Following reports that the top regulator of China's booming film industry has relaxed its controls on script content, industry insiders remain cautious as to whether the move will bring major changes to the industry.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and TV released a policy statement on Wednesday saying that scripts of "general subject" films no longer need to be scrutinized by the administration.
In order to get a license to shoot their pictures, the makers of such movies are only required to publish a synopsis of the film on the administration's website. However if the summary fails to clearly detail the film's subject, the administration will require further information..
This is not the first time that film content controls have been relaxed by the administration. As a result of rule changes made by the authorities in 2009, "non-significant subject" films only had to submit a 1,500-word summary for examination to get a shooting license instead of providing a full script as per previous regulations.
Commenting on the changes, Li Shaohong, Chairwoman of China Film Directors' Guild, said: "We have been doing this for several years, it is nothing fresh. This time, the amendment is just announced in an official notice. "
The changes do not affect procedures for films which deal with "significant subjects", including ethnic groups, religion, military, diplomacy, the police, the judicial system or historic events. The makers of such films must still submit full scripts to obtain a filming license.
The relaxation of rules for films of "general subjects" does not mean that such films are exempt from censorship, which is divided into two parts: The first deals with scripts; the second relates to granting screening licenses for completed films.
Industry insiders are relatively unfazed by the new rules, with some calling for reforms to go even further. "The new rules have been practiced for years," said renowned director Jia Zhangke. "It was just announced in an official document and attracted attention. But realistically speaking, it will not influence China's film industry that much."
In other changes, authorities will no longer need to approve the import of equipment needed for films co-produced by Chinese and foreign partners.
Another director, Liu Jie, added: "The revoking of the rule which requires the authorities to approve the import of equipment for joint Chinese and foreign productions may ease some procedures for co-production, but the other rules are nothing new. They didn't relax controls on 'significant subjects', so it's not so different from what was done previously. "
Director Zhang Qi called for further reforms to relax controls on script content. "For some filmmakers, their risks are actually increased due to the policy because they only know what content should not be included when the filming has finished," he told China Daily. "They have to spend more money to revise a finished film than a script. The industry would really benefit from bringing in a ratings system."
The administration does not as yet have a rating system. Its role includes creating policies to guide the sector's development, regulating market players and copyright management.
China's film industry became the second largest in the world in 2012, with the United States still leading the way. Box office revenue in 2013 had reached 10.9 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) as of July 1, a 33.8 percent increase over the same period last year.