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Thread: Ip Man 3

  1. #46
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    China premiere in March

    It is strangely gratifying to have seen this before China.

    On Screen China: ‘Ip Man 3’ Will Give a Kung-Fu Kick to March Box-Office Blues
    Home/Featured Stories, Home Page Slider/On Screen China: ‘Ip Man 3’ Will Give a Kung-Fu Kick to March Box-Office Blues
    By Jonathan Papish|March 3rd, 2016

    Typically slow month for theaters will get a boost from Ip Man 3, though two-month release delay means pirated copies are out there
    CFI predicts roughly RMB 4 billion ($615 million) in total box-office revenues for March
    Disney’s Zootopia message may be lost across cultures


    (Courtesy Ip Man 3 Weibo)

    The month of March should come in like a lion for the Chinese box office this year. Historically it has been one of the colder months for moviegoing, as it follows the busy peak of the Lunar New Year’s rush, with March 2015 brining in in ticket sales of just RMB 2.88 billion ($440 million), the second lowest monthly total of 2015. This year, however, looks to change the trend as several films with breakout potential arrive in theaters, including Friday’s hotly anticipated new release, Ip Man 3.

    China Film Insider is predicting around RMB 4 billion ($615 million) in total box-office revenues for the month of March, which will be bolstered by the box office performance of Ip Man 3 and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which secured a rare day-and-date release with North America on March 25.

    Below, CFI takes a look at this weekend’s two biggest releases — Ip Man 3 and Disney Animation’s Zootopia, also opening simultaneously with North America.

    Ip Man 3 (叶问3) 3D
    China Distribution: Danyinmu Film Distribution (大银幕电影发行控股有限公司)
    U.S. Distribution: Well Go USA

    CFI Score – 7/10



    Chinese A-lister Donnie Yen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) returns as Yip Man, the beloved martial arts master to Bruce Lee, after a six-year hiatus, with director Wilson Yip at the helm again. The previous two installments were incredibly well-received by mainland audiences — 2008’s Ip Man surprised analysts by grossing more than RMB 100 million ($15 million), a rare feat at the time, and Ip Man 2 was the fifth highest-grossing Chinese-language film for 2010 with RMB 232 million ($35.5 million).

    Rookie distributor Danyinmu’s decision to delay Ip Man 3’s original Christmas Eve release date has been met with some doubts amongst critical Ip Man fans. While that avoided putting the film in competition with a raft of high-performing holiday hits in mainland China, the two-month delay has meant that pirated copies are already available online since the film was released across Asia at that time, and in the U.S. a month later. In addition, Hong Kong will be releasing an official Blu-Ray in the coming weeks, giving fans less of incentive to go to Chinese cinemas as there will be better quality unauthorized copies available.

    Still, we believe the hype built up in neighboring Asian countries will help Ip Man 3 easily outstrip last year’s SPL 2: A Time of Consequences (RMB 561 million) as the top Chinese-language action film in history. Ip Man 3 already beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens in several markets during the martial arts-action movie’s opening weekend and broke records for the highest-grossing Chinese-language film of all time in Singapore and Malaysia.

    The inclusion of American boxer Mike Tyson — who is surprisingly huge in China with over 1.5 million Weibo followers — will also entice casual walk-ins from a moviegoing public looking for something a little different after a month with the same few films dominating the screens. Tyson’s previous forays into the Chinese media landscape have included a valiant effort at promoting his new video game in Chinese as well as being the spokesperson for a Beijing-based cold medicine company.
    Gene Ching
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  2. #47
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    $75M for IM3...maybe...

    ...fraud allegations again.

    China Box Office: 'Ip Man 3' Opens to $75M Amid Fraud Allegations, 'The Mermaid' First to Cross $500M
    9:05 PM PST 3/6/2016 by Patrick Brzeski


    'Ip Man 3'
    Courtesy of Pegasus Motion Pictures

    'Zootopia,' meanwhile, gave Disney Animation its highest China debut ever, pulling in $23.5 million and earning rave local reviews.

    Ip Man 3, the latest installment of the hit Hong Kong martial-arts franchise starring Donnie Yen, punched its way to a massive opening weekend in mainland China.

    The fight flick, which was produced by Pegasus Motion Pictures and includes the stunt casting of Mike Tyson as a bone-crunching villain, grossed $71.5 million from Friday to Sunday, according to estimates from Beijing-based box-office monitor Ent Group.

    The film's high-flying rollout has been marred by widespread allegations of fraud, however.

    Several major media outlets, including the state-backed China Daily, carried reports Monday alleging that Ip Man 3's Chinese distributor, Dayinmu Film Distribution, orchestrated an audacious scheme to enhance the film's perceived performance.

    The distributor is accused of bulk-buying discount tickets to its own film through various cinema chains across the country. The theater chains then scheduled multiple "ghost screenings" after midnight, with ticket prices set to the highest rates to ensure that the title racked up major revenue. China Daily ran a screen grab from a Chinese mobile ticketing service showing weekend screenings for Ip Man 3 running from 5:40 p.m. to 11:25 p.m. and charging about $6 per seat (38 Chinese yuan) — a common discounted online rate for a movie ticket in much of China — followed by two additional screenings at 12:50 a.m. and 12:56 a.m. asking for a suspiciously steep $31 per seat (203 yuan).

