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Uncertainties challenge China's sci-fi films

(Xinhua)    19:26, May 08, 2015

BEIJING, May 8 -- Chinese film producers have been courting sci-fi authors to secure a share in the fledgling domestic sci-fi movie industry, but in reality it is tougher than expected.

Although expectations are high, it is really difficult to land a good script, said Yan Peng, film critic and planning supervisor at Beijing Galloping Horse Film &TV Production Co.

"Script commissioners have to read a lot. One person I know even dug out all prize winning pieces published in the periodical 'Science Fiction World' over the past 30 years," said Yan.

Any scriptwriter with Sci-fi savvy is hot property now, as more and more film makers look to them to adapt screenplays.

Zhang Liang, who uses Jiong Shu (literally means embarrassed uncle) as his pen name, is one of such scriptwriters.

"The audience is not necessarily made up of sci-fi fans, film makers must consider average movie-goers. A successful sci-fi movie should not be packed with sci-fi elements. An entertaining story planted in a sci-fi scenario would be a better choice," said he.

"In the past, not many people took science fiction seriously. The cinema world and sci-fi didn't cross. Now they are just trying to understand each other," he added.

In fear of missing out on promising novels for movie adaption, film makers are vying to purchase sci-fi novels. "Some film companies I think are simply hoarding for the future," said Zhang.

Yan Peng said that most sci-fi movies under production cost more than 50 million yuan each, with the most expensive one budgeted at roughly 100 million yuan.

Not many were based on China's classical sci-fi novels, but instead original stories, he added.

Sci-fi author Chen Qiufan has been deeply involved in the production of several sci-fi movies over the past two years as an adviser. However, he is quite cautious about copyright deals on his own books.

"Many film companies buy novels speculatively. They will probably not even adapt them, instead choosing to resell for a profit," said Chen. "I'd rather to see my stories on the screen."

Investors' enthusiasm with sci-fi movies was helped by the success of best-selling saga "The Three-Body Problem" by Liu Cixin, which is slated for release next July.

Although film critics are less than optimistic about the film, Chen Qiufan said it could mark a significant step in China's sci-fi movie production.

Kong Xiangzhao, producer of the movie, said he recruited an American production team, especially in the special effects and filming departments. Kong hoped it could rival Hollywood blockbusters.

Chen Qiufan thinks the movie might decide the future of Chinese sci-fi movies.

"Its success could excite both investors and the audience while a failure might strangle the industry in its infancy. We might be dumped by both the capital market and audience," he said.

"Compared to the industrialized production of Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters, domestic producers are more like stragglers. Professionalism is what we need at the moment. The situations, however, might not be changed for a while yet," said he.

Yan Peng said having an international production team could offset domestic drawbacks.

"The risk is that we might not be able to call it a Chinese production in the real sense. The bottomline, I think, should be seeking technical support overseas without sacrificing the Chinese flavor in art," said he.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Du Mingming,Bianji)

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