China Film & Photography Production Services & Camera Crews
Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in China? Contact us for trusted fixers, producers, directors, DoPs, videographers, photographers, and full shooting crews tailored for the specific needs of your project.
Filming in China
For an introduction to shooting in China see below notes on film locations, permits, when to shoot, unique local stories, costs, tax incentives, crews, talent, fringes, premiums, equipment, communications, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits for filming, transport, film-friendly accommodation, and safety advice.
Production In China: An Introduction
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.
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.
China Film Locations
China offers some of the world’s most stunning modern architecture, corporate and industrial locations, megacities, traditional villages, deserts and salt plains, breathtaking mountains, undiscovered forests and rivers, turquoise white sand beaches, impressive roads and tunnels, and a wealth of unique historic locations available for filming. China has the most extensive high speed rail network in the world. Shanghai has the world’s busiest seaport. Beijing is the second busiest airport in the world.
China ranks first worldwide in farm output. Agricultural film locations include plantations of tea, wheat, corn, barley, cotton, and rice paddies. It is also a leading producer of pigs, chickens, sheep and cattle. With the world’s largest fishing fleet, commercial fishing vessels are also available for filming. China mines for coal, iron ore, nickel, precious metals, oil and gas. Energy locations of note include hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, and coal-fired power plants. China is a leading location for global manufacturing. Factories produce all matter of heavy and light industry items including iron, steel, aluminium, textiles, apparel, electronics, automobiles, trains, ships, and aircraft, to name a few industrial film locations.
Films hosted in China include Ghost in the Shell (2017), Her (2013), Skyfall (2012), Looper (2012), Mission: Impossible III (2006), Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), Armageddon (1998), The Last Emperor (1987), and Empire of the Sun (1987).
China’s film locations can be divided into the following regions:
Beijing Municipality. Beijing is the political, historic, and artistic capital of China. Unique cultural locations include the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, Temple of Heaven, Lama Temple, and the Summer Palace. The Great Wall of China is a short drive from Beijing. District 798 is an East German designed factory complex that has become home to dozens of contemporary art galleries, lofts, restaurants and creative companies. Historic hutongs are now some of the trendiest parts of the city. Beijing also has creative modern architecture such as the CCTV Headquarters building and Zoho Peaks. The 1800km long, hand-dug Grand Canal runs from Beijing to Hangzhou. 2008 Beijing Olympics venues including the Beijing National Stadium “Bird’s Nest”. Daxing International Airport is the world’s largest airport (2019).
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.
Tianjin Municipality. Tianjin is the third largest city in China. Tianjin University has a cavernous concrete gymnasium with impressive light. Tianjin Museum’s exterior is a modern structure that looks like a spaceship. Tianjin Binhai Library is an impressive film location. Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park. Florentia Village clone town is inspired by Venice, Rome and Florence.
Hebei Province. Jackson Hole clone village. Puning Temple. Old Dragon’s Head is where the Great Wall of China meets the sea. Mount Cangyan. Huangya Pass. Quirky Tianzi Hotel just outside of Beijing. Seashore Library sits on the white sands of a beach in Nandaihe.
Shanxi Province. Hanging Temple on Mount Hengshan. East Taihang Glasswalk. Hukou Waterfall is the largest waterfall on the Yellow River. Pagoda of Fogong Temple. Yungcheng City has a multicolored salt lake that changes color as water density fluctuates.
Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Da Zhao Temple. Mausoleum of Genghis Khan. Erlian kissing dinosaurs. Gobi Desert.
Liaoning Province. Mukden Palace. Fuling Tomb. Qianshan National Park. The Red Beach is located near Panjin City. Ring of Life in Fushun. The Castle Hotel in Dalian. The Flying Kiss Theme Park in Dalian.
Jilin Province. Changbai Mountains. Changbai Waterfall. Rime Island. The Piano House in Huainan.
Heilongjiang Province. Northern city of Harbin is known for the Saint Sophia Cathedral, Taiyang Island Xuebohui, Volga Manor, and Zhaolin Park. Outside of Harbin you can find the Yabuli Ski Resort.
Shanghai Municipality. Shanghai is the financial capital of China. Locations of note include The Bund, Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower, Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower, People’s Square, Jade Buddha Temple, Longhua Temple, Yu Garden, Nanjing Road, Nanpu Bridge, Circular Pedestrian Bridge in Lujiazui, and neighborhoods such as the French Concession and Xintiandi. Thames Town is an English replica village. The Shimao Wonderland InterContinental is the world’s first “earthscraper”, a hotel built inside an abandoned quarry.
Jiangsu Province. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum. Jiming Temple. The historic city of Nanjing. The Lotus Building in Wujin. Zhouzhuang Water Town. Yangzhou water forest.
Zhejiang Province. Wuzhen ancient Chinese water town. Tianducheng is a housing estate in the suburbs of Hangzhou known for its Parisian style architecture, fountains, landscaping, and Eiffel Tower replica. The abandoned fishing village on Gouqi Island is part of the Zhoushan Archipelago. Wenling is famous for the house that stands in the middle of a motorway. Qiandao Lake and underwater city of Shicheng. Yandang Mountains. Sheraton Hotel in Huzhou. Traditional cormorant fishing can be filmed on the Nanxi River.
