About Co-Productions

This information was published by CFCC (China Film Co-Production Corporation) - the goverment agency in charge of coordination and approval of co-productions.  The information presented here is for general knowledge only. Please visit www.cfcc-film.com.cn for most up-to-date info.



About CFCC

China Film Co-Production Corporation, abbreviated as CFCC, was founded in 1979. Over the nearly three decades, CFCC has established good relations with filmmakers from over 50 countries and regions, including the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Finland, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Chinese Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR and Taiwan Region.
The company management is as follows: President, Mr. Miao Xiaotian and Vice President, Ms. Susan Xu. 
CFCC enjoys all rights and liabilities of an individual legal entity. Authorized by the state film administrative authorities to administer, coordinate and serve the Chinese-foreign film co-production business in line with the Regulations on Administration of the Film Industry and the Rules on Administration of the Chinese-Foreign Film Co-production (Edict 31 by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television), the company takes the following obligations:
1) Proceed applications of film co-production and assisting production between Chinese domestic film studios and foreign film companies or filmmakers; organize the signing of administration agreements among all cooperative parties; supervise and coordinate the execution of agreement.
2) Recommend Chinese host studios for foreign partners and provide service for co-producing parties.
3) Initially examine the proposed scripts and provide inquiry on proposed projects.
4) Initially examine the finished films in reference to the approved scripts.
5) Handle entry visas for foreign crews for co-productions.
6) Handle customs clearance for filming facilities, equipment and materials to be used in co-production.
7) Proceed non-feature filming application and directly host overseas crews for location shooting in Chinese mainland.
8) Make platform for Chinese-foreign filmmakers to communicate and exchange as to promote Chinese-foreign film co-production.
9) Handle other matters requested by the state film administrative authorities.

What is a Sino-foreign co-production?

Nature of Co-Production   

A Sino-foreign co-production, simply put, is a contractual arrangement between a foreign party and a Chinese party to conduct filming in China. There may be multiple parties on each side, provided that the Chinese party/parties must be production entity/entities accredited by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) (for details, see “Structuring a Sino-foreign co-production”). For purposes of Sino-foreign co-production, investors or producers from the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administration Regions and the territory of Taiwan are considered as overseas parties.

Relationship of the parties

The parties to a Sino-foreign co-production organize and conduct affairs of the co-production, including division of rights and obligations, in accordance with the co-production agreement entered into between them. The parties do not set up a separate entity for purposes of the co-production.


All Sino-foreign co-productions must obtain the approval granted by the SARFT before any filming activity commences, and when the film is completed (that is, the censorship approval). Every co-production project can only be directed at producing and shooting one film, and a separate application is required for each project. The approvals are granted on a case-by-case basis depending on the relevant authority’s review of, among other things, the screenplay and the completed film. The regulatory regime captures all film genres and all formats in which filming will be conducted.

Governing authority

The governing authority for Sino-foreign co-production is the SARFT, in particular, the Film Bureau of the SARFT. Nevertheless, the SARFT has appointed China Film Co-production Corporation (CFCC) as its sole agent to assist in managing and coordinating the applications, conducting preliminary review of the screenplay and completed film, and other logistical matters relating to Sino-foreign co-productions.

Why Sino-foreign co-production?

Abundant resources at a low cost

China’s massive geographical coverage such as river basins, valleys, mountain ranges, deserts, grasslands and forests, provide vast choices for filming locations. Its rich history spanning across 5000 years and delightful minority culture constitute endless topics of interests. In addition, abundant labor resources and other materials are available at a low cost for the construction of filming sites, manufacture of props and costumes, and filming of majestic scenes. 

Access to Chinese market

China’s 2007 box office achieved more than 3.3 billion Renminbi, a 26% growth over the previous year. In the same year, an average of 1.35 screens is added on a daily basis to the total theatre screens in the country. The combined revenue from domestic and international box office and domestic television broadcast also created historical heights at 6.7 billion Renminbi. The growing appetite of the Chinese audience present significant opportunities for co-produced films, in particular, jointly produced films (for discussion on various types of Sino-foreign co-production, see “Structuring a Sino-foreign co-production”) that are approved for domestic release. 

Increased international interest in Chinese content

Undoubtedly, the demand for Chinese content is growing, and the best way to meet that demand is to directly access China – the only authentic source for Chinese culture, creative and expert resources. 