    Some cinemas are alleged to have scheduled "sold-out" Ip Man 3 screenings every 10 minutes from midnight to 2 a.m. Reports of other alleged tactics include less desirable front row and aisle seats having been mysteriously sold out in advance to many Ip Man 3 screenings, and cinema chains in smaller regional markets reporting much larger grosses for the film than they have for other recent blockbusters.

    Chinese distributors have been accused of deploying such tactics in the past. Most notably, Edko Films admitted to buying some 40 million tickets to last summer's CGI fantasy blockbuster Monster Hunt, which eventually unseated Furious 7 to become China's top-grossing film ever. The studio apologized and said those involved in the activity would be reprimanded.

    Although bribing cinemas and mass-buying tickets to one's own films undoubtedly makes for hefty marketing expenses, the investment is believed to pay off if the mainstream Chinese attendance begins to regard the "hit" picture as an event film not to be missed.

    Last October, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), which oversees the country's media and entertainment sectors, said that it would introduce stricter regulation to improve oversight of ticket sales at cinemas. Wrongdoers would be blacklisted and their names made public, the regulators said.

    READ MORE China Box Office Pulls in Massive $1B in February, Topping North America
    Both SARFT and China Film Group, the country's dominant state-backed distributor, issued statements Monday saying they have begun investigating unspecified allegations of box-office fraud.

    "We have received many complaints about box office fraud," said the SARFT statement. "We will nullify box office returns as necessary and punish the cinemas, distributors and film companies involved, depending on the seriousness of the offense."

    SARFT Film Bureau head Zhang Hongsen also posted an ominously worded message via WeChat, writing: "It was not easy for the Chinese film market to get to the point where it is today. We should treat it with respect."

    China Daily's report further alleges that the inflation of Ip Man 3's gross may be part of an even larger accounting scandal, whereby the distributor's parent company, Kuali Group, sought to temporarily inflate the value of one or more of its publicly listed subsidiaries.

    Despite the hand-wringing and industry turmoil surrounding Ip Man 3, the Chinese film sector also had much to celebrate over the weekend. Stephen Chow's conservation-themed romantic comedy, The Mermaid, became the first-ever film to gross more than $500 million in China.

    The film crossed the half-billion threshold on Saturday and pulled in $9.9 million for the full weekend, lifting its record-breaking cumulative gross to $505 million (3.29 billion Chinese yuan) after 28 days in Chinese cinemas, according to data from Ent Group.

    The astounding performance gives The Mermaid membership in an elite group of just six other films that have earned more than $500 million from a single territory, not accounting for inflation. They are: Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($928.8 million), Avatar ($749.8 million), Titanic ($600.8 million), Jurassic World ($652 million), The Avengers ($623.4 million), and The Dark Knight ($533.3 million).

    The Mermaid's record run comes amid rapid growth in the Chinese movie market as a whole. In February, the Chinese box office took in $1.05 billion, surpassing North America's monthly haul ($798.6 million) for the second time in history. At its current rate of growth, China's theatrical market is expected to surpass North America as the world's largest sometime in early 2017.

    On Feb. 20, The Mermaid pushed past Monster Hunt, from director Raman Hui, to become the all-time top-grossing film at the Chinese box office. Monster Hunt grossed $373.7 million last summer (2.44 billion Chinese yuan), unseating prior record holder Furious 7's $371.7 (2.43 billion yuan). (Local Chinese currency is used to track box-office records, as the exchange rate to the U.S. dollar fluctuates considerably).

    Blending Chow's signature brand of ribald humor with a love story and an environmentalist message, The Mermaid centers on a billionaire playboy (Deng Chao) who buys a dolphin preserve with the intention of illegally developing it. A beautiful mermaid (played by newcomer Jelly Lin) plots to protect the aquatic paradise by seducing and assassinating the tycoon — but her plans go awry after she falls in love with him. The film was produced by Beijing Enlight Pictures and China Film Group.

    The Mermaid can be expected to extend its record slightly over the coming weeks. According to a statement from China Film Group released last Thursday, the film has been granted permission to screen for an additional three months in Chinese cinemas. In China's highly regulated film market, the gesture is akin to giving Chow and his producers permission to take a few victory laps.

    Zootopia, meanwhile, outshone local expectations, giving Disney Animation its biggest China opening ever with a second-place weekend haul of $23.5 million, according to Ent Group. Outstanding word of mouth surrounding the title — it currently has sky high ratings of 8.8 and 9.4, the highest of any title in wide release, on reviews aggregators Mtime and Douban, respectively — bodes well for a strong hold next weekend.
    Gene Ching
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  3. #48
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    Ouch. Bummer.

    So much for the ghost screening strategy.