Anhui Province. Huangshan mountain. Mount Jiuhua. Qiyunshan Tree House.
Fujian Province. Gulangyu Island. Xichan Temple. Anping Bridge in Quanzhou. Fujian Tulou cluster of ancient micro-villages. Star Trek Enterprise Building in Fuzhou. Yongfu Town in Longyan is known for its blooming cherry trees in February surrounded by deep green tea plantations.
Jiangxi Province. Mount Lu. Mount Sanqing. Donglin Temple. Mount Longhu.
Shandong Province. Mount Tai. Thousand Buddha Mountain. Temple of Confucius. Lingyan Temple. The seaside city of Qingdao is known for its historical German colonial-era villas, and the world famous Tsingtao Beer Brewery. Qingdao Haiwan Bridge is the world’s longest bridge over water.
Henan Province. Guoliang Tunnel. Pagoda Forest at Shaolin Temple. Shaolin Monastery. Temple of The Flying Monks. Knot Bridge of Changsha. Longmen Grottoes. Zhengzhou’s Henan Art Center and Henan Museum. Spring Temple Buddha statue.
Hubei Province. The city of Wuhan is often called the Chicago of China with its modern skyscrapers rising above the Yangtze and Han river waterfront. Wuhan buildings of note include the Wuhan Greenland Center, Wuhan Center, and Yellow Crane Tower. Hubei province is also known for the Three Gorges Dam, Wudang Mountains, East Lake, Colossal Statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou, Sidu River Bridge, and a highway over water that connects Xingshang County to the Zhaojun Bridge.
Hunan Province. Tianzi Mountains. Tianmen Shan (Heaven’s Gate Mountain). Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Wulingyuan. Yueyang Tower. Phoenix Ancient City. The world’s highest and longest glass-bottomed suspension bridge over Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. Haohan Qiao bridge. Bailong Elevator in Zhangjiajie. Ancient town of Fenghuang. Wind and Rain Bridges.
Guangdong Province. Shamian Island. Baiyun Mountain. Mount Danxia. Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Hallstatt is a cloned Austrian village. Shenzhen is a global tech hub. Huawei has a European-style research-and-development campus in Dongguan. Towers of Kaiping. Zhuhai Opera House. Huaao Stone Forest.
Hainan Province. Yalong Bay. Tianya Haijiao. Wuzhizhou Island. Phoenix Island.
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is know for its rivers, caves and towering karst formations of Yangshuo. Xianren Bridge, also known as Fairy Bridge, is the world’s largest natural arch. The Yulong River has an ancient stone arch bridge. Longsheng rice terraces are a spectacular location. Elephant Trunk Hill. Moon Hill. Weizhou Island. Reed Flute Cave.
Macau Special Administrative Region.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge connects Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.
Chongqing Municipality. Chongqing modern skyline is impressive with the Jialing River that runs through it. Liziba is a train station in Chongqing that travels through a block of flats. Guotai Arts Center in Chongqing. Three Gorges. Fengdu Ghost City. Wulong Karst.
Sichuan Province is famous for its flavourful cooking. Jiuzhai Valley National Park. Yarchen Monastery in the mountains of northwestern Sichuan. Larung Gar Buddhist Academy. Huanglong travertine pools. Bifengxia Giant Panda Base. New Century Global Center in Chengdu is the world’s largest building in terms of floor area. Qushan Town 2008 earthquake ruins are visited by thousands of people every year.
Guizhou Province. Huangguoshu Waterfall. Wuling Mountains. Qingyan Ancient Town. Beipanjiang Bridge. FAST Radio Telescope is the world’s largest. Jiabang rice terraces are a spectacular film location.
Yunnan Province. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Tiger Leaping Gorge. Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple. Lugu Lake. Old Town of Lijiang. Black Dragon Pool. Largest man-made waterfall in Asia in Kunming. The Red Earth Terraces of Dongchuan. Lexiaguo Terreced Fields. Rapeseed Fields in Luoping. Honghe Hani rice terraces in Southern Yunnan. Shilin Stone Forest. White Water Terraces of Shangri-la.
Shaanxi Province. Xi’an was the starting point for the Silk Road. It an ancient city known for its city walls, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Shaanxi History Museum. Nearby you can find the Terracotta Warriors, Huashan (scary hike up and the Huashan Teahouse), and Mount Taibai. The Gu Guanyin Buddhist Temple has a 1,400-year-old ginkgo tree who’s leaves turn bright gold in the fall.
Gansu Province. The Rainbow Mountains of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park are a spectacular location. Crescent Lake oasis in Dunhuang. Mogao Caves. Bingling Temple. Labrang Monastery. Jiayuguan. Maijishan Grottoes. Thousand Buddha Caves. Qilian Mountains.
