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China

China Film & Photography Production Services.

Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in China? We have fully vetted, locally based fixers, service producers, directors, DP’s, videographers, cameramen, photographers, sound operators, production drivers, and a range of other film crew. Contact us for referrals, questions, cost estimates and references.

Want to know more about shooting in China? See below for an introduction to China locations, permits, when to shoot, costs, talent, crews, fringes and premiums, equipment, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits, film friendly hotels, transport, communications and safety advice.

An introduction to production in China:

Shanghai is China’s financial capital and is also the main centre for advertising. Beijing is the cultural capital of China and focuses more on TV and Film production.

Most multinational companies have their China headquarters based in Shanghai therefore you will find most China head offices of international advertising agencies also based in Shanghai. Beijing agencies tend to look after the domestic brands. Beijing budgets are smaller than Shanghai budgets but the volume of work is much larger.

The advertising industry in Shanghai was mostly built by industry professionals from Taipei and Hong Kong. The Beijing advertising industry is dominated more by local industry professionals. Tapping into either the Shanghai or Beijing industry therefore requires a markedly different approach.

Of the main Chinese advertising centres – Shanghai, Beijing Taipei and Hong Kong, Beijing is in many ways the least established and the fastest growing. Signs of Beijing’s rise as a creative centre can be seen in examples such as District 798, an East-German designed factory complex that has become home to dozens of contemporary art galleries, lofts, restaurants and creative companies.

Guangzhou is another Chinese production centre worth mentioning. The set construction capability in terms of quality and cost is very impressive. It is also located only one hour from Hong Kong so access to Hong Kong’s production resources is easy and inexpensive.

Film Locations. China offers some of the world’s most stunning modern architecture, corporate and industrial locations, turquoise white sand beaches, rice paddies, traditional villages, breathtaking roads and tunnels ideal for car commercials (such as Guoliang Tunnel), deserts and salt plains including Danxia landform, breathtaking mountains such as the Himalayas and Tianzi Mountains, undiscovered forests and rivers. China also has a wealth of unique cultural locations including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Terracotta Warriors, and Shangri-La.

The Forbidden City does not allow commercial shoots but it is possible to shoot small footprint handheld shoots such as documentaries. For commercials there is a life-sized Forbidden City backlot option located not far from Shanghai.

Some unusual locations to consider for your next shoot include an aircraft carrier, the underwater city of Shicheng, and New South China Mall (the world’s largest mall which sits empty).

Films hosted in China include The Great Wall, The Last Emperor, Mission: Impossible III, Skyfall and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

China Location Permits and Restrictions. There are no city-wide permits. It is essential to have a good Chinese fixer or production service producer to navigate the process and sensitive locations. Rules, regulations and procedures for setting up a production are different for every part of China. It can take a bit of planning so choosing a service company that has a strong nationwide on the ground network and established operating procedures is essential. Permitting times vary depending on the location and use. Locations such as airports and subways are possible to film in but location fees are expensive and location control is restricted. Shutting down city streets is very difficult but limited traffic control such as rolling blocks are possible. A no-fly-zone applies to all major cities. Helicopter footage can be shot outside of cities. Allow plenty of time for permitting.

When to shoot? China is a large country with a vast diversity of climates. North and central China tends to have hot, dry summers (June to September) and freezing cold winters (December to March) with clear blue skies. Southeast China has rainy, semi-tropical summers and cool winters. Western and Himalayan China has very harsh, cold winters. For monthly weather statistics please see here.

Festivals and events of interest to filmmakers and photographers include:

• Chinese New Year held in January / February
• Lantern Festival in February
• Pure and Bright Festival (Qingming) in April
• Shanghai F1 Grand Prix in April
• Dragon Boat Festival in June
• Xinjiang Apricot Blossom from June to September.
• Mid-Autumn Festival in September / October

Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. In particular, it’s best to avoid shooting around Chinese New Year, May Day and Labour Day. See here for public holiday dates in China.

