The Rise of Celebrities Turned Producers

In recent years, celebrities turned producers have become the new trend within the entertainment industry. Examples include Andy Lau (刘德华), Yang Mi (杨幂), Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Ruby Lin (林心如), Peter Ho (何润东), Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明), Hawick Lau (刘恺威), Kevin Cheng (鄭嘉穎), Michelle Ye (葉璇), Cecilia Cheung (張柏芝), Ren Quan (任泉), and Wang Han (汪涵). So what exactly is the driving force behind this career change, and what are the gains and losses?

Not An Easy Task

Put simply, a producer is a film’s investor, or someone who is able to pull in investors. They play a key role in the film’s production, with responsibilities such as picking out the cast and script. With so much work on their hands, it is definitely not an easy job. First of all, a good script is difficult to achieve. Taking Zhang Ziyi for example, she flew to the United States several times just to hunt for a good Hollywood producer to edit the script.

Secondly, picking the cast is arduous. First-time producer, Yang Mi, now owes many debts of gratitude after selecting the cast for Micro Times <微时代之恋>. Besides offering roles to artists she is familiar working with, she also auditioned 8 newcomers. A lot of effort was spent on making telephone calls and waiting outside film academies.

The greatest problem of all for a producer is raising enough funds. Ren Quan recalled his first investment in filming, when he had suffered partner dropouts. He had to invest 15 million RMB by himself in the end, putting his house on mortgage. Andy Lau experienced a similar situation, in which he invested in six films but lost money on five.

In addition, spending the money in the most useful way in order to control the budget while producing an appealing work is tough. Peter Ho exclaimed, “Right now, when I see an unfinished lunchbox on set, my heart would churn in pain.” Similar to what Peter feels, Zhang Ziyi hovered over the expensive camcorder while the cast of Very Perfect <非常完美> opened champagne bottles to celebrate the end of filming. She was afraid that the liquid would spill and damage it.

Why Change Careers?

Although being a producer is such a tedious task, many celebrities are willing to make the choice, because aside from the financial promises, they also receive good dibs in other aspects.

Ruby expressed that the opportunities of an actress is not long-lasting. Many actors depend on their youth to make money, but what happens after they lose their youth? Turning to a behind-the-scenes career is seen as a better long-term decision.

Becoming a producer also allows artists immediate control over their artistic works. They can change the script, organize the crew and cast, and add scenes whenever they want. Peter Ho remarked, “Being an actor is rather passive. Many times they can only wait for the right script and role. On the other hand, producers have a lot of room for development.”

Fake Producers as a Marketing Gimmick

Not all the celebrities turned producers actually do their job. Some are just being called a producer as a marketing gimmick, when in reality, a film company is behind the operations. This is the reason why many celebrity turned producers say that it is inconvenient for them to reveal too much about the production plans, because they do not know anything about them.

Having a celebrity as the producer is bound to reduce the company’s production costs, since their salary also accounts for their “producer” position. The company pays less, while the artist earns more than being an actor. This mutually benefits both sides.

Furthermore, it is easier to attract investors if a celebrity is known to have produced the film. There is also an increased chance of recognition, and the productions can be sold for higher prices. Most of all, the support from fans is a valuable advantage which other producers do not have.


This article is written by Shirley for

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  1. This article has certainly enlightened me re what a producer is about. Certainly being one entails loads of work and particularly selecting the right script for a series which is most important. I wonder up to date how many are what one can call ‘successful’and who they are.

    1. The only measure of success as a producer is box office taking or awards or both. Their jobs start at the very beginning and will be until the end. Quite a difficult job, especially getting fundings.

  2. I’m surprised this article actually left out bigger names such as Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen. They’re both producers as well (and action/stunt choreographers for most of their own films).

    I wouldn’t exactly see this as a career change as you’re ultimately still in the same industry. It is a good move though, I think, in the long run it will benefit actors/actresses who choose this path. It supports financially and gives a person a sense of direction.

