city, for example, the maximum award for that single screening could be as much as 1 million yuan (about 152,600 U.S. dollars).

“The policies have surely made a difference, but the key advantages for the local film industry come from the plan to build Hainan into a free trade port,” said Song Minghan, a professor at the College of Humanities and Communications of Hainan University.

On June 1, China released a master plan for the Hainan Free Trade Port, which set corporate and individual income taxes at relatively low levels and exempted tariffs on imported equipment for company use. The policies can help companies in Hainan cut costs and attract more talent, Song added.

Data from Hainan’s film administration shows that more than 600 film enterprises have been established in Hainan since June 1, including approximately 20 registered by celebrities in China’s movie sector.

Despite the favorable winds, experts have admitted that a lack of expertise is a major obstacle facing the province’s film industry ambitions. Moreover, digital technologies are reducing the need for on-site filming, eroding the advantage of Hainan’s natural environment.

“Hainan has noted these problems and has quickly taken measures to hedge against them,” said Zhou Shixing, a director with Wardour Studios Academy at the Haikou University of Economics. He pointed to the establishment of three film academies in Hainan, two of which have started enrolling students.

At Zhou’s academy, 12 programs including photography and animation have enrolled 467 students for their first year in 2020. He expects Hainan to become a training base for film personnel within three to five years.

“Hainan is building itself as an international tourism and consumption destination. The next step is learning from other countries’ practices to better integrate the film industry with tourism,” said Song.

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