Costs. Chinese government currency controls keep the RMB undervalued and therefore the purchasing power of foreign currencies remains strong. Although labour costs in China may be low, the cost of professional crew and filming in China as a whole is steadily on the rise. The cost of shooting in Shanghai and Beijing is on par with any other major international cities. That said, our locally based fixers and service producers will negotiate deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget.

Talent is non-union, day rate and buyout costs are negotiable.

China is home to 56 distinct ethnic groups including the majority Han Chinese, and minorities including Uyghurs and Tibetans.

China has a growing pool of global talent looks. If needed, Western talent looks can be quickly and easily brought in from Hong Kong, although the costs can be expensive.

Crew. China has a good pool of local English speaking directors, directors of photography and stills photographers including many expats now based in China. Local crews continue to gain more experience in servicing visiting productions. Crews are non-union. Rates and hours of work are negotiable and flexible to budgetary requirements. Labour on the whole is abundant and very inexpensive in China however costs of skilled key crew members are now on par with costs in the West. Although crews understand the language of film many are not fluent in English. Translators are provided to help jobs run smoothly. Production support is of course fluent in English.

Contact us if you are looking for a Shanghai, Beijing, or Guangzhou based director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew in China.

Fringes and Premiums. No 6th or 7th day, weekend or night premiums with crew or talent. A 30 – 50% surcharge does apply if you are going to shoot during Chinese New Year or on the first week of the month of May Day and October Labour Day. Some crews have started charging overtime after 16 hours.

Equipment. China is Arri based. Additional equipment can be easily imported from Hong Kong. China has a good stock of locally available equipment including Arri 435 & 535, Pegasus Crane, Libra Heads, Panther Dollies, as well as new Alexa and Phantom cameras. For the more complicated shoots requiring equipment such as Fly-Cam, Motion Control, Steady-Cam or Tracing Car that can be easily accessed from Hong Kong suppliers. If you are planning on bringing in your own gear our Chinese fixer / producer organises easy customs clearance.

Art department and set construction is inexpensive and quite good. China has played host to several feature films including Empire of the Sun, Last Emperor, and Hero.

Studios exist in all the major cities with the best facilities being in Shanghai and Beijing. Pinewood Studios has a branch in Beijing.

Backlots. Hengdian World Studios has a Forbidden City backlot about 4 hours drive from Shanghai. Please see here for images. There also exists a backlot of 1930’s Shanghai that was built for Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.

Tax. All business transactions within China incur tax up to 15% of total production cost. Providing the commercial is to be aired outside of China and your payment is made to the service company’s overseas bank account, you will not incur this tax.

Most experienced service companies will have established financial procedures and a Hong Kong bank account.

In terms of financial incentives, a 40% rebate is available for films shooting at Wanda’s Movie Metropolis facility in Qingdao.

Post Production. No labs. All digital these days. Technicolor, Digital District and PO are the big players in Shanghai.

Visas and Work Permits. Visiting crews are not required to have work permits. Most crew choose to arrive under a tourist visa. Problems with government officials only start if you are bringing in large amounts of film equipment. Journalists who intend to go to China for short-term news coverage of no more than 180 days are required to apply for a Short-term Journalist Visa. Visitors to Tibet require additional permits to enter.

Transportation Infrastructure. Roads inside major cities and roads connecting cities are up to international standards. More rural and mountainous roads are slower going. China is well serviced by domestic airlines and most major international carriers have direct flights into China.

Accommodation. It is less expensive to book hotels through foreign travel websites than from within China. Recommended film friendly hotels in China include:

Shanghai:
Park Hyatt
The Puli Hotel and Spa
Urbn Hotel

Beijing:
Fairmont
The Opposite House

For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments.

Communication. Web posted casting, scouting and videoconferencing. Bandwidth in China can be unreliable. Some websites are also blocked from access.

Safety. With the right service company China is a safe and reliable shooting destination. See here for up to date travel advice.

Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in China, please see below:

Down Time. China has a great diversity of regional cuisines.

If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer in China, please contact us.

We are able to provide you with answers, bids and references quickly.