Qinghai Province. The Himalayan range goes through Qinghai. Chaka Salt Lake. Qinghai Lake. Kumbum Monastery. Rongwo Monastery. Tanggula Mountains. Kanbula National Forest Park. Xining Dongguan Grand Mosque. Longyangxia Dam Solar Park is one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the world.
Tibet Autonomous Region.
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Western Xia tombs. Drum tower. Shapotou. Suyukou National Forest Park. One Hundred and Eight Stupas. Pagoda of Chengtian Temple.
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Heavenly Lake of Tianshan. Kanas Lake. Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves. Bogda Peak. Pamir Mountains. Id Kah Mosque. Tarim Desert Highway across the Taklamakan desert. Huyang trees grow in the desert, and each autumn, their leaves turn gold, making for some spectacular nature photography.
China Film Location Permits
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. Contact us for location-specific information.
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
• Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival runs from December to February
Most Chinese are not religious. A minority practise Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
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.
Unique Local Stories
Brands are looking for local stories that match their brand narrative. Our local teams are a great lead for sourcing those unique stories and characters.
If you are looking for stories for your next shoot, send us your brief and we will pitch you ideas.
If you have a unique story you would like to pitch to a brand anywhere in the world, pitch us your idea. We have well-established processes to ensure that your ideas are properly seen and protected.
Costs & Tax Incentives
Costs. Chinese government currency controls keep the RMB undervalued and therefore the purchasing power of foreign currencies remains strong. Although low-skilled labour costs in China may be low, the cost of professional crew and filming in China is on par with wealthy Western countries. The cost of shooting in Shanghai and Beijing is on par with any other major international cities like Tokyo, London, or New York. That said, our locally based fixers and service producers will negotiate deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget.
Tax Incentives. In terms of financial incentives, a 40% rebate is available for films shooting at Wanda’s Movie Metropolis facility in Qingdao.
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.
Film Crew & Talent
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.
Talent in China is non-union, day rate and buyout costs are negotiable.
Mandarin is the main language of the 292 living languages in China.
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, higher-end Western talent can be quickly and easily brought in from Hong Kong, although the costs can be expensive.
Fringes and Premiums. There is 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.
China Film Equipment
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.
China is an ATA carnet country. For smaller projects looking to bring in their own gear and supplement with local rentals, note, most Chinese camera, grip and lighting rental houses require a gear minder to be hired to accompany the gear. If you’re working to a tight budget and cannot afford to hire a minder, it’s best to double check what gear is best hired locally and what is best to bring in with you.
Communications. In terms of communications, bandwidth in China can be unreliable. Some websites are also blocked from access. Government authorities are also cracking down on VPN’s. WeChat is a good way to communicate with locals.
Communication is key. Our agility and global experience allows us to customise the right communications systems for every shoot.
Web posted casting, scouting, and videoconferencing.
For clients that are unable to attend set we offer a virtual video village solution. This dedicated and secure high-resolution video streaming platform allows clients from one or multiple timezones to view setups without compromise and to participate in real-time with the team on set. Separate systems can be set up for the discrete conversations that are required to make a job run right. Working remotely with our local teams reduces your content production costs, turnaround times, carbon footprint, and risks associated with unpredictable global events.
Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production
Art department and set construction is inexpensive and quite good. China has played host to several feature films including Empire of the Sun (1987), and Last Emperor (1987).
Studios exist in all the major cities with the best facilities being in Shanghai and Beijing. Pinewood Studios has a branch in Beijing. Qingdao Movie Metropolis is a massive complex featuring 30 film studios, a theme park, shopping mall, luxury hotels, and even a yacht club and international hospital.
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 (1987).
Post Production. No labs. Technicolor, Digital District and PO are the big players in Shanghai.
Visas & Work Permits
What visa do you apply for when you want to come and film in China? There isn’t one easy answer. Each job needs its own specific approach so it’s important to have a Chinese fixer / service producer who is well versed on the latest rules and work-arounds.
The safest option is arriving on a J2 visa. This option costs the most and takes the longest time to process. Commercial and non-commercial visa options exist which have different costs and timing for processing.
Some crews arrive on business visas or tourist visas. This is a good option if you do not have enough time, are mostly (or only) going to be filming small footprint in private locations, and if you are only arriving with little equipment (or no equipment and renting all locally). Business visas are safer, particularly if you are coming to film for a locally based company who can sponsor you.
Some cities allow a Travel Without Visa option for stays of up to 144 hours. Specific conditions apply.
Note some city’s custom officials are stricter than others when it comes to enforcing rules. Beijing customs has become stricter so it’s best not to gamble arriving as a tourist if you are carrying a lot of film equipment with you.
Film crews planning to shoot in Tibet or other restricted areas require additional permits to enter.
Contact us for our local team to advise on the approach that best suits the specifics of your shoot.
Transport & Accommodation
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. Contact us for recommended film friendly hotels in Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Harbin and other parts of China. For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments.
Safety. With the right service company China is a safe and reliable shooting destination. See here for up to date travel advice.
Down Time. China has a great diversity of regional cuisines.
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:
Hire China Production Support & Shooting Crew
If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in China, please contact us.
If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in China, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us.
We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.