With its seventh edition finally bringing SIGGRAPH Asia to mainland China, the question on everyone’s mind is what does the future hold for animation and visual effects in the world’s most populous nation?
Attempting to answer is Scott Ross, founder of Digital Domain, whose keynote address Thursday at the event in Shenzhen, China, delved deeply into the question, fueled by his decades of experience working inside the Hollywood machine.
Ross says that many nations have trumpeted themselves as “the next Hollywood,” with few obtaining substantive control beyond financial losses.
In recent decades, Japan, Korea and India have all attempted to buy a way into the glamorous world of Hollywood — with differing results. One thing that has always proven the downfall is an Asian predilection toward brand loyalty — investors wanting the prestige of an established studio brand.
Ross says that the future is bringing a lot of changes to the world of entertainment that will favor nations like China — if they can avoid the tempting pitfalls.
Studios do not make movies — writers, directors and producers do — they finance, distribute and market them, Ross says. Most of the financing these days is coming from outside investors, and digital will soon loosen the studios’ hold on distribution.
“Personally, I believe that the people that are making smart devices, and television sets will be the new distributors of linear content,” he says.
He also expects the days of studios spending marketing dollars on billboards, bus ads and the like, also are numbered.
“There could come a time in the next decade where the need for a Hollywood studio actually goes away,” he says.
The problems in Hollywood present opportunities for China to work with writers, directors and producers who are looking for new ways to get their movies made and seen.
But China has to change some of its outlooks as well. While China dominates in global manufacturing because of its ability to produce the highest quality products at the lowest cost, the same approach will not work for films.
That service relationship, though attractive, is ultimately a dead end, as the graveyard of defunct visual effects companies can attest to, he says.
China needs to realize the value of intellectual property is greater than that of real property.
It also needs to tap into the growing global culture that is developing and develop its own ideas that can thrive across borders.
“I no longer feel that there needs to be a Chinese story or an American story or a British story,” he says. “I pine for the day when we get a global story.”