China courting American screenwriters

Not only is China courting Hollywood production, it’s wooing the industry’s pre-production workers as well. Government officials in Beijing are asking U.S.-based screenwriters to tell Chinese stories.

The Cultural Assets Office of Beijing Municipal Government announced the2013 Beijing International Screenwriting Competition to foster collaboration and creative dialogue between China and the U.S. The competition is open to U.S.-based contestants and will consider scripts for feature films and short films centered on Beijing and its culture. The finalists will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Beijing this summer to meet with potential investors in their films. The winners will receive cash prizes of more than $100,000.

“This Competition is one of the first established routes for U.S. filmmakers to obtain direct access to the Chinese market,” said Competition Chairman Kevin Niu. “It will serve as a model for future cultural collaboration between the U.S. and China — one that bridges the gap between our two cultures.”

Chinese national cinema rarely breaks into the mainstream in the United States. For every “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” which was a Chinese export and a sizable hit in the West, there’s a “Flowers of War”, a big-budget Chinese film that even boasted Hollywood star Christian Bale but failed to make an impression with audiences.

What Chinese officials may have realized is that there is a culture clash in how stories are told in each location. U.S. writers may be key in helping create narratives that translate Chinese mythology into Western story structure, thus helping Chinese films travel across the Pacific and generate box office revenue.

Proposals for the feature film competition are due April 7 and short-film screenplays are due April 20. Up to seven short film grand prize winners will receive financing for the production of their films.

Gina Hall is a Los Angeles-based writer and producer with more than 10 years experience in television, documentary and feature film production. She is a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and blogs for the Huffington Post at