As I started reading Chris Fenton’s Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA, & American Business, I began to come to the realization that the author might not be what he claims to be.
The first hint of this came during the opening chapter. There, the author gushes like a schoolgirl when relaying the fanfare of Robert Downey, Jr.’s arrival at the premier in Beijing. His descriptions are granular, as he goes into great detail regarding all the necessary security needed to protect one of the biggest movies stars in the world. But rather than describing his role as a “player”, he gives a rather detailed account of what’s it like to be a mid-level coordinator working with the actor’s agents and the actor’s security team.
The thrilling cliffhanger of those first few chapters? Are there enough blockades for the fans? Can the author convince Iron Man portrayer Downey not to wear a mask to the premier on account of the badly polluted air?
Spoiler alert: there were not enough blockades and Robert Downey, Jr. – RDJ to the cool kids – did not wear a “smog” mask.
For all the giddy excitement of a world premiere, author Fenton comes off as a mid-level flunky. This task would not be performed by a person running a multi-billion dollar company, working as an integral liaison between the Chinese government and a titan of the US film industry.
As I read further into the book, it became abundantly clear that I was not reading a memoir of someone who had actually done all those impressive accomplishments he writes about. No, instead it seemed to be the first hand account of someone who sat on the sidelines and watched all the action – a spectator if you will. If it would have been presented that way, it would have been a more honest and genuine account of the goings on.
And that’s the essential problem with Feeding the Dragon. He did not present a credible case that he actually did what he says he did. So, unfortunately, he comes off as just another in a long line of Hollywood phonies. Why bother? One would suppose he would do it to support the book, as well as sell himself to news agencies such as Fox News, where he has appeared several times and others as a “China Expert”.
In order to make and, more importantly, exhibit a feature film like Iron Man 3 in China, one should have encyclopedic knowledge of the arcane aspects of business development. First, one need to know how to actually make a movie. Second, one needs to know how to negotiate with Marvel. Third, one should possess an acute understanding of the people and culture of China. Fourth, and perhaps most important, one must know how to navigate the byzantine workings of the Chinese government to secure work permits, exhibition rights, etc. These are not trivial understandings entrusted to a mid-level security coordinator.
According to an article published on True Hollywood Talk, Fenton said that he doesn’t speak Chinese and has spent no more than a month in the country. He is not a Chinese government expert and he’s certainly not a filmmaker. Although in the book he takes credit for all of it.
In the end, Chris Fenton seems to be one who over hypes his involvement on projects. What are his intentions? Perhaps his goal is to make himself out to be an expert on all things related to both China and the movie business. Doing a deeper dive of Chris’s background, one finds that many of his claims are not based on fact but instead by his own stories which he uses to further his career. No doubt, Hollywood has a lot of good people and a lot of self-serving bad ones as well. And like many other autobiographical books, Feeding the Dragon is jam packed with hyperbole and self-serving talking points. In author Fenton’s hands, they come off as a methodology to land more gigs as a cutting edge China expert.
Facts and actions will always speak for themselves. But anyone who takes the time to delve into his background or talk to his associates will know Chris Fenton Is not feeding a dragon, he’s just feeding his own hype.