Structuring a Sino-foreign co-production


Regardless of the type of co-production, the key to structuring a Sino-foreign co-production is the participation of one or more Chinese production entities accredited by the SARFT.

Mode of Co-production

Under the current regulatory regime, there are two common modes of co-production:
1. Joint Production.  This is where the Chinese and foreign parties jointly invest in and produce the film, and share the copyright subsisting in the film and risks and profits from the project. Joint production is by far the most popular mode of co-production and Chinese elements usually feature prominently in the film. In fact, it is a requirement that Chinese cast constitute at least one-third of the main cast members. Joint productions are regarded as domestic films and can be directly released in Mainland China after it is completed and passes censorship review. Joint productions can also enter into the Huabiao Awards (Chinese governmental awards) for the ‘best co-production film’ prize.
2. Assisted Production.  This is where the foreign party provides the capital, and the Chinese party provides assistance in regard to equipment, facilities, location, labor, etc. in return for a fee. The product of an assisted production is owned by the foreign party and the film cannot be released in Mainland China unless it is imported by the authorized import agent such as China Film Group Film Import & Export Corporation.

Relevant considerations in structuring a co-production

It is generally up to the parties to decide which mode of co-production they would like to adopt. Nevertheless, there are a few issues which the parties could consider in structuring the preferred mode of co-production. The following list is by no means exhaustive and readers should be aware that the relevant issues are intertwined and should not be considered in isolation:
1. Nature.  This involves a consideration of whether the investments will be contributed jointly by the Chinese and foreign parties (in which case the parties should adopt joint production), or solely by the foreign party (in which case the parties should consider assisted production).
2. Creative elements.  If the story is such that there will be no Chinese elements or insufficient Chinese cast to constitute at least one-third of the main cast, the parties should either consider revising the story if joint production is the preferred mode, or adopting assisted production.
3. Division of obligations.  Generally, the Chinese party to a joint production will participate heavily across all stages of production up to promotion and release of the film. In an assisted production, their level of participation and decision-making will be lower, and they are usually not involved in the promotion and release of the film.
4. Censorship.  Regardless of the mode of co-production, all films made in China must be submitted to the SARFT for censorship review.
5. Rights and release of the film.  In a joint production, it is a requirement of the law that the Chinese and foreign parties share profits derived from the film. The parties, however, are allowed to specify in the co-production agreement how the rights and profits will be divided. In a straightforward assisted production, however, the foreign party will usually be the owner to the copyright subsisting in the film.

Procedural requirements for a Sino-foreign co-production

Procedures for approval of a co-production project
A Sino-foreign co-production project may only formally commence upon obtaining the SARFT’s approval, which is in the form of issuance of the Sino-foreign Film Co-production Permit. The process is as follows:
Procedures for approval of the completed film 
Once post-production finishes, the completed film must be submitted to the SARFT for censorship review. Films that pass censorship review may either be released within or outside of China.
Procedures for conducting post-production overseas
If the post-production and prints development for a joint co-production or assisted production need to be conducted outside Mainland China, the parties may apply in advance for approval by providing the names of the relevant country and lab.
Procedures for participating in film festivals/exhibition
A joint production (if it passes censorship review) can participate in any overseas film festivals or exhibitions provided that the case is reported to the SARFT 30 days in advance for filing purposes.

Application materials for a Sino-foreign co-production

The following application materials are required for all modes of Sino-foreign co-production except stated otherwise.
Approval of co-production project
Application memorandum prepared by the Chinese party, stating among others Chinese and English names of the parties to the co-production, contact details of the parties, film title, brief description of the film, brief introduction to the main cast, production schedule and filming location;
Certificate of Incorporation (photocopy) and bank reference letter of the foreign party (original);
Introduction to the foreign party’s business activities and history in film production, as appropriate;
Synopsis in Chinese;
5 sets of the screenplay in Chinese;
Letter of intent or co-production agreement between the parties (photocopy);
Name, citizenship, brief resume and role of the principal cast;\
Name, citizenship and brief resume of principal crew, namely director, screenwriter, director of photography and art director.
Approval of completed film
Completed film embodied in tapes or discs;
Confirmation letter stating the actual investment made by the respective parties (not required for assisted production);
6 stills in electronic, discs or printed form.