Weidianying – China’s Great Love for Small Movies

By staff reporter VERENA MENZEL

IN 2012, the short film A Bed Affair became an Internet sensation in China. Through the eyes of a thief surprised by the sudden return of the flat owners during his foray, director Zhang Yuan allows the audience a 36-minute, fly-on-the-wall look into an ordinary Chinese bedroom. However, what the viewers are confronted with are not intense love scenes, but a fierce quarrel that flares up between Zhang Cheng (played by Shen Teng) and his wife Li Xiaoyun (Li Xinyun) over a missing condom.

The stage around which the filmmakers spin their moving drama is the double bed of the young married couple. Love, despair and reconciliation play out under the covers of the cozy bedroom. Thus, it only appears as a logical consequence that at the end of the story the logo of the De Rucci Bedding Company, the advertising partner of the film, fades in.

Some may call this sponsoring, others, a 36-minute commercial. The fact is that more and more companies in China are discovering weidianying, or micro movies and short films, as a promising platform for online advertising. As a consequence, the short film genre is experiencing a real boom in the People’s Republic today.

Strictly speaking, the only difference between short films and their big brothers on cinema screens is the length of the picture. Some are only a few minutes long (micro movies), others run for more than half an hour (short films).

 A Bed Affair

But for advertisers the production of a short film offers significant advantages. Unlike expensively produced full-length movies, which first have to make it to the silver screen and rely on ticket sales as well as huge advertising deals for their revenue, the threshold for short and micro films released exclusively online is comparatively low.

The production costs of a 10 to 15 minutes movie in China ranges from only RMB 30,000 to 50,000 (US $5,000 to 8,000). Distribution costs as well are much lower than those of traditional films. Moreover, the shooting normally doesn’t take more than one week. In most cases, pre- and post-production of a short film project can be completed in less than one month.

The size of the audience that can be reached appears very tempting as well: The films can be called up conveniently and at anytime online, and netizens popularize the ones they like around the web within hours. The short film Going Home, for example, which was launched during the Spring Festival of 2011, achieved more than 20 million hits within only 10 days.

Big Business

In time to the rhythm of the accelerating heartbeat of today’s bit-society imbued with microblogs, short messages and video-bites, short films fit the pulse of a whole generation. The narrative form of these filmic short stories not only perfectly matches the preferences of its mostly young audience, but also, due to low production costs, short production time, a wide reach and a multitude of opportunities for interaction, make advertisers’ hearts beat faster.

China’s new media market has become one of the most profitable on the globe. The country has more than 618 million Internet users and over 900 million mobile phone users, making it the global leader in these areas. The total advertising volume of China’s online market stood at RMB 32.1 billion (US $5.26 billion) in 2010. According to estimates of the market research company ChinaIRN, the figure will reach RMB 156.5 billion (US $25.64 billion) this year. Annual growth is, on average, 49 percent.

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