by Angela Efros
The red carpet was resplendent with glittering gowns and sharp suits, as guests mingled on the balcony and admired the expansive city view from high up in the scenic Hollywood Hills.
The second annual U.S.-China Film and Television Innovation Summit took place Sunday with a festive red carpet Opening Party the night before at the historic American Film Institute.
Co-hosted by China's International Cultural Collaborative (ICC) and the Hollywood Film Festival (HFF), the summit was a joint effort to promote innovation in the entertainment industry and create a viable platform for more cross-cultural cooperation.
Donna Zhang, Chairman of ICC told Xinhua, "ICC is dedicated to opening up new channels of exchange and cooperation in new media, film and television co-production, content development and distribution between U.S. and China."
President of HFF, Brad Parks said, "I'm honored to be co-hosting ICC's Summit today and acting as Hollywood ambassadors to our Chinese colleagues. We are looking forward to collaborating culturally, artistically, and financially for many years to come."
ICC is a Chinese-American group that was founded to build cultural bridges between the U.S. and China entertainment industries. Yingli Elaine Cheng, served as Project Director for the event.
The HFF, now under new management, is ambitiously rebranding itself as an international film festival of note, using its Hollywood Passport program to serve as the gateway to Hollywood for the top emerging directorial talents from around the world.
Hollywood producer-director, Julia Pierrepont III, HFF Advisory Board and ICC Executive Committee member, forged the partnership.
"In this volatile political climate, we are at a unique point when it must be we artists, not unscrupulous politicians, who will blaze the trail for peace and mutual prosperity between our two great nations." she said.
"DYING TO SURVIVE"
Besides of a group of Chinese and American luminaries livening the proceedings, the summit featured three serious industry panels, including "Filmmaking Based on True Stories: How's it's Shaping Our Society," "Innovation in Editing," and "Documentary Films: What We Are Documenting and Why It Matters."
Panelists for the True Story Filmmaking seminar weighed in on the powerful impact that stories based on real people and historic events can have on social reform.
"News just reports things, but feature films can create compelling characters who express the needs of society. They discover our problems, then help resolve them." Said panelist Wang Xingdong, vice president of China Film Association.
Panelists cited the scrappy environmentalist who took on big industry, "Erin Brockovich," "The Jungle," based on Upton Sinclair's classic novel, and even "Babe," about a beguiling talking pig who discovers that horrors of his intended fate in a butcher shop.
"Brockovich" led to massive lawsuits against polluting corporations, "The Jungle" helped prompt the establishment of the U.S. FDA for food safety, and "Babe" caused a dramatic downturn in consumer pork sales.
The most timely illustration was the film screened on Opening Night, "Dying to Survive," a powerful black comedy about the bitter cost in suffering and death of Chinese cancer victims unable to afford the ruinously expensive imported cancer drugs needed to survive.
The real life story it's based on was so inspiring, it influenced Chinese governmental policy and got it to expand subsidies to make the medicine available to everyone.
And the film won the HFF's silver Screen Prize for China.
"This movie delivers a positive message and is a successful call to action that led to real reform in China." said panelist Kristopher Li of NBC News LA.
The second panel, "Innovation in Editing," looked at advances in editing education and comparative systems and labor practices between the United States and China.
Academy Award-nominee, Lynzee Klingman ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") said, "When I started out in this profession, I was told 'We don't hire women. Women were supposed to get married."
Now, women are editing in record numbers.
Xinxia Zhou, President of China's official Film Editing Association, explained that her editing students were also better prepared to compete in the global marketplace.
Norm Hollyn, former Head of Editing at University of South California (USC) also said AI was having an impact on the editing field, but suspected it wouldn't replace a human editor anytime soon.
"AI can be taught to read human emotion, but it can't create it."
The third seminar, on Documentaries, was moderated by Yiying "Nikki" Li, the newly-minted Student Academy Award-winner from the USC.
Panelists discussed the evolution of the documentary from dry historic or government-issued pieces to powerfully evocative and personal journeys.
Award-winning documentarian, Dan Birman, summed it up, "In the 1960's, docs were meant to be 'good for you,' then we had social docs with strong point of view, then verite?docs, then commercial docs with an entertainment focus. Now we have 'punch-you-in-the-gut' docs on 'trending' subjects that are often pursuing their own hidden agenda. These are interesting and scary times..."
Supporting the event were the China Film Association, China Television Artists Association, USC-China Institute, China Federation of Literary and Arts Circle, China Film Equipment, U.S.-China Belt and Road General Chamber of Commerce and American Cinema Editors.