    `Ip Man' Investor Sinks 37% Amid Reports of Chinese Probe
    Young-Sam Cho
    March 9, 2016 — 8:50 PM PST Updated on March 10, 2016 — 1:38 AM PST

    Shares tumble by a record in H.K. after surging almost 700%
    Xinhua New Agency says watchdog examining box office sales

    Shifang Holding Ltd., which owns rights to the "Ip Man 3" martial-arts film, plunged by a record in Hong Kong trading after Chinese media reported the government is investigating whether the movie’s box-office receipts have been artificially inflated via ticketing fraud.
    The stock tumbled 37 percent to close at HK$1.19 in Hong Kong, taking its losses this week to 67 percent. Shares in the Fujian province-based company had surged almost 700 percent in the previous five months.
    China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported this week that the film-industry watchdog is probing allegations of fraud after the movie, which stars Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson, raked in more than 500 million yuan ($77 million) within four days after its debut. The Xinhua report didn’t say where it got the information.



    On Tuesday, Shifang said in a statement that it doesn’t participate in any distribution or release activities of the film and that some online media reports about the movie’s box office results in China may have "greatly affected the reputation of the company."
    Shifang is entitled to 55 percent of the movie’s net box office income in China, according to the statement.
    Representatives at Shifang and China’s State Administration of Press, Publication Radio, Film and Television didn’t respond to requests for comment.
    Late last month, the publishing and advertising company named "Ip Man 3" producer Shi Jianxiang as its chairman and days later issued a press release discussing the stock’s surge over the past few months. Shi, 51, is also chairman of Shanghai Kuailu Investment Group Co. and served as a member of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, according to Shifang.
    Gene Ching
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  4. #49
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    That is too bad. But I guess I'm not surprised. I have doubts that KF/MA-related movies are anywhere near as popular in China as are non-MA related movies. I suspect that even in China, KF/MA movies are a niche market.

  5. #50
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    Busted

    China Punishes ‘Ip Man 3’ Distributor For Box Office Manipulation
    Patrick Frater
    Asia Bureau Chief


    COURTESY OF MANDARIN FILMS
    MARCH 19, 2016 | 09:13PM PT
    Chinese authorities have punished film distributor Beijing Max Screen for manipulating the box office of recently released “Ip Man 3.”

    The company is to be suspended from releasing films for a month, according to a statement from regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

    A special panel tasked by SAPPRFT probed the release of “Ip Man 3” which was reported to have earned a gross of over $70 million in its first three days of release. But other cinemagoers and other distributors rapidly cried foul and pointed to manipulation.

    According to state news agency Xinhua, Max Screen has now admitted to having bought up $8.61 million (RMB56 million) of tickets to its own film and to have helped create the appearance of 7,600 more screenings, so called ‘ghost screenings,’ that really took place.

    SAPPRFT has also given warnings to three online ticketing agencies and to some 73 cinemas, which had participated in the manipulation. Their names will be published on a website.

    Box office reporting in China has often been clouded with suspicion, something made possible by the rapid pace of cinema building, incompatible ticketing and reporting systems and simply the vast scale of the business.

    However, it is not always clear when it is being manipulated up, in order to inflate a film’s appearance of success and create buzz, or down in order to reduce or avoid revenue sharing and tax payments.

    In the case of “Ip Man 3” there was a clear incentive to inflate the figures. The chairman of Max Screen is Shi Jianxing, who is also chairman of Hong Kong-listed firm ShiFang, which in turn has a contract that gives it 55% participation in the theatrical revenues, not net profits, of “Ip Man 3” in mainland China.

    “Dozens of cinemas received punishment, ranging from warnings to removal of funding support and business suspension, for box office fraud in 2015” Xinhua said. “Earlier this year, authorities launched a campaign targeting box office misconduct, unlicensed copying and recording of films as well as poor screening quality.”
    This is so silly. Only China...
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  6. #51
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    This film is just plagued with controversy...

    Thu Mar 31, 2016 6:51am EDT
    Unpaid Chinese investors descend on offices of martial arts movie backer
    SHANGHAI | BY JAKE SPRING


    A man performs during a promotional event for the movie 'Ip Man 3' in Beijing, China, March 1, 2016.
    REUTERS/STRINGER


    Actors Donnie Yen (5th R) and Mike Tyson (centre L) attend a promotional event for the movie "Ip Man 3" with other actors and crew members in Beijing, China, March 1, 2016.
    CHINA STRINGER NETWORK

    More than 100 Chinese investors descended on the Shanghai offices of Jinlu Financial Advisors on Thursday demanding their money back from investments, including those tied to a martial arts film whose box office figures were inflated.

    Investors on the scene told Reuters that the asset manager invested in movies, real estate and various other sectors and had failed to pay out on investments maturing on or after March 25. They said they had not been informed of reasons for the delayed payments.

    According to the investors and Chinese media reports, those movies include Ip Man 3, whose distributor admitted last week to buying 56 million yuan ($8.66 million) in tickets to bump up sales.

