Director Sees Success Making Chinese Films "The Hollywood Way"

    Although there has been no shortage of big-budget epics made in China over the past 20 years, light entertainment in a "Hollywood" mold has so far failed to make much of a mark in the domestic market.
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Finance

    Chinese-American Director Eva Jin (Jin Yimeng) Uses Unconventional Filmmaking Style#

    CCI Times today profiles the Chinese-American filmmaker Eva Jin (Jin Yimeng), who employed a "Hollywood model" of filmmaking for her 2009 romantic comedy "Sophie's Revenge" (fei chang wan mei), seen as an unconventional but successful move for the rapidly developing Chinese film industry.

    Although there has been no shortage of big-budget epics made in China over the past 20 years, light entertainment in a "Hollywood" mold has so far failed to make much of a mark in the domestic market. However, this appears to be changing, as popular "rom-coms" like Sophie's Revenge (which earned a respectable 97 million yuan (US$14 million) at the Chinese box office) and the more recent Xu Jinglei vehicle "Go Lala Go!" (Du La La Sheng Zhi Ji) have shown.

    From the article:

    Recently named to Hollywood Reporter's Next Generation Asia 2010 list, Jin Yimeng has attracted attention to herself for her unconventional working style. Jin, who wrote, directed and produced the 2009 box office hit Sophie's Revenge (Fei chang wan mei), became the first Chinese filmmaker to make a movie the "Hollywood way."

    Telling the story of a scorned woman trying to get back at her ex, Sophie's Revenge has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood romantic comedy. It stars well-known actresses and actors, such as Zhang Ziyi, Fan Bingbing, Yao Chen and So Ji Sub from Korea. It has a humorous plot, attractive clothes and urban, contemporary settings. But besides incorporating stereotypical Hollywood elements into her film, Jin's approach was perhaps even more distinctly American.

    Her unique style was cultivated during her studies at Florida State University, where she earned a master's degree in filmmaking in 2003. There, she learned how to produce standard commercial films. On her first day, she was surprised to find that she and her classmates would be making real movies instead of listening to lectures. Every student had to help others as director, producer, photographer or art designer.

    "Everyone's time and resources were limited," Jin said. "I remembered once I was left only 10 days to shoot a film. You must make full use of every minute or money will be wasted. I was forced to figure out how to shoot the most important scenes in the shortest time. I had four scenes to shoot in half an hour. Finally I fused them as one. It was a tough challenge for my creativity. But my potential and ability were fully developed. And I understood how Hollywood could produce so many great movies."

    Another lesson Jin learned was the Hollywood way of writing a story. In the U.S., a story must be precisely settled before any filming is done. Everything appears on to the screen at a certain moment. A team of people will discuss a story to make sure audiences won't leave their seats. Only in this way can a movie get investment.

    "But in China, directors can change the screenplay anytime as they like, which is unimaginable in Hollywood," Jin said.

    Interestingly enough, the increasing profitability of home-grown romantic comedies (or similar light entertainment genres) has also attracted advertisers to try to get a piece of the action, leading to viewer frustration in China about the amount and visibility of product placement in new movies and television shows. This has been the case with "Go Lala Go!" which features regular mentions of or appearances by brands like Lipton tea, Dove chocolate, Mazda, and Wrigley gum. From the Global Times:

    With increasing frequency, product placement is creeping into Chinese movies and television programs bringing large sums of money to producers and brand marketers but also annoying viewers who say they pay for entertainment, not advertisements.

    Go Lala Go!, the so-called Chinese version of The Devil Wears Prada that hit movie theaters yesterday, feels like a 100-minute-long advertisement for everything from Mazda autos to Lipton tea.

    "The movie is crammed with brands from the beginning and it really annoys me," said Feng Ning, a 21-year-old university student in Shanghai. "It features fashions, but the brands in it are not that fashionable at all."

    But Su Fan, a 25-year-old magazine editor in Beijing, said she felt comfortable with the quiet hype. "It didn't affect my viewing experience," she said. "The scene showing the heroine working overtime in the office and drinking Lipton tea even impressed me."

    Despite any controversy, income from these brands helped the producer get back the movie's production cost, director and actress Xu Jinglei told a media briefing in Beijing March 19.

    Product placements are also increasingly popping up in Chinese TV shows and video games, including Dove shower gel, Skyworth TVs and Kumho Tires in shows like Ugly Wudi, Love Story in the Countryside and games such as Crazy Racing.
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