By Hammad Zaidi | March 19, 2013

As your eyes read these words, my eyes are struggling to say awake, because I just endured an 18-hour journey from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, via a pit stop in Taipei. Add that to the 15-hour, forward leaping time change, and my body truly doesn’t know what day or time it is. Nonetheless, I love being in Hong Kong. The city’s electric, the people are upstanding, and the best view of the skyline is from the men’s bathroom of the Peninsula Hotel (I’m not kidding, look it up).

When I first started attending FILMART in Hong Kong in 2006, things were different. I was yet to be married, yet to be called “daddy” by my twin daughters Zoe and Lena, yet to deal with the world economy melting, and yet to see FILMART as being anything more than a “vacation of exploration.” However, things have changed rather dramatically in the last seven years.  

Don’t get me wrong; FILMART is still considered to be small when compared to Cannes, but then, all markets are considered small when compared to Cannes. Furthermore, China is growing as a soon-to-be-very-significant territory for Hollywood films, with a box office that may soon rival, or even surpass our box office totals in the U.S. Thus, now is the time to explore how you can utilize this emerging market to enhance your career, as well as the funding opportunities box office reach for your current and future projects. By the way, FILMART just started, so today’s article will give you four “need-to-know” insights about doing business in Hong Kong, while next week’s article will be my FILMART wrap up.

Side Note: Should you be wondering, “Why do I need to know about China? I’m an American Filmmaker.” My answer to you is, “because the multi-billion dollar, mega powerful American film studios are already there. All of them see what the future lies, so you should as well.”

Okay, so let’s take a trip to the Far East for a bit…

Trust, Time And Honor
Trust, time and honor are three key elements you must possess before you can thrive doing business with China. Deals take time to consummate, because the Chinese prefer to get to know you as a person, your character, and your ethics, before they engage in a deal with you. While this can be frustrating for us Americans, who are instilled with the ABCs (Always Be Closing) of business deals, the wait is worth it. So, since it’s going to take time to be certified as a talented, ethical and honorable global partner, start making your inroads now!

Tailor Your Pitch To Respect Their Business Culture
Lighting-quick paced, hard-selling pitches injected with overzealous financial projections and a relentless desire to close the deal immediately, are not going to work in most cases. In fact, being in a hurry is only going to slow down the process, not speed it up. While I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a high-energy pitch, I am saying your “need for speed” in closing the deal, should be shifted to a lower gear. Remember, once you get a “yes,” that is a “yes” to start your collaboration, not to closing a deal and shooting your film in ten weeks.

Understand Their Rules Before You Approach Them
In an effort to save you time and energy, I urge you to do your research on all China-based film co-production rules and regulations, and make sure you meet all of those requirements. While every person in every country on every continent bends some rules, some of the time, the Chinese are known for not doing so. Thus, rather than trying to convince them why they should look the other way and ignore some requirements that you fail to meet, you should find a way to play inside the sandbox they’ve given you, and meet their guidelines.

Look At The Deal From Their Perspective
One thing most people in any business fail to do is to “walk a mile” in the shoes of the person or entity you’re negotiating with. In this case, try examining why making your film would benefit your co-production partners. What are they getting out of it if the film works? What will they lose if your film bombs? Remember, you’re getting a lot either way. This is because you still would have made and distributed a film with a respected, established company, and so regardless of how that film ultimately does, you still benefit from having made it. Thus, the more benefits you can identify for your partners from their perspective, the more they’ll be inclined to move forward.

Okay, friends and filmmakers, that’s what I have for you on this balmy, 76 degrees day in Hong Kong. But, before I go, I’d like you to consider something: The world is your oyster. Here, there is no longer an “us and them,” when it comes to the world of cinema. We are they and they are we, and the “global village” is ever so quickly turning into a “global box office.”

As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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