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Meet Michael McDermott of Gung-Ho Films China


Owner and producer of Gung-Ho Films, part of GPN, discusses post-COVID in China and growing up in LA

Meet Michael McDermott of Gung-Ho Films China

GPN recently caught up with Michael McDermott, owner and producer, of Gung-Ho Films in China to talk about filming in China, what’s happening post COVID and the pathway to Gung-Ho’s success in the international film market.

Q> Many eyes have been on China during the pandemic, and now, post pandemic. What is the actual film status for China?

Michael> We are finally back in operation, almost 100%, after a long three year pause. China was locked down during the entire pandemic and there was no possibility to film live. We were able to do remote shootings during this time, which helped, but it took away the magic of what film is.

The restrictions are gone and since March we have been able to go about business as usual. There are still some things that have not yet returned to normal and several things that have changed from pre-COVID days. There is still little air traffic coming into China. Flights from the States were reduced from 350 flights per week to 8- now 12. Similar to other countries, people who worked in our industry and were out of work during COVID, found other avenues of employment (the catering business being a big one), so we’re slowly rebuilding our ground team here.

However, business is booming and we are consistently getting inquiries about shoots and filming in China. The luxury market is extremely good right now and luxury brands, who already established in the Chinese market, are using us to shoot their commercials.

Q> What is Gung-Ho’s niche?

Michael> We work with international film production companies who want to shoot commercials, feature films, television, documentaries or artistic film projects in China and Hong Kong. We have three teams between Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong who work together, and have been working together for years, on our projects. Having the same team that knows each other well, knows the equipment, locations and sets, have given us a fluid and easy way to put productions quickly into place. Between these three hubs we have team members who are specialized in different areas, offering a diverse range of possibilities to meet the production needs of clients.

As an international film production service we help foreigners work easily in China, which in itself can be quite complicated. We understand the needs of foreigners and their standards and are able to provide high quality, professional production services for our clients. Our crews are English speaking and have been working in the field for many years.

China has a wide and varied range of locations throughout the country. There are beautiful nature places, colonial cities, beaches, harbors, modern architecture and futuristic cities to shoot in. We have a deep knowledge of these locations and the logistics involved in filming there.

We are able to facilitate whoever needs to film here- from small to large. The same expertise goes into each and every one of our productions.

Q> What path led you to founding Gung-Ho?

Michael> I grew up in LA and in the business - my mother was an actress and my father was a producer. I was surrounded by film my entire childhood. My friends at school were actors/actresses and film was always the center of our lives.

I went to UCLA and got heavily into production while there. During my time in university, I also became really interested in China. I spent four years learning Chinese and six to seven years building up my film and production skills working in various settings from music videos to movies.

I was keen to find a way to marry these two interests and looked abroad to see what was going on in the world of film. I discovered Stillking in Prague and Moonlighting in South Africa and examined what they were doing. They were huge inspirations for me and I thought, if they can do it, then I can do it in China. They were pioneers in this industry and I set out to do the same. 

In 2001, I founded Gung-Ho, using my intuition, inspiration and ideas. I took a huge risk in doing this because I was the first to set up a business like this in China. I had been following Salon Films, which has been based out of Hong Kong since the 1970s, for a long, long time. I knew that because of their huge success in the Asian market (and the world), that there was a niche and a need for a company like my own.

And so it began. Here we are 22 years later and we are still going strong.

Q> How did you come to be a part of the GPN family?

Michael> I met Harry many years ago, before he even began GPN. When Harry set up GPN there were several networking platforms out there, but none had the personal touch. They were more a platform to connect people and then we, as producers, had to do the work to find the connections. I knew, even back then, that these wouldn’t work.

Harry, also a pioneer, had the vision of creating a personal network of global film producers who are the best of the best. Harry has an excellent eye and a developed skill set, which gave me complete trust in him. I knew when he recommended someone that I wouldn’t need to look any further. His judgement was the key to his success, and in turn, to many of our successes. I will be forever grateful to Harry and for the network that he has established. We are a family. I know that if I need to film abroad, with the GPN network I can easily make the professional, high quality connections that I need. And that is worth gold in this industry.

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Global Production Network, Mon, 18 Sep 2023 08:13:00 GMT