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Made in Qingdao: China’s City of Film gets serious about attracting filmmakers with subsidies

Made in Qingdao: China’s City of Film gets serious about attracting filmmakers with subsidies
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Qingdao has already come a long way towards earning its moniker City of Film: Spring Festival blockbusters ‘The Wandering Earth’ and ‘Crazy Alien’ were filmed and produced in the East China city.

But there’s much more to come for the city on the Yellow Sea, and Qingdao knows that this kind of success doesn’t happen on its own: financial subsidies and incentives are a vital factor when filmmakers choose where to shoot and produce their creative works. To highlight its commitment to putting hard cash on the table, the City of Film held a Production Rebate Granting Ceremony in March, where four films received more than 36 million yuan in production cost subsidies.

‘The Wandering Earth’, the science fiction spectacular that’s taken movie goers by storm, was one of the films honoured at the event. “I found the feeling of home here,” Guo Fan, Director of ‘The Wandering Earth’ said during the ceremony. “It’s an unforgettable memory,” said Guo, who spent nearly six months engrossed in his work in the City of Film. Producer Gong Geer added that the subsidies were released quickly and openly, and the experience made it an attractive prospect to return to Qingdao for future film projects.

‘Crazy Aliens’, ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’, and ‘The Island’ were the other films receiving their subsidies in the ceremony on 1st March. Each film’s subsidies were calculated on the basis of their expenses during production at the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis and the Lingshan Bay Film-Television Cultural Industrial Park. Pan Xiao, Production Director of ‘Crazy Aliens’, was impressed with the city’s facilities for filmmaking: “The work here is constantly improving. In the near future, the full production of the film can be completed here. This provides the crew with a convenient and reliable shooting environment."

Over 100 films and TV shows have been shot or produced since the state of the art Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis was launched last year, including world famous titles such as ‘Godzilla 2’, ‘The Great Wall’, and ‘La La Land’. Exciting storylines can be brought to life by sophisticated production methods at the 10,000 square metre studio, which boasts the world's only indoor and outdoor integrated underwater stage.

But equally important is Qingdao’s 5 billion yuan incentive programme, jointly funded by Qingdao City, West Coast New Area and Social Capital. Each screen project can receive up to 120 million yuan in cash subsidy, under the arrangement that ensures up to 40% of production costs can be covered under the Cost Subsidy of Outstanding Film & Television Works scheme. Run by the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis Special Fund for Film & Television Industrial Development, this scheme has made 1 billion yuan available per year across a five year span.

Financial incentives are a vital factor when makers of films and TV shows decide where to shoot and produce their projects, whether it’s cash rebates, grants, or tax rebates.

In the future, the city of Qingdao aims to expand the scope for which film and TV productions may qualify for subsidies, and to lower the threshold and generally simplify and speed up the process. The hope is that this will encourage even more outstanding film production crews to choose Qingdao, not just for filming but also for post-production. Beyond financial aid, the city continues to improve the quality of its practical filmmaking offerings: right now, a new backlot is under construction by the Cangma Mountain in western Qingdao, where another 1,000,000 square meters will be dedicated to the industry following a 5 billion yuan investment.

The year of the pig is looking to be an exciting year for Qingdao, with exciting screen projects such as the epic ‘Fengshen Trilogy’ and ‘Space Intellectual’ currently underway. This accomplishment is one that China can be pleased with, but most of all it’s a victory for the people of Qingdao. "In Qingdao, finally, I have such a good shooting location,” Huang Bo, Director of ‘The Island’ and a Qingdao native, said following the Production Rebate Granting Ceremony. “As a Qingdao person, I am proud."