Thursday, March 19, 2015

Valiant Comics receives the Mandate of Heaven, aka the DMG Entertainment group.

So, you've been eyeing mainland China as a potential market for your next film.  Good for you!  The Chinese middle class is big and getting bigger and they just LOVE overseas films and TV.  One little problem however...the Chinese government and their censors.  To say the mainland Chinese government is sensitive about how China is portrayed in films and TV is an understatement.  If the back story of one of your characters is how his parents were persecuted and killed by the agents of the cultural revolution...then...enjoy filming in Mexico.  :)

But what if you were somewhat flexible on that back story?  Maybe things could be reedited a little, moved around, a slightly different emphasis on the less controversial parts of the project perhaps; what's your options?  There are two:

1) Assisted production.
2) Co-production.

You can see a nice English translation here:

http://www.chinahollywood.org/about-co-productions

but in the document both "assisted" and "joint" productions are called "co-production".  That is not common usage.  When dealing with China a "co-production" is a big deal because there are big rules to follow.  Things like 1/3 of the cast is Chinese and profits are split between the foreign and domestic (i.e. mainland China) corporation (non Chinese director is okay) and on and on and on.  Oh, and don't forget the Chinese state censors.  They get script approval AND final approval.  But if you are willing to jump through all those hoops and split the money and cast a Chinese lead actor and have a recognizable mainland China location somewhere in
the movie then...there are financial rewards.  Your film gets mainland China distribution side by side with domestically produced Chinese movies and no "black out" dates where your film gets held up for a few months until it is finally released in China.  Very nice.  But a LOT of paperwork, a LOT of money and...don't forget those censors.  Isn't there something somebody can do?  Some company that could, perhaps, get the benefits of a Chinese co-production without all that, you know, overhead...

Enter DMG Entertainment.

DMG started life as an advertising agency but they entered the non Chinese film distribution market with successful films like the Twilight series and with that financial success they entered domestic film production and were successful there too but...then they began "co-production" of non Chinese films.  Successful films like Looper and, most importantly, Iron Man 3.  Indeed, Iron Man 3 was so successful for DMG that the company actually went public last year.  And the strange thing is...some how...some way..."co-production" with DMG gets you the benefits of official co-production but without all the overhead.  DMG is actually famous for withdrawing their application for official "co-production" status with the Chinese government but then coming back with Chinese locations, Chinese actors, special bonus scenes
that only Chinese audiences see for Iron Man 3 and miracle of miracles, you get mainland distribution for your movie!  Who would have thought that was possible!

With that background, we come to my point which is this: DMG is not being subtle about its investment in a multi movie licensing deal with Valiant Comics.  Indeed, DMG itself emphasizes that this is an unprecedented partnership between an "international" entertainment company
and a comic book publisher:

http://www.dmg-entertainment.com/dmg-valiant-bring-largest-independent-superhero-universe-movie-theaters-worldwide

It's pretty clear that DMG went shopping for the largest group of unlicensed comic book heros and they found it in Valiant Comics.  DMG is touting simultaneous Chinese/US production of Valiant heroes.  You can't help but think this is DMG trying to make Valilant the next comic book franchise movie and TV giant ala Marvel/Sony/Disney...whatever.

You can see the Variety news items about DMG here and it makes for pretty interesting reading.  DMG says it isn't just licensing but that it has made an "equity investment" into Valiant Comics:

http://variety.com/2015/biz/news/chinas-dmg-buys-in-to-valiant-comic-book-slate-1201448608/

So the takeaway here is that DMG, a VERY well connected Chinese film production and distribution company, has taken an equity stake in Valiant and intends to leverage that investment into the US and other markets.  It ain't just a mainland Chinese company any more!  And we are all about to see a whole lot more of the very well regarded Valiant Comic book heroes!