Montreal producer-writer duo Marie-Claude Beauchamp and Heidi Foss offered short, emotional speeches after a Chinese production company executive chose their film Butterfly as one of three winners for the China Canada Gateway for Film Script Competition at the Whistler Film Festival last week.
"We really feel strongly about this being a real co-production (and) an exchange of culture," Beauchamp, president and producer of Carpediem film and TV, told a room crowded with filmmakers, media and industry.
Thirteen pairs of producers and writers from across Canada gathered last Friday to pitch their film ideas to a panel of Chinese producers who were offering up to $5 million in funding to help make the productions. They were chosen from 110 applicants. The inaugural event — also the first of its kind in the country — is slated to run until 2014. "Anything that opens up a project internationally really broadens and gives (it) much more scope and breadth," Foss said after the win. "I really feel like I learned so much today alone."
The film, which was pitched as a 3D animation, is about a butterfly determined to become a hero despite his broken wing.
Lifeng Wang, board director of Wuxi Studio, who chose the film, said the subject of the story was one of reasons he was drawn to it. "It's one of the films we are pretty certain can be a China film production," he added. "The butterfly has an important part in Chinese culture and it's beautiful. It's perfect for a 3D movie. With some tweaks to the current story it can be a great Chinese co-production."
Wang said going into the competition, he was open to all genres, but he was looking for a story that would resonate with a wide audience. He also had to ensure the script wasn't overtly political. "Otherwise it will not get approved (by the Chinese government)," he said. "The (Chinese film industry) is growing very fast. It has a lot of potential."
Other winners included Blush, written by a B.C. team of writer Richard Bell and producer Elizabether Yake, chosen by Ivy Zong, vice chair of Galloping Horse, and The Eddie Zhao Story, based on a true story written by Guy Bennett and produced by Raymond Massey. That script was chosen by Victoria Hon from Beijing Hairun Pictures. "The China Canada Gateway (competition) was enormously successful and garnered international press and real business deals," said Paul Gratton, director of programming for the festival. "It doesn't get any better than that for a festival."
After the winners were announced, the Chinese producers and Canadian teams reconvened. "(We wanted) to find the best talent," said Wang, who was heading back to China the next day. "The next step is to work with the creators and get this movie developed."