(china org) Zhang Zhao, one of China’s most influential film moguls and Zhang Yimou’s producer, died of cancer on Wednesday. He was 58.
Zhang Zhao, a workaholic and respected film executive, had an outstanding career and prolific resume.
After he returned to China from the United States, where he studied philosophy and film, he joined Shanghai Film Group in 1996 and was involved in several films and TV productions. In 2003, he joined Beijing Enlight Media as art director. In 2006, he helped the company found Enlight Pictures, a film branch where he took the post as its president. As he built up its production and distribution capabilities, the film company soon became one of the industry’s leading players, making more than 20 blockbusters under his watch.
Zhang’s career kept evolving. After meeting with LeEco founder Jia Yueting, Zhang joined the latter’s company and founded the film entertainment division Le Vision Pictures in 2011, where he became CEO and chairman. Le Vision Pictures soon became a major player in the Chinese film industry. However, due to overambitious expansion and funding problems, the film company took the fatal hit.
After guiding the company through its darkest time, reforming Le Vision Pictures into Le Chuang Entertainment, he resigned in 2019 for “personal reasons.”
After leaving Le Chuang, Zhang Zhao became vice president of Fosun Group and CEO of its film and TV division. In May 2020, he resigned to found Jupin Films. The company recently completed its first round of financing, with investors including Heli Chenguang Group, Beijing Hualu Baina Film and equity investment management company Aqua Ventures.
“My heart ached every time I saw him emaciated. He persistently gave his all for filmmaking. He lived for films, died for films and exhausting his life for films. Would he have lived a better life if there were no such thing as motion pictures?” said Wang Changtian, chairman of Beijing Enlight Media, in a tribute on his Weibo account.
Zhang Zhao was responsible for many popular blockbusters including the Boonie Bears, Tiny Times and The Expendables franchises, Lu Chuan’s “Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe,” Xie Dongshen’s “Guilty of Mind,” and Law Chi-leung’s “The Bullet Vanishes.”
But Zhang’s most notable collaboration was with China’s prominent director Zhang Yimou. After the director’s bitter split with his former producer Zhang Weiping, Zhang Zhao provided support and became a close cooperator.
As a producer, he worked on Zhang Yimou’s US-China co-production “The Great Wall,” critically-acclaimed family drama “Coming Home,” and art-house action film “Shadow.”
“After today’s shooting ended, I was shocked to learn about Zhang Zhao’s death, and I couldn’t help but grieve!” Zhang Yimou said on Wednesday via his studio’s official Weibo account. “I saw him last time before I left Beijing. At that time I was listening to him still talk passionately about film projects. It feels as if that were just yesterday.”
He added, “Zhang Zhao was a man who really loved cinema. Every time we met, we talked about movies. Unfortunately, so many ambitions remain unfulfilled.”
Zhang Yimou will head Zhang Zhao’s funeral committee, which includes influential film and business executives, such as Han Sanping, Ren Zhonglun, Wang Changtian, Sun Zheyi and Jia Yueting. The memorial service date has not yet been set.
“Mr. Zhang Zhao was diligent in studying to perfect himself. He always walking forward with strong determination and continued to expand the possibilities of the Chinese film industry until the last moment of his life,” the funeral committee wrote in an obituary.
Source: china.org by Zhang Rui