    The Chinese film industry has been "blighted" by cinemas and distributors cheating to inflate box office figures through accounting ploys or other tricks, such as claiming ticket sales that exceed an auditorium's capacity, state-owned Xinhua news agency said in its report on the Ip Man 3 fraud last week.

    A man at Jinlu Financial Advisors who identified himself as working at the company said he wasn't authorized to comment on the matter. Other representatives of the company were unavailable to comment and calls to the financial firm's offices went unanswered.

    Cao Luhua, 31, told Reuters his wealth manager called Thursday morning to say it was possible he wouldn't be able to get roughly 1 million yuan invested with Jinlu Financial Advisors back.

    Cao said a friend who worked at the company had suggested he invest.

    "It's my whole family's money," he said, speaking outside Jinlu's offices as dozens of angry investors came and went.

    "This money I wanted to take back to my hometown and start a business with," said Cao, originally from the central Chinese city of Changsha. "One million yuan in Shanghai isn't enough to have a life in Shanghai, you can't buy an apartment."

    The incident casts doubt on the rapid growth in Chinese box office sales, which Xinhua said rose to around 44 billion yuan last year, up nearly 50 percent from 2014, at a time when North American ticket sales are slowing.

    Investors crowded into Jinlu's offices, filled with shouting and cigarette smoke, as security guards blocked them from entering certain parts of the building.

    Most investors said the company had provided no information on why payouts were delayed.

    "We're all dazed and confused," said one man, who declined to give his name, saying he had invested 200,000 yuan in the company's products.

    ($1 = 6.4628 Chinese yuan renminbi)

    (Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
    This would actually make a good documentary now - all the controversy surrounding this film - it would capture what's happening with Chinese film now very elegantly.
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  7. #52
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    On second thought, I'm now wondering if that other Chinese movie, the CGI one about monsters, was also artificially inflated in order for Chinese cinema to be seen as competitive with big U.S. box-office fare like The Avengers, Transformers, etc., franchises. If so, the whole thing is even more embarrassing.

  8. #53
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    Our latest sweepstakes offering. Enter to win!

    Enter to win KungFuMagazine.com's contest for IP MAN Trilogy Steelbook on Blu-Ray and an Autographed IP MAN 3 Poster! Contest ends 5:30 p.m. PST on 5/2/2016.

    ONE winner will receive IP MAN Trilogy Steelbook on Blu-Ray and an Autographed IP MAN 3 Poster GRAND PRIZE. FOUR runners up will receive IP MAN 3 on DVD.
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  9. #54
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    Our winners are announced!

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  10. #55
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    Jonathan Kos-Read



    The American Who Accidentally Became a Chinese Movie Star
    The journey of Jonathan Kos-Read, better known as Cao Cao, is a good guide for anyone seeking to make it in China’s budding, chaotic film industry.

    By MITCH MOXLEY JULY 14, 2016

    Every foreigner living in China has his share of China Stories. Jonathan Kos-Read has more than his share. Here’s one: Not long ago, the 43-year-old American actor received a call with an offer to appear in “Ip Man 3,” the third in a series of biopics about Bruce Lee’s martial-arts master. The role was small, but his agent negotiated what Kos-Read considered an “outrageous” amount of money for it, and the producers agreed. Kos-Read was thrilled until he read the script and noticed another part for a foreign actor — a bigger and better role as a mobster named Frank.

    This was troubling. Kos-Read, who is known in China only as Cao Cao, is by far the leading foreign actor working in the country today, having appeared in about 100 movies and television programs since his career began in 1999. He is famous throughout the mainland, and his career has been on a steady upward trajectory. Last December he appeared in the action film “Mojin — The Lost Legend,” currently the fifth-highest-grossing movie in Chinese history. Who, Kos-Read wondered, would the producers have cast instead of him?

    Kos-Read sent panicked texts to the movie’s casting director, but they went unanswered. “I felt threatened,” he told me recently, only half kidding. A few days later, he boarded a plane from Beijing to Shanghai to begin filming. When he showed up to the set, the mystery was solved almost immediately: There, slouching on a stool surrounded by a scrum of people, was the former heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson. The retired fighter had been cast, perhaps misguidedly, as Frank. (The Village Voice later described Tyson’s performance in the film as “sadly unimpressive.”) Kos-Read introduced himself and over the next three days developed a bond with Tyson. “He was not at all what I expected,” Kos-Read says. The pair discussed their young daughters, Montessori schools and, inevitably, boxing. They also spoke about self-reinvention, something each man knows quite a bit about.

    “Ip Man 3” went on to gross $115 million at the box office in China, with more than half of that coming on the opening weekend. China’s booming movie market grew by nearly 50 percent last year and is expected to surpass North America’s as the largest in the world by next year. These days, Hollywood studios hardly greenlight a blockbuster without first asking, “How will this play in China?” The rewards are too vast. “Furious 7,” for example, earned $390 million in China — more than it made in the United States — and was for a time the highest-grossing film ever in the country.

