Magazine article Variety

Fighting to Bring a Crazy Dream to Life

Magazine article Variety

Fighting to Bring a Crazy Dream to Life

Article excerpt

Christopher Bremble remembers clearly the first piece of advice he received from someone already on the ground in Bering when he decided to set up Base FX there 10 years ago.

Over dinner in the Chinese capital, Bremble's guest, an industry veteran, tried to keep a straight face as he declared: "It's still not too late to get out!"

Bremble widely ignored that advice. A decade later, the cinema industry in the world's second-largest economy is unrecognizable, with grosses growing on average by around 48% per year. And Base FX has placed itself at the forefront of the industry's development in China.

Base entered a deal with Industrial Light & Magic nine years ago. It is exclusive to ILM on Hollywood studio films, and in exchange, ILM has helped Base sharpen its skills. Base has been a nuyor contributor to ILM's biggest tentpoles, including the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which received an Oscar nom for visual effects.

In television, Base has collected three Emmys, including awards for "Black Sails" and "Boardwalk Empire." There's also been a spread of its own work in Chinese and independent cinema, including local hit "Monster Hunt," the second-highest grosser in Chinese history with an estimated $385 million.

From an initial intake of around eight staff, Base now boasts around 500 employees. It has production studios in Beijing, Wuxi and Xiamen and has an office in Los Angeles. In early 2016, the sprawling China Media Capital investment fund took a minor stake in the company, as Base seeks to further its reach into China's domestic film market. With CMC's help, Base hopes to move into animated features, through its new Base Media operation.

"I plead insanity? says Bremble. "But from my first day in China I realized the world was coming here. The bar just keeps going up and up and up." It's a far cry from the world of small-budget features that he found in China when he launched the company. "No one wants low-end work anymore. Even TV these days is premium work.

"So we have grown as the needs of the industry have changed. But we are highly specialized, which is what makes us different. We are really good at the one thing we do."

Gretchen Libby, executive in charge, global studios, at Industrial Light & Magic, first met Bremble in Beijing in 2007 as her company was looking for outsourcing partners. "They spoke the same tech and creative language," she says. "We just saw a lot of potential working with them."

Libby says once the companies began to collaborate, she was impressed by the amount of training Base FX gave its team of créatives, spanning not only the technical side of the business, but also English language and basic workplace skills. …

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