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Producers to Watch: Phoenix Flies to Beijing

by Sydney Levine
July 13, 2010 8:43 AM
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Mike Medavoy has already completed Shanghai for The Weinstein Co. and he must have liked the experience because he is now working with Jonathan Shen, Shinework in Beijing. Medavoy has always been one step ahead of the pack and never afraid of international co-productions. And he was born in Shanghai in a story almost worthy of a movie in itself. When I began my career, I was a secretary to a music agent at a company called International Famous Agency (IFA). Mike Medavoy was the head of its Motion Picture Division. Gradually I made my way up to reader and agent-in-training and when it merged with CMA (Creative Management Agency) to become ICM (International Creative Management) we went our separate ways. During his tenure as head of United Artists, Orion and TriStar, I pitched his development person, Marcia Nasitir on a film and our discussion kept me going onward into my own career arc.

Jonathan Shen and Mike Medavoy have been promoting Medavoy's books, American Idol After Iraq: Competing for the Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age and You're Only as Good as Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films and 100 for Which I Should Be Shot in China and the relationship has grown from there into the idea of co-producing Chinese-American films which is just about the only way to assure the distribution of one's film in the burgeoning Chinese market. People are critical of Chinese censorship practices which impose themselves upon the films which are made for consumption.

Medavoy's attitude toward China's film policy is simply that it is entirely up to China. He is quoted in The Hollywood Reporter May 18 as saying

The market will open up when it opens up. I think the Chinese government has every right to decide how they go about doing business. If they want to do it, they'll do it. If they don't want to do it, they won't. I don't see somebody imposing it on them, nor do I think anybody can.

While Medavoy's personal life is devoted to political activism, his professional life is 100% professional and it is what keeps him and his films forever interesting if not always profitable. Personally I would have liked his Shanghai film to have had more personal meaning but that was entirely up to him.

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