Since the Chinese government began relaxing its regulations in 2001, its film industry has experienced a period of rapid growth. In terms of global scale, China's film market is now second only to the US.
China has entered into co-production treaties with Canada, Italy, Australia, the UK, India, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The country is renowned for its extraordinary beauty and as it becomes integrated into the world’s economy and global political system, interest in its culture is also increasing. More international production companies are, however, shifting towards exploiting the market by investing in Chinese productions rather than filming foreign projects on location.
Another special feature of China is the proliferation of film cities with magnificent palaces, temples, props and costumes from Ancient China. An example of this is the China Film Group Digital Production Base. It houses 16 studios, 15 of which are able to 'sense' the outdoor weather (they have slide top roofs which can be moved away when necessary). There are underwater shooting range, digital workshops and everything needed for the script to finished film process.
Big-budget international features are uncommon due to the political complications involved with shooting in China.
High-profile co-productions have included fantasy action movie The Great Wall that featured a cast of both US and Chinese actors led by Matt Damon, as well as action sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising and shark attack movie The Meg.
International crews are often flown in to work on productions that are structured as Chinese shoots.
All filmmakers wanting to shoot feature films in China must work through a Chinese host studio. The China Film Co-production Corporation (CFCC) would then examine the proposed project before submitting it to the Chinese Film Bureau for approval.
The CFCC also directly hosts foreign crews in China to make non-feature films, working with major global media companies on hundreds of documentaries.
However, international producers need to be aware that each province they shoot in demands a separate permit, so to cross between regions – as many shoots do – requires extensive preparation. With permit regulations changing continually, major shoots require three to six months pre-production.
But producers should not be put off. Permits are usually approved, as long as they submit plenty of information about the shoot and collaborate with the Chinese government.
Wanda Studios Qingdao in the east of the country has hosted shoots including The Great Wall and Pacific Rim Uprising. The facility offers 30 sound stages, back lot facilities and a pair of water tanks.
Hengdian World Studios offers a multitude of standing sets, also in the east of the country, including a mock-up of Qin Imperial Palace.