    And just as Hollywood has begun to crack the market, Chinese cinema has come into its own. In recent years, Chinese studios have started shifting away from the agitprop that defined their cinematic output for generations and are instead focusing on genres that draw viewers to theaters in any country: action, adventure, comedy. In February, a sci-fi comedy called “The Mermaid” became the highest-grossing movie ever in China within 12 days of its release, earning more than $430 million. Increasingly, Chinese cinemagoers are opting to buy tickets for movies made specifically for them — like those in the “Ip Man” series — not those that pander to them or lecture them. It is in this sort of film that Kos-Read has finally had the chance to act, rather than portray a stand-in for Western imperiousness. If the Hollywood studios really want to understand how to succeed in China, Kos-Read’s journey makes for a kind of accidental guide.

    In January, I met Kos-Read at Beijing Capital International Airport to accompany him on a trip to Yiwu, a trading city in Zhejiang Province, 165 miles from Shanghai. From there we would take a van to Hengdian World Studios, the biggest back lot in the world, where he was filming a new TV series.

    Kos-Read was tired. He had flown in a few days before from the Bay Area, where his wife and two young daughters live; the actor now splits time between the United States and China, which he has called home for almost two decades. Kos-Read has wavy brown hair, a thick beard streaked with gray and the kind of broad face that looks good on camera. He curses a lot and often wears a look of deep contemplation that borders on exasperation. As we boarded the plane for our 10:30 p.m. flight, he sported a huge calf-length black parka, which he wears on set — Chinese sets are notoriously frigid in the wintertime — and carried a heavy backpack filled mostly with equipment for photography, a personal hobby. The airplane was only half full. Kos-Read lumbered through the center aisle until he reached the last row, where he heaved his backpack onto a seat and plopped down into another as if he were claiming a spot on a long-distance bus.

    During the two-hour flight, Kos-Read drank a few cans of Yanjing Beer and discussed his role in last year’s “Mojin.” In the film, he plays a lawyer to a cult leader. After the first act, he turns into a zombie. It was by far the biggest project of his career, with by far the biggest stars, and it increased his already-formidable exposure in China by degrees of magnitude. On our plane, a flight attendant recognized him from the film. (In California, by contrast, he is basically anonymous outside of Chinatowns.) Kos-Read was happy for the opportunity to appear in such a large movie but was disappointed with his performance, which he believes was adequate but not excellent. “In a lot of TV shows, you just have to spit out the lines, really. But in a big movie, you’ve really got to be good,” he told me. “In my first big movie, I stepped up into the big leagues and hit a single.”

    Still, acting in one of the biggest Chinese blockbusters of all time is a long way from where Kos-Read began. Raised in Torrance, Calif., he attended an arts high school, where he got interested in acting. He went on to study film and molecular biology at New York University. There, he took a Mandarin course and became determined to master the language. He moved to Beijing in 1997 and drifted, living for a period in a student dorm and forcing himself to speak nothing but Mandarin for a three-month stretch. “Like everybody else, I arrived and bummed around for two years, not knowing what I was going to do, trying to do a bunch of things, failing,” he says. “Teaching English.”

    Not long after he arrived, he began dating a Chinese woman named Li Zhiyin, a finance major in college who later became his wife. On one of their early dates, he picked up an English-language listings magazine and saw an ad seeking a foreign actor for a Chinese movie. Kos-Read had never lost his love for performing, and he thought it could be fun to act in China. He auditioned and got the part, which was supposed to pay the equivalent of about $400 for three months of work. In the movie, called “Mei Shi Zhao Shi” (“Looking for Trouble”), Kos-Read plays an American documentary filmmaker following around a group of disillusioned bohemians. He says it took the producers two years to pay him. But two weeks after the movie wrapped, he landed three months of work on a Chinese soap opera.

    There were only a handful of foreign actors working in China at the time, and Kos-Read quickly realized he offered filmmakers there a rare combination of traits. He spoke good Mandarin, was a decent actor and had a look that many Chinese consider typically “American”: six feet tall, square jaw, blue eyes. He was able to make a living in the industry, but his early roles weren’t great. At that stage of his career, most filmmakers still had limited exposure to foreigners and foreign cultures, and his early parts tended to reflect Chinese stereotypes of Westerners. He rarely played bad guys, because there are very few American villains in Chinese movies (those roles tend to go to the woeful cohort of Japanese actors working in China). Instead, Kos-Read was often typecast as a “dumb guy,” he says. Most frequently, he was an arrogant foreign businessman who falls for a local beauty, only to be spurned as she inevitably makes the virtuous choice to stay with her Chinese suitor. Sometimes he played the foreign friend whose presence onscreen is intended to make the main character seem more worldly; Kos-Read dubbed another stock character “the fool,” an arrogant Westerner whose disdain for China is, by the end of the movie, transformed into admiration.

