Authorities want studios to focus on script quality, not star power

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/14 19:28:39

Chinese actor Kris Wu attends a promotional event for his new movie Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back in Shanghai, China, January 18, 2017. Photo: IC

The authorities are leading an unprecedented overhaul of China's drama sector, an industry that has been damaged by an over-focus on stardom and a chronic neglect of script quality.

"The industry is deformed. Scripts make great concessions to stars and directors in the pursuit of big audiences. The guidance is China's first comprehensive move to sort out the industry," Zhang Peng, a film researcher at the National Research Center of Cultural Industries in Nanjing University, told the Global Times.

A circular jointly issued by five central government departments on September 4 outlined recommendations for the drama industry, covering scripts, industrial structure, participants, streaming and a future development goal.

Scripts first

The circular said media industry associations should introduce cost allocation guidelines to help persuade companies to place less emphasis on top actors.

Broadcasting platforms should not regard famous stars as the sole criterion when purchasing dramas, the circular reads.

The phenomenon is a result of little effort being put into script quality, Zhang said.

"The script in most entertainment works usually is given less attention and fund-support than it should have, because most of the spotlight and money is given to stars, who are seen as the main factor affecting audience ratings," Zhang argued.

China's scriptwriters usually only get about 10 percent of a film paychecks, while starring performers get up to half, Zhang said,

Despite this, movies with better-quality stories have shown they can win box-office glory.

Action blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2 was a monumental success in China, with its story of a Chinese soldier saving the day in a war-torn African nation raking in 5.6 billion yuan($854 million) as of Wednesday, the Beijing Review reported.

It was also the first ever non-Hollywood movie to break into the global list of the 100 highest-earning films of all-time.

"The film depicts personal stories and emotions in the context of the nation. Its success is not a surprise as it differs from China's typical, didactic mainstream movies," Zhang said.

Most Chinese film and drama series which tackle big topics such as war, the revolution and history fail to connect with viewers, especially those of the younger generation, Zhang told the Global Times.

Goodbye Mr. Loser, which made a national splash by earning 1.4 billion yuan, was able to resonate with viewers not by using big names, but its beautiful script which tells normal people's stories, he added.

The circular says that investment and payment need to reflect creative values. The industry is asked to put forward suggestions on how to distribute earnings more equitably.

China has a glut of dramatic works, but a shortage of films and shows that actually satisfy viewers, Ren Ran, a film industry commentator, wrote in the Guangming Daily.

"Industrial prosperity cannot simply be measured in the number of works, but must be judged on their quality too," he wrote.

The Chinese TV industry produced 330 drama series in total last year, National Bureau of Statistics data shows.

It is easy for the industry to be beset by irrational competition in terms of investment and production when capital input is so great, Ren wrote.

"The circular will guide and shape the industry to transit from director- and star-led to script-led and professionalize script workers, who act as the essence of a work," Zhang noted.

The government will support scriptwriter training at all levels and also start to train directors and producers on a regular basis, according to the circular.

Mainstream values

According to the circular, the authorities are resolute in their goal of making high-quality drama series that praise the Party, the country, the people and the hero in the next four years.

Chinese regulators will work to ensure that approved dramas meet standards of artistic and ideological merit.

"The authorities are trying to strengthen socialist core values in recreational works in a bid to avoid social and value conflicts as some groups including the young lack a solid recognition toward the country," Zhang Yiwu, a professor of culture from Peking University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Dramas about the revolution and military or rural and ethnic minority life will receive designated primetime slots on major television stations and online platforms.

Socialist core values should guide drama series and their scripts, the circular reads.

The circular will alert industrial personnel that drama series cannot cross the line, Zhang Yiwu said.
Newspaper headline: Rewriting drama

Posted in: SOCIETY

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