Marble Halls & Silver Screens With Sarah Lee Ep. 55: The 'Special Guest Will Coggin Talks China, TENET, and Funding & Defunding' Edition

It’s a groundbreaking day here at MH&SS because we welcomed our first special guest! Will Coggin, managing director of the American Security Institute, which was founded to educate Americans about Chinese government influence in the United States, including the film industry we colloquially refer to as “Hollywood” around here. Coggin, who previously lived in Beijing, talks about the Institute’s website,, and what we can expect from our changing relationship with China following the COVID pandemic which, thank God, appears to be ending.

We also discuss a recent op-ed written by his boss at the Institute, Rick Berman, that came out last week in The Washington Times, “This Movie is Rated CCP.”

Berman writes:

Under the ruling CCP, the Chinese government has been making huge investments in having stories told that will favorably impress their citizens as well as those in other countries. They want to depress negative imagery while supporting positive ones. The manically fussy CCP understands that images create ideas. And ideas have consequences.

The China movie market is one of the most exclusive in the world. Only 34 non-Chinese films are allowed in the country each year. The only other way to get a film into China is to partner with a Chinese production company. Alternatively, obtaining one of the 34 slots requires the studio to have a pristine record when it comes to portraying the country on film.

In the 2013 blockbuster “Gravity,” heroine Sandra Bullock is dangerously adrift in space. She is rescued and returned to Earth by accessing a Chinese space station. Thirty-three slots left. In the 2012 remake of “Red Dawn,” the villain initially was the Chinese People’s Liberation Army — at least it was before Sony Pictures sheepishly swapped out the film’s villain with North Korea.

When China’s Central Propaganda Department decides what films make it into the country, it considers the film script, the political stances of the cast and crew, and other content the studio has released. As studios clamor to squeeze every red cent from a film, the process has created a Hollywood culture of self-censoring best described in the new book “Feeding the Dragon” by Hollywood producer Chris Fenton (Looper, “Iron Man 3”).

Coggin explains how China is trying to influence the U.S. culturally and how the U.S. can begin to right the ship by bringing markets we’ve outsourced to Red China back to the mainland.

I also saw Christopher Nolan’s newest gem, “Tenet” (trailer below) in the theater and it was FANTASTIC. But you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear my deep thoughts on that subject, as well as the subject of the Trump administration’s push to investigate funding and strip funding as a way to finally address the civil unrest plaguing our city streets.

The show lives below on Spotify and you can also find me at iHeart radio, Apple PodcastsFCB Radio’s Spreaker, and Deezer.