    When he was studying Mandarin at N.Y.U., Kos-Read adopted a Chinese moniker, as many language students do. He took his, Cao Cao, from a historical general who is also a central character in one of the country’s most revered classical novels, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” Like a Chinese King Arthur or Davy Crockett, the original Cao Cao exists in fact and fiction and in between. Kos-Read chose the name because it was easy to remember and because he liked that Cao Cao was a wise, self-reliant man. Years later, the decision would prove wise indeed. To his Chinese audience, it showed that the American, despite his loutish onscreen personae, took an interest in their history and culture.

    continued next post
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    Continued from previous post

    Kos-Read acted in film and television for almost a decade before he truly found fame. Before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he landed his own segment on a Chinese news program called “Sunday.” Dubbed “Cao Cao Lai Le” (“Here Comes Cao Cao”), the weekly reality bit was designed to help increase the show’s ratings and give it a more international flavor by allowing Chinese viewers to experience their country anew through a foreigner’s eyes. The segment eventually devolved into Kos-Read more or less being goofy in front of the camera and enlisting Chinese people to cut loose with him. In one episode, for example, he trains to be a Hooters girl. (In China, the chain is known as “American Owl Restaurant.”) The show was enormously popular, and soon Kos-Read was being recognized on the street. “One of the reasons I liked ‘Cao Cao Lai Le’ — it was me,” he says. “Instead of playing stupid stereotypes on TV and in movies, I could go out and be me. It’s my personal prejudice that I’m more interesting than the characters I play.”

    In 2009, Kos-Read began writing a column called “Token White Guy” for an expat publication, Talk Magazine, in which he chronicled his on- and off-screen adventures. He wrote about the time an acquaintance enlisted him to act in an ad campaign, Kos-Read’s first. His friend told him the product was “some sort of medicine.” Then, Kos-Read showed up on set and read his line, which was written in English: “Do you want to be thicker, longer and harder? Then be like Cao Cao and use Strong Balls Hormone.” (He dropped the ad.) He wrote about the time he was cast to play an English Jew who falls in love with a prostitute and, riddled with guilt, drops to his knees and prays for forgiveness — from Jesus. And the time a Chinese magazine wrote a multi*page, entirely fictitious profile of him, and then emailed him a copy.

    “Cao Cao Lai Le” ran for about three years before the struggling “Sunday” dropped it (“Sunday” soon went off the air as well), but it led to better roles in film and TV and a long line of travel-show hosting gigs, which took him to virtually every region of China — from the deserts of the west to the grasslands of the north to the hilly metropolis of Chongqing.

    ‘Instead of “Jaws,” it’s, like, killing Japanese or hanging out with the emperor’s concubines.’
    Hengdian World Studios is sprawling and surreal, covering 8,000 acres and featuring a one-to-one scale model of Beijing’s Forbidden City. “You walk around, and you can’t tell the difference,” Kos-Read told me as we drove past the complex on the way to the set the next morning. Around the lot, different shows were being filmed. Tourists are allowed on set for 199 yuan ($30) per person, and groups of them were huddled around as filming took place. It offered a considerably different experience from the one you might encounter at a Universal Studios theme park. “Instead of ‘Jaws,’ it’s, like, killing Japanese or hanging out with the emperor’s concubines,” Kos-Read said.

    China’s film industry has long been focused on propaganda-laden historical epics, hence the need for a full-size Forbidden City replica. Even as China became a global superpower in the late 20th century, big-budget Chinese movies were, by and large, treacly, patriotic fare. And though tastes were shifting, the studios used their connections with the government to ensure their own films succeeded. In 2010, for example, the behemoth state-owned studio and distributor China Film Group pulled “Avatar” from 1,628 screens and replaced it with its own film, a Confucius biopic starring Chow Yun Fat.

    These days, movies and television shows are still often historical in nature, but they’re less overtly nationalistic and more focused on pure entertainment. Kos-Read was in Hengdian to film a period show with the English title “Knight’s Glove.” In it, he plays the British ambassador to China, a close friend of the Chinese lead. The story surrounds a search for a lost treasure, and on this day the crew was filming the pair’s reunion after years spent apart. The scene was filmed at the entrance to a building made to look like the British Embassy. Cheap-looking plastic Union Jacks fluttered outside in the breeze. Inside, the building was numbingly cold, as Kos-Read had warned; there was no insulation or heating. Russian extras in wool military outfits carried fake rifles and shuffled from side to side trying to keep warm. In between shots, Kos-Read donned his parka and applied heating pads called Nuan Baobao (“Warm Little Buddies”) to his stomach, lower back and feet. There was no coffee or tea; at one point some cast and crew members were handed plastic cups of warm water.

    Because the Chinese government allows only 34 foreign movies to enter the market per year, and the officials’ criteria for selection are mysterious, many American studios have sought to lessen the uncertainty by co-producing films with Chinese firms, thereby sidestepping the import rules (which apply only when a movie’s producers want a share of the box-office receipts, which is to say they apply, effectively, to all major Hollywood films). And yet few co-productions have achieved anything resembling commercial or critical success. Not only have studios struggled to find ways to appeal to both audiences, they’ve also struggled to work well together on set. This is at least in part because of the collision of two vastly different moviemaking cultures. Whereas Hollywood film sets have rather rigid, union-determined rules, Chinese sets are decidedly unsystematic, ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants operations. (I once reported on a film whose special-effects guy was also in charge of payroll.) On this set, there were dozens of people, mostly young men, standing around in the cold who didn’t seem to have any job at all. It’s exactly these sorts of differences that have made Chinese-American co-productions so difficult, and those problems follow them to the box office.

