Douban, China’s most active and influential media review website, is moving into film production.
Read.douban.com (豆瓣阅读), a subsidiary of Douban.com (豆瓣), which focuses on user-generated content, is establishing its first film company, according to an internal memo by CEO Yang Bo released to local media.
“Following a six-month trial, Douban Read is now officially moving into film production,” the memo to staff from Yang reads. “Douban is now making movies.”
Yang, also known by his nickname ‘A Bei,” originally launched Douban.com as a social platform in 2005 after returning to Beijing from the US, where he worked at IBM.
The arts-focused social network operates a scoring system based on critiques from its users, much like Rotten Tomatoes.
Douban’s publishing arm Douban Read was launched in 2012 initially attracting 10,000 writers onto the platform to self-publish and sell e-books.
Since that launch four years ago, the site now has 20,000 writers and over 8,000 exclusive works, according to Yang’s memo. By the end of July this year, the company had sold the filming rights for 10 novels.
Authors are able to earn 70 percent of the sale price of their output, with most works priced at around RMB 5 (US$0.75).
The company is now hoping to incubate film and television projects on the platform, taking popular stories from computer screens to cinema screens.
Douban has already sold nine movies, according to its official website. The company is hoping that sci-fi story ZhuizhuTaiyang De Nanren (追逐太阳的男人) (which roughly translates as A Running Man for the Sun) will become the first feature film developed by the company.
Douban has sold the rights to A Running Man for the Sun to New Classics Pictures (新丽影业) and will work with the company to develop the film and share in its profits.
“Most films aren’t started and driven by their writers,” Dai Qin, the head of Douban Read said. “Douban wants to make films that originate and are pushed along by writers.”
Dai said the new company has two projects, one focused on developing stories with scriptwriters and the other with up-and-coming directors. The company has also established a “cultural fund” to bankroll the new projects.
The first project will allow scriptwriters to adapt stories from the Douban Read catalog and then make script submissions to the new film company. Over 200 scriptwriters have signed up for the project while the film company itself already has 240 scriptwriters.
The other project will open up short-film shooting rights for up-and-coming directors. Successful applicants to this project will be given funding to make short films based on the stories. 16 minute-long film ‘A Hero For A Day’ (一日英雄) is the first film of the rank made on a $20,000 budget provided by Douban Read.
The short film, which plays on schoolyard bullying and mass school shootings, was directed by Wang Lifan, and was shot in Alhambra, Los Angeles. It had its first screening at the Shanghai Film Festival in June.
This article originally appeared on China Film Insider
About the Author: Fergus Ryan is a reporter at China Film Insider and previously worked as a journalist for the News Corp. publications China Spectator and The Australian