Yang Xiaopei came to Cannes this year hoping to change what she says is the widely held perception of what Chinese content creators can offer the global market.
Much has been written about the epics of China, the tales of romance and action set in ancient worlds, amid beautiful costumes. While the country’s creators will certainly continue to play to these strengths in the future, Yang is part of a growing generation of studio heads who also want to share stories about contemporary China with the world.
“The diversification and caliber of Chinese series are flourishing,” said Yang, the founder and CEO of Shanghai-based Xixi Pictures. “Outside of historical dramas, contemporary city series in China have soared in popularity due to their relevance and thematic richness.”
China’s role as ‘Land of Honor’ on the 39the edition of MIPCOM Cannes has put the spotlight on how the industry there is evolving in terms of both domestic and international output. With more than 300 delegates from around 40 companies in the city, the Chinese presence has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and the mantra being pushed in Cannes – as has been the case this year at the world’s most important trade meetings – is that it country will ever be ‘open for business’ again.
China put its growing ambitions as a global content provider front and center at this year’s MIPCOM, with a focus on co-production, content acquisition and distribution capabilities that companies like Xixi Pictures hope will attract a new generation of international partners.
Yang was one of the speakers at a series of seminars held as part of the China promotion, along with actor/creator Hu Ge (A green journey) and Juan Wang, vice president and editor-in-chief of Tencent Online Video, for a discussion titled “China: Where Stories Evolve,” in which she shared the story of Xixi’s growth and its plans for future expansion in global markets.
Yang founded Xixi Pictures in 2020 after an early career that saw her move from the massive conglomerate Shanghai Media Group to China’s ever-expanding television drama market.
As executive producer, she was behind the costume dramas Chronicle of life And Fighter of fate – both of which found a large domestic audience and also reached Southeast Asian markets. Yang then expanded her focus to what she calls “contemporary realism,” with series like The avatar of the kingwhich is in the world of eSports and online gaming.
Since founding Xixi Pictures, Yang has produced costume dramas such as Old love poetry And Who rules the world along with further expanding the concept of contemporary realism The childhood memoriesa coming-of-age drama set in the 1970s, and Alliancewhich looks at the lives of a group of women in contemporary Shanghai.
Who rules the world was picked up by Netflix after a successful run on Chinese streamer Tencent’s global platform WeTV, while the plan for Alliance is for streaming on the YouTube platform of digital and new media distributor Jetsen Huashi Wangju, but also through deals signed with Viki (United States), ITalkBB and KT (South Korea), Astro (Malaysia) and PPCT (Cambodia) among others .
During her stay in Cannes, Yang presented two new Xixi productions: another costume drama The last immortaland another female-centric drama with Her islands. Both are scheduled for Q4 2023 and Q1 2024 respectively.
The sequel to Old love poetry, The last immortal continues to tread territory that might be familiar to international audiences – in terms of atmosphere and visuals, at least – as it is set in a world of gods battling demons and follows the journey of the central characters as they ‘transform into their best yourself’. according to a Xixi synopsis.
“This series represents a fresh approach, combining elements of the historical fantasy genre with the structure of road movies, with the aim of providing viewers with an innovative viewing experience,” said Yang.
Her islandsmeanwhile explores issues affecting contemporary China, and the ever-evolving relationship between a mother whose marriage is on the rocks and the daughters who try to help her cope in their own ways, while also trying to forge their own path in the world. Inspired by classical Chinese poetry, the series “uses the metaphor of ‘oceans and islands’ to reflect modern women’s relationships with their families and society.”
“The structure and dynamics within Chinese families are evolving, as are the ways in which emotions are expressed,” Xixi said in a statement. “However, the underlying desire for a beautiful and happy life remains unchanged. By means of Her islandswe hope to offer viewers around the world a glimpse into the changing dynamics and enduring values of Chinese families,” the company added.
For Yang and Xixi Pictures, the hope is that what works domestically will work increasingly globally, and that there will be a growing curiosity – and connection – with contemporary stories that may be set in China but have universal themes.
“Xixi Pictures is known for its diverse TV series, from romantic historical dramas to contemporary urban stories, all of which have been critically acclaimed in China,” Yang said.
She adds: “Although we have a strong position in the Chinese market, our vision extends beyond our borders. My ambition for Xixi Pictures is to walk a path where our content, which embodies our ethnic characteristics and core culture, can also resonate globally. We strive to ensure that Chinese stories are highlighted and appreciated on a global platform.”