    Hollywood can also stack the deck somewhat by pandering to Chinese audiences, but that comes at a cost: It grants enormous leverage to the Communist Party over how China is portrayed. Chinese censors have forced studios to cut scenes that they believed made China look weak. A 2015 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission offered an enlightening selection of anecdotes: In “Skyfall,” Chinese audiences never saw James Bond kill a Chinese security guard, as he does in the original edit; in “Mission: Impossible III,” censors cut a scene shot in Shanghai that showed garments drying on a clothesline; “Men in Black 3” had a scene removed that showed secret agents using a memory-erasing tool, leading some to speculate that the censors didn’t want to invite the allusion to censorship.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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    continued from previous post

    Often censors don’t even have to get involved, as studios have begun self-censoring their films to avoid the hassle. “Red Dawn” is perhaps the most infamous case. The 1984 original is about a guerrilla uprising against a Soviet invasion of America; in the 2012 remake, screenwriters updated the movie by casting China as the aggressor. MGM executives realized their error too late, and unwilling to risk offending the censors, they reportedly spent around $1 million in postproduction recasting North Korea as the invader.

    Despite the breadth of roles he has played in China, Kos-Read is passed over for most co-productions. Hollywood producers want to bring in their own talent, he says. And once, Chinese producers told him that because of the ubiquity with which he appears in Chinese cinema and television, he would make their production seem too local. He has acted in only two East-West movies: a deep-sea epic funded by a Chinese billionaire with a predominantly foreign cast, and a bigfoot movie shot in Shennongjia, a mountainous region in Hubei Province, where there have been hundreds of purported bigfoot sightings. Each film was plagued with on-set dysfunction, and neither has been released.

    Kos-Read says that the reason most co-productions fail is as much about the chaos on the Chinese side as it is the arrogance on the Hollywood side. “They come here and say, ‘We’re from Hollywood, we know better and whatever it is that you think is the right way to do it, it’s by definition not,’ ” he says. “You come in with an attitude like that, you will have a lot of problems. You will misunderstand the kind of stories they want to see.”


    Kos-Read, beside co-stars, telling a joke at the Beijing premiere of “Xuanzang.” Credit Sim Chi Yin/VII, for The New York Times

    And as Chinese filmmakers have figured out what sorts of stories Chinese audiences really want to see, the nature of Kos-Read’s work has changed for the better. Although his part in “Knight’s Glove” wasn’t groundbreaking, he is now often cast in increasingly complex parts.

    After the morning’s shoot, we drove across the lot to film another scene. In the back of the van, Kos-Read scrolled through photos on his phone of some of the roles he has played over the last two years, each with a distinct facial-hair style. They included: an American engineer who worked on the first locomotive in China; Gen. Douglas MacArthur; an “[expletive] lawyer”; a World War II radio announcer; a hip-hop dancer; a wisdom-dispensing alcoholic barfly; a Mafia boss; an antiquities expert; a sleazy Russian lounge lizard; a cowboy; a bisexual fashion designer; and a French detective.

    Kos-Read believes the growing variety of roles for foreign actors like him is a result of more Chinese exposure to outsiders. “There are more foreign actors now,” he says. “Chinese know some foreigners. So they write more interesting characters. I’m lucky because I usually get to do the better stuff.”

    This trend is likely to continue. The money coming from Chinese producers, and the spending power of Chinese audiences, is simply too great to ignore, and anyone venturing to China from Hollywood — whether producer, actor or cameraman — has to learn how to play by Chinese rules. That means adapting stories to the changing desires of film fans, and learning how to cooperate on China’s less regimented movie sets. Hollywood pros may be arrogant, says Jonathan Landreth, editor of the website China Film Insider, who has been covering the Chinese entertainment industry for more than a decade, but “in the melding of minds between China and Hollywood, there’s been a tipping in the balance of power. So much money is driving these productions that the folks in Hollywood have to listen.”

    In the afternoon, the director of “Knight’s Glove,” a young man with bleached blond hair, recruited me to play an extra in a scene with Kos-Read. I would be a driver. I wondered aloud who was supposed to have played the driver, but no one answered, and instead I was shepherded outside to a wardrobe truck and outfitted in a World War I-era military uniform with a Brodie helmet.

    As I dressed in the truck, Kos-Read approached with a Chinese crew member and said, “They asked me to make sure you knew that they weren’t actually going to pay you or anything.” I laughed. As absurd as it may seem to be yanked from the sidelines in an instant and thrown in front of the camera, this kind of thing happens with surprising regularity for foreigners in China, and moments like these become the kind of China Stories that keep people like Kos-Read around for so long.