  3. It is a good idea but they of course have to have enough money which is not what many of the newer artists have. I was confused about what a producer does before but had a better idea when I read about Zhang Ji Zhong who is one of the most famous producers in China. I have heard of directors who are also actors/actresses which is another route to take as well. However, I am not sure of many of the artists are that confident about their acting to teach others and tell them how to act…

  4. I had a feeling that at times some artists are not actually the producer but their name is just being used to attract the audience and others…

  5. Yes, that is exactly what can happen and the above article says these are “fake producers” who use their names as “marketing gimmicks”.

  6. Of all listed, I can only say Ruby is considered the most successful one as the others are sorta starting out or didn’t have megahits. All actors do have aspiration to find their own projects, good scripts and hence own production. Some don’t but many do. Producers are dime a dozen as in they have the connections. Very few actors turn writers or directors though.

    1. I think writing the script and directing is a lot more challenging than producing.

    2. I would say Michelle is getting successful as well and I don’t think Ruby has done any series that are hits yet in my opinion anyways.

      1. Her series Schemes of A Beauty was extremely popular.

      2. HTS, That Glamorous concubine was a major major hit and her first produced series. I am not sure Scheming beauty was her production.

      3. Scheming beauty was produced by ruby Lin. She also produced the sequel. It wasn’t as successful as the first one but it was still pretty popular in china.

      4. Is the ‘Scheming Beauty’ you guys is discussing the one starring Ruby Lin and Sammul Chan? If yes, that’s produced by Yu Zheng. Ruby’s first production is ‘Glamorous Concubine’ I believe.

        I agree that Ruby Lin is a successful producer with great business sense. She adapted ‘Glamorous Beauty’ because she saw that this internet novel has a lot of followings. Then, she cast handsome actors in the series. Both rises the chance of success.

      5. Glamorous Concubine is the first time Ruby Lin did the producer job.

        The two released works of Michelle Athena and 9th widow haven’t proved its power yet, HTS. They are not flop, not super successful. But still have some time for the race of Michelle.

  7. The western film industry has been doing it a long time already, no surprises here that it becomes the natural progression for some celebrities to take.

    I predict we’ll eventually see a trend of singers start their own music labels and produce other singers as well.

  8. So far, only Ruby is doing well, and her drama is pretty good in my opinion, but some isn’t up to per.

    Some others can act in certain Series/movie, but being a producer isn’t for everyone.

    I give props to director, producer, screenwriter, PD, and other who create the whole concept, it’s hard work.

    1. It depends on which one since not all of the ones that she produced are good.

      1. Hum, not good in your opinion as in you don’t like the drama? I’ve seen the glamorous concubine, that one is quite good, great costume, nice story, great casting. Recently, I’ve seen drama go go go. Great cast, decent costume (each character’s clothing really define who they are, and very close to reality). The plot is not that interesting, but it’s predictable in an unpredictable way. Like u know who she is going to end up with, but it was so nice just to have her ended up with other guys. I think it’s quite a decent drama, too. Even though I found its a bit long lol.
        She also produced a tv film, in which the main actor got an award for best acting.
        Judging from her work, it’s quite decent, there are attentions to details. Nice plots, might not be out of the box, but there are elements make you uncertain about the ending.
        You might not like her drama, but it’s undeniable that her drama’s quality is quite good. Nice flow storyline, great cast, great costume, and she made the best use of her resources (drama go go go is kinda like skyline in a sense that with small budget, they only have a number of sets, but she managed to make a 30 ep out of it lol)

  9. Looks as if in order to be a good producer you have to consider a number of things like the story, the script, the director and myriads of details. It’s actually a full time job and I wonder how, if you are still an active actor, you can find enough time to juggle between the two jobs? You may not be able to give full justice to either.

  10. Andy Lau being a producer and investor is not a recent thing. So, should not be included in the new trend list.

    Also, I think Andy Lau’s reason was more selfless and idealistic. Many actors turn producers did it for themselves, so that they can have more security in their career and can produce film for themselves to act in. Andy Lau, on the other hand, invested in first time directors. His aim was clearly to give chance and support to new blood. He didn’t just invest in films with safe formulaic plot. He dared to invest in films with unique unconventional plot. Maybe that’s why he lost money. He invested in experimental untested project, with new directors, scriptwriters and actors.

    Andy might have lost money in his investment. But, I admire his effort to help in the industry and groom new blood.

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