From Hollywood, with expertise

Updated: 2012-04-23 07:38

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

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Iron Man 3

Last week, it was announced that a Chinese company, DMG Entertainment, will invest 1 billion yuan in the production of Iron Man 3, and will distribute the film in China in collaboration with Disney.

In 2007, Christopher DeHau Lee helped to launch the entertainment division of DMG, before leaving last year to set up his own company, Move Eye Media, with his brother Dickson.

From Hollywood, with expertise

The Lee brothers, on the Sony backlot. Dickson is on the left and Christopher on the right.

The brothers were raised in Los Angeles. They started at the bottom of the Hollywood ladder with internships at various companies in the 1990s before going on to work at production companies and studios such as Sony, Disney, Paramount, MGM, DreamWorks and Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment. "I read more than 1,000 scripts from every genre during my 10 years in Hollywood," said Christopher, the younger brother. "That was the best training I received." Out of every 100 scripts, only 1 percent won approval for development and even fewer were actually produced. That selection process honed Lee's skills in all kinds of genres, from sci-fi to romance.

He is now preparing to direct a self-penned comedy about the love-hate relationship between dogs and people in modern-day China. Called Doggie Says I Love You, it's an official project selection of the 2012 Beijing International Film Festival Co-Production Forum. Lee is also part of the production team of another official festival project called Gods.

"The most important thing I learned in Hollywood was integrity, including creative integrity. With so much focus on budgets and box office, movies have to be relevant and realistic, with the ability to impact and entertain people," he said. "Two of the Chinese filmmakers I had my eye on for future collaboration before I came to China in 2007 were Ning Hao and Xu Jinglei. I've now worked with and learned a lot from both of them and hope to emulate their success in China as well as back in my hometown, LA."

For more than 10 years, Dickson, the elder brother, worked as a Sony Studios executive in studio operations strategy, finance and operations, in addition to five years at the Disney Company in its international home video and Internet divisions. His corporate affairs experience has armed him with both the knowledge and the management tools for the modern film business. "One has to treat any film project like a business," he said, emphasizing the "checks and balances" that should be present to mitigate risks. "We hope we can be the next Warner or Huayi Brothers, but bilingual," said Chris.

David U. Lee, no relation to the brothers, grew up in Taiwan and started his Hollywood career as an intern at Miramax. Having worked at three Hollywood companies before settling down on the Chinese mainland, he revealed that the competitiveness of the environment is the ultimate driving force in his career. "I have no family connections, no reasons to be in showbiz. In Hollywood I had to figure people out and focus on how to be competitive."

However, not everything that works in Hollywood can or should be replicated in China. For example, the agency model has failed to take off in China, according to Ben Ji. In Hollywood, an agency can put together a package that includes a story idea with top talent attached and sell it to a studio.

Here in China, there is one giant State-owned studio and half a dozen private ones that are coming of age, plus many fly-by-night operations. "Nobody is going to buy your package," says Ji. That factor may explain the difficulties encountered by the Chinese branch of the Creative Artists Agency, a top Hollywood agency.