    We filmed four or five takes of a short scene in the car. I pretended to drive, yanking the steering wheel back and forth with the kind of comical exaggeration you might see in “The Andy Griffith Show.” Two cameras glided on a track and crane outside the car while Kos-Read, sitting in the back, and a young Russian actor, who sat beside me, exchanged a few lines of dialogue. The Russian had until recently been a student in Jinhua, a nearby city, but was now trying his hand at an acting career. Maybe it would have worked out for him had he started a decade and a half ago, like Kos-Read, but his performance didn’t bode well. He struggled with the lines; his English was wooden, the delivery stilted.

    Kos-Read, on the other hand, naturally eased into character as soon as they started rolling. He said his lines in a British accent, smoothly and barely above a whisper, looking out the window as the camera swept by.

    Mitch Moxley is a writer based in New York. His articles have appeared in GQ, The Atlantic and The Atavist Magazine. He lived in Beijing for six years.
    I'll have to watch for Kos-Read from now on.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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    Donnie at SIFF on IM3

    Shanghai: Donnie Yen Describes Shooting Fight Scenes with Mike Tyson as a Near-Death Experience
    The Hong Kong action star spoke about the full sweep of his career at a Shanghai International Film Festival masterclass, while also discussing his current mission to defy Chinese stereotypes on screen.


    BY KAREN CHU

    JUNE 16, 2021 8:15PM

    Donnie Yen at the opening ceremony of the 2021 Shanghai Film Festival. YVES DEAN/GETTY IMAGES
    Speaking at a Shanghai International Film Festival masterclass this week, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen recounted how one of Mike Tyson’s hooks almost knocked him out with the force of “a head-on truck” during the shooting of Ip Man 3 (2015). The actor has taken on triple duties at this year’s SIFF. In addition to sharing the highlights of his career in the masterclass, he has also premiered his latest cop thriller Raging Fire and is the ambassador for the festival’s “Belt and Road Film Week” sidebar.

    Yen recalled that, as a boxing fan of Tyson’s, he relished the chance to spar with the former world heavyweight champion on-screen. But Yen also had no illusion about Tyson being a real boxer, not an actor, and knew that Tyson’s boxing moves were not only for show. “When I was in a scene with him, I had to remind myself that I have to be very cautious. I daren’t allow myself to think I was shooting a scene for a film,” Yen told the masterclass. “I had to treat it as a real fight in a boxing ring with him and it was a matter of life and death. I couldn’t afford to be distracted in any way, otherwise it wouldn’t have been a K.O., it would have cost me my life.”

    In a shot when Tyson threw a hook, Yen was supposed to duck, but for the sake of the cameras, he could only duck at the last possible moment. “That was so dangerous! I literally felt the air move with his punch, which was like a truck coming towards me head-on. I felt that wind — woah, that’s still so clear in my mind, so dangerous! His fist was so huge, and it touched my hair,” Yen reminisced, still shaken. “I had to wait until the last moment to crouch down and at the same time not let myself be hurt. For me, that was the biggest pressure.”

    Yen, who is set to appear in the fourth installment of Keanu Reeves’s John Wick franchise, also talked in-depth about his start in the film industry under the tutelage of acclaimed action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, who, incidentally, designed the action sequences and trained Reeves for The Matrix trilogy.

    Yen came from a martial arts lineage, having learned since a young age from his mother, a famed tai chi master, and later went to Beijing to train further in martial arts. His mother counted among her pupils the sister of Yuen Woo-ping. In the mid-1980s, when Yuen was prepping Drunken Tai Chi, his follow-up to Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (both 1978), which made Jackie Chan a star, Yuen’s sister recommended the 18-year-old Yen to him, and the film became Yen’s screen debut.

    Yen and Yuen went on to make contemporary actioner Tiger Cage in 1988, where Yen first suggested to his film industry mentor “a personal stamp”, inspired by Yen’s hero, Bruce Lee. “Generally, in a fight scene, the last shot would stay on the defeated,” Yen said. “But that shot was always reserved for Bruce Lee in a Bruce Lee film. You get the full blast of his charisma in that shot. The way he pulled a punch, how he retracted his fist – that is completely his personal charm.”

    His latest outing, Raging Fire, was also the posthumous work of Hong Kong director Benny Chan, who fell ill and was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer during the film’s production and passed away last August at the age of 58. Yen disclosed that it was the mutual admiration he shared with the helmer of Hong Kong classic A Moment of Romance (1990) and later The White Storm (2013) that led to his signing up for Raging Fire. Chan completed filming but was not able to take charge of the post-production due to declining health.

    As one of the Asian stars making a mark in Hollywood films such as Rogue One and the live-action Mulan, Yen considered these jobs an important chance, a mission even, for positive Chinese representation. “I’d always ask the producer whether the role I’m supposed to take and the content of the film as a whole is respectful of Chinese people and Chinese culture,” said Yen, a self-proclaimed patriot. “That’s something I’ve always done. Now that I have more influence, I must speak up for my country and speak out when I think something is not right. I also have a very important mission, which is to use my influence to show the audience that Chinese are not a stereotype. Whatever you can do, we can do it, too.”
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    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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