A crew of 75 people and 55 production vehicles will converge at the Port of Los Angeles this week to stage a gun battle scene for a movie called "Hollywood Adventures."
The project might easily be mistaken for just another studio action movie, except that this film features some of China's biggest stars — Zhao Wei, Huang Xiaoming and Tong Dawei.
With a budget of about $30 million, "Hollywood Adventures" is the largest Chinese-language movie to film in Southern California, providing a rare influx of foreign production to a region that has seen a steady outflow of movies to other states and countries.
The film, an action comedy about the exploits of three tourists on a visit to Hollywood, has become something of a symbol of the growing cross-pollination between filmmakers and investors in China and Hollywood.
"This represents the best of both worlds coming together to make a great production," media mogul Bruno Wu, one of the film's producers, said in an interview from Beijing.
Much attention has been focused on efforts by major studios to sign co-production deals in China and crack the world's second-largest film market — expected to reach $5 billion this year. But Chinese film distributors and media investors such as Wu also are bringing business to Hollywood.
Lindsay Conner, partner and co-chair of entertainment and media practice at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, said the movie "reflects a growing trend toward Hollywood and China continuing to find ways to work together, whether it's exploring themes that are relevant to both sides, or using locations or crews that are valuable to both."
"Hollywood Adventures" was written and produced by both Chinese and Americans and features an international cast, including Simon Helberg of the TV show "The Big Bang Theory." Most of the crew members, including director Timothy Kendall, are American.
The Chinese stars of the movie were honored last week at a U.S.-China film summit with an ensemble award for their work on the movie.
Wu is producing the film with partner Justin Lin, the Taiwan-born American director of several "Fast & Furious" movies. The pair formed a joint venture called Perfect Storm Entertainment two years ago to develop and produce English- and Chinese-language films.
"Chinese movie investors are now thinking about going global," Wu said. "In the meantime, you see Hollywood trying to form better collaboration with Chinese players. This is really a golden moment for a company like ours."
Wu is the founder and chief executive of Sun Seven Stars Entertainment and Media Group, one of the largest private media and investment companies in China. He drew headlines in 2013 over plans to raise a $500-million private-equity fund for media investments focusing on companies expanding in China.
The joint venture with Lin, Perfect Storm Entertainment, is based in Beijing but has an expanding presence in L.A., with more than 150 people working on multiple projects, Wu said. In addition to "Hollywood Adventures," the company has various other feature films in the works, including a Chinese version of "Charlie's Angels" called "Mermaid Soldiers" that may also film in L.A. as well as Australia.
Perfect Storm Entertainment also produces the hit CBS TV series "Scorpion."
"Hollywood Adventures" is filming for 40 days in Southern California, with an additional three to five days in Beijing. Production began last month and is due to wrap up next week.
The movie has filmed throughout L.A., including Los Angeles Center Studios, the desert outpost east of Lancaster known as Club Ed, a mansion in Beverly Hills and the Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch in Santa Clarita, where the crew filmed a car stunt and explosion in the Mexican town, according to film permits. Landmarks such as the Hollywood sign, Union Station and Madame Tussauds wax museum also were highlighted.
"We've filmed in the city, the desert — everywhere," Wu added. "We've had a fantastic experience."
Shooting the movie in L.A. was dictated by the script. But Wu said producers also wanted to take advantage of high-caliber crews that, along with the iconic Hollywood locations, will help make the movie more marketable in China and elsewhere.
"This will be a great demonstration to the people in China who run the film business that there is a huge technical difference between what has been accomplished in China so far, and the world standard that Hollywood has set technically," said attorney Matt Galsor, a partner at Greenberg Clusker who chairs the firm's entertainment practice. "They want to make Chinese films that look like Hollywood films, but that are culturally specific with that part of the world."
"Hollywood Adventures" is expected to be released next year and hopes to replicate the success of the 2012 low-budget comedy "Lost in Thailand," which was a hit in China.
"Because of the quality of the productions and the quality of the product, we do believe these films will have a market beyond China in other Asiatic countries," Wu said.