Hainan: from a “natural studio” to a leading production base 

By Li Cong / hicn.cn / Updated: 13:04,17-February-2021

The choice of Hainan as a base for many television and film companies was not an overnight phenomenon. For years, the island’s beautiful natural environment and rich cultural resources have made the tropical province a favorite filming location. From popular movies and TV dramas, like " If You Are the One 2","Personal Tailor", "The Meg" and "Go Go Squid!", to the TV show " Let's Sacalaca ", Hainan has frequently shown up on both TV and on the big screen, highly impressing audiences.

With the development of the Free Trade Port, Hainan, known as a “natural studio,” is becoming even more appealing for leading TV and film companies and talented filmmakers, more and more of which have made the decision to set up business in Hainan, furthering boosting the development of the film and television industry in the island province. 

A prosperous film and television industry has become a new driving force for the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port.

Construction site of the Hainan Film Academy. Photo: Chen Yuancai

From a filming location to a cinematic industry base

Increasing investment unleashes a combined effect, with a booming industrial chain

Haikou’s Movie Town has become a popular tourist attraction. Photo: Zhang Mao

In recent years, to promote the development of the film and television industry, a number of high-quality filming locations have been set up in Hainan, including Haikou’s Movie Town, located at Mission Hills, which offers five film studios meeting high international standards where all kinds of scenes can be created.

Walking onto the traditional Beijing street, one of the key areas of Movie Town, visitors may find that they have been suddenly whisked back in time to the Beijing of the 1950s. One early morning, workers were busying moving a nearly 6-meter-tall camphor tree by crane. "30 degrees to the left, and a little to the right," Tian Xiaoxi, a renowned art director, gave direction to workers attempting to put the tree into its designated location. He believes that the position of an object greatly influences its visual effect on film, and so they were moving the tree to meet the aesthetic demands of the movie.

One of the filming locations of "Youth" directed by Feng Xiaogang in Haikou's Movie Town. Photo: Zhang Mao

In September 2020, actor Shen Teng registered a company in Haikou and named it “That Is A Big Film and TV Company in Haikou,” triggering quite a bit of online attention. Statistics show that so far more than 2,000 film and TV production companies have registered in Hainan, an increase of more than 600 over last June’s numbers. Several well-known directors and actors have registered companies in Haikou, and some leading film and TV production companies are also planning to film their projects in Hainan. The increasing investment into the film and television industry has unleashed a combined effect, with the industry value chain seeing rapid, vigorous development.

B:From a “passive” to a “purposeful” choice

Favorable policies boost TV and film production companies

Why is Hainan so popular?

“At least in winter, if an actor needs to be in water while shooting, he won’t feel frozen cold,” said Liu Yiwei, a TV host-turned film investor. His remark explains the primary reason why Hainan is a favorite shooting location for the movie sector.

For industry insiders, in addition to the tropical beaches, rainforests, and unique folk cultures, Hainan also offers high quality hotels and other supporting facilities, making this far south Chinese province a favored filming location. Hainan is undoubtedly a “natural studio”.

Hainan offers more than just year-round warm weather and stunningly beautiful scenery. The Hainan Free Trade Port government has also implemented a slew of new policies that strongly appeal to film and TV production companies.

In June, 2020, China released the  Master Plan for the Hainan Free Trade Port, offering unlimited possibilities for the development of Hainan's film and television industry: "zero tariffs", making the island province a possible future domestic trading center for film and television equipment; a "low tax rate", helping Hainan attract and incubate film enterprises; "free and convenient flow of personnel and cross-border capital" allowing more talented people and companies from across the globe to come to Hainan. This allows the scale of film companies to grow and injects new vitality into the development of Hainan's film industry.

Taking the next step forward, Hainan’s capital city, Haikou, has issued a policy document to promote the development of the local film and television industry. The document contains 23 provisions that regulate registration of film and TV companies, attract investment, and provide incentives to industry professionals as well as for broadcasting.

"Movie Town provides one-stop service, so it took less than 20 days for our company to finish registration. It’s very fast,” said the art director Tian Xiaoxi, “The COVID-19 pandemic brought a cold wave to the national film and television industry, but I feel the vitality and potential of the film and television industry here in Hainan.”

C:From a focus on tourism to a comprehensive development plan
Building up a whole industry chain

Guests at the 3rd Hainan Island International Film Festival. Photo: Wu Wei

The Hainan Island International Film Festival, one of the 12 pioneering projects of the Hainan Free Trade Port, has graced the shores of Hainan three times now, creating a platform for international cultural exchange between Hainan and the rest of the world. During the Festival, Chinese and international filmmakers expressed the hope that Hainan can inject new momentum into the development of the film industry.

How to create a whole film and television industry chain has become the topic at hand.

3rd Hainan Island International Film Festival Opening Ceremony. Photo: Wu Wei

" There is Hollywood in the United States, and Bollywood in India. Why can’t we build our own analogue – a Hai-llywood in Hainan?" asked Fu Xuanguo, Executive Vice Minister of the Publicity Department of CPC Hainan Provincial Committee and Secretary General of the organizing committee of the Hainan Island International Film Festival, during the event. The official raised a question that still needs time to resolve, but it is also a question that has a good chance of getting a great answer here in Hainan.



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