Chinawood- Hot but not so Sour Shooting DestinationBy Anne Howard
Hollywood,CA (rushprnews) 02/19/2007 - With the astronomical cost of shooting a film in Hollywood continuing to rise, more and more film production companies are looking for new destinations to cut down on expenses. The past decade, the destination of choice was often North of the border to Canada, but now that the looney is flying strong, producers are looking at far away lands. Hengdian, a small village in Southeastern China is looking to capitalize on this trend and hoping to be soon known as Chinawood, replacing Hollywood as the film Mecca.
With more than 5,000 pictures having been shot in ten years, Hengdian's future looks bright. Martial arts epic "Hero" was filmed there, and on some days up to 18 films are shot during the same period. All this attention has brought wealth to the villagers in more ways than one, but at a cost that seems like peanuts for a foreign film crew. In this small village, an extra makes $2.50 a day, while in Hollywood, he would be making $100, a substantial saving for epic films with up to 3,000 extras, and the cuts are across the board.
Since 1996, the Studios have built hundreds of sets, which include a replica of the Forbidden City (100 acres) and are home to the production of some 50 films/TV dramas every year.
"Labor is cheaper, all across the board. There is no union. It's a free hand for directors," said Canadian producer Shan Tam last year during a break outside of a dynastic palace set where she was shooting "Son of the Dragon", starring U.S. actor David Carradine.
Behind Hengdian's rise is hometown boy, Xu Wenrong, a confident 72-year-old multimillionaire who made a fortune manufacturing and exporting textiles, electronics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. From a single lot, its brainchild Hengdian World Studios has spread to a 25-square-kilometer area, almost twice the size of Beverly Hills. The local government has given him permission to expand tenfold.
Not only has he turned his village into a number one destination for film crews but also has hot tourist attractions, complete with bus tours and visit's to the sets, giving birth to a whole economy for the villagers, who often only knew up to now, extreme poverty and hunger.
He decided against Beijing, the cultural center of China, and Shanghai, which had its heyday in film during the 1920s and '30s, because both centers struggle with rising cost of living and water shortages," Beijing can't compete with me," said Xu, who was himself a poor farmer but now beams with the confidence of a Hollywood mogul.
Filming of "The Children of Huang Shi", starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, "was very positive and the surrounding scenery breath-taking" the actor stated at a February 16th press conference, he chuckled "even if after a while I could think of a few restaurants where I would have liked ordering from." Culinary limitations aside, it seems that this small village under the leadership of a true visionary will reach its Chinawood status in no time at all.
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