ROB CAIN: The China-Hollywood Experiment
#014 - The China-Hollywood Experiment | Rob Cain
“I think (he) did a great disservice, to both himself and the industry, with his boastful approach, his pretty outlandish claims about everything he was going to accomplish, the really profligate spending, and that came back to bite him.” - Rob Cain
Today’s guest is Rob Cain. Rob is a partner in Pacific Bridge Pictures. He has worked for more than 25 years in Hollywood and the global entertainment industry, primarily as a production, finance, strategy and creative development expert. He writes a column for Forbes magazine focusing on the Chinese and Indian film industries and their intersections with Hollywood. Rob is also an award-winning screenwriter, with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, and he has been doing business in China since 1987.
The short version of all that is that Rob is one of the original “old China hands” in the entertainment business, and his insights into the Hollywood-China experiment are as good as they get.
Before I get into the rest of this, let me share one note about what I mean when I say that I’m not trying to get too political here. By that, I mean that I’m not trying to stir anything up, plus I want shows to age well and not focus too much on current events. But I DO want to be as candid and honest as is polite and prudent, and to let guests speak for themselves without me censoring them as much as possible. Today’s episode is perhaps the best example of testing this idea in practice that we’ve had so far. Hopefully I got the balance right.
In this chat, both Rob and I reveal or underline (respectively) our fundamental positions as being optimists by default, able to find bright spots and some successes now and hoping to see even more in the future. But we also get very candid about the challenges to those optimistic positions, institutionally and otherwise. The conversation skips the standard talking points to provide a small glimpse at how those who are the most in-the-know about the realities of the complicated China-Hollywood relationship oftentimes discuss it in private...
We talk about the impact of capital outflow restrictions, the excessive regulations aimed at controlling content, and the giant attitudinal / cultural mistakes made by Wang Jianglin in particular as an example of how NOT to successfully work with Hollywood, or to build a business here in China that attracts foreign talent organically. On a more constructive note, we dig deep into what we think the smartest people in China need to know to best work with the international system, and vice versa. We talk about the perfect hypothetical pitch for a successful co-pro, and discuss where specifically even the most Chinese films that hope to be export-worthy fall short: STORY. And we even talk a little about how to fix this.
There is loads of both executive-level thinking and on the ground, practical advice in this episode, so I really encourage anyone who is either working in the entertainment business or who aspires to to check this one out. If you’d like to contact Rob, read his writing at Forbes, or learn more more about or support the show, you can do that via the appropriate links in the show notes. And I hope that you like the deeper-dive approach to the subject matter in this episode in general. Please let me know.
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