Category Archives: Chinese Film Productions

Jing Wen breaks through the ‘man’s world of directing’

JING WEN 2
Jing Wen

Jing Wen says she works in a “man’s world.” Many female directors in the film and television industry feel this way. It is classically a male dominated field, and just last year the Hollywood Reporter stated that a mere seven per cent of all directors directed the top 250 films, a two per cent decline from 2015, according to San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. Wen, however, does not allow herself to be fazed by this. The award-winning director goes after any and all jobs that would typically be given to a man, constantly looking to break barriers. The Chinese native has become one of the leaders in her field in her home country, and is continuing to cross borders with her impressive skillset.

Earlier this year, Wen once again showed that there she can be a typical ‘rich man’ as she puts it, but directing a luxury car commercial. Dongnan DX7 car commercial. The commercial features Chinese actress and star Wenjing Bao, alongside her three-year-old daughter Jiaozi. The story shows Wenjing making a travelling plan with Jiaozi, asking her daughter to pack her own toys. Unfortunately, Jiaozi slow and took a lot of toys. Luckily, the car gave them much space so Jiaozi can keep all of her toys, and is fast enough to make up the time that was lost. Finally, they are shown having a wonderful road trip in their Dongnan DX7.

“This commercial was a very quick job, so every decision I had to make had to be made quickly. This always provides a fun challenge, and you have to make sure you let everyone on your team know every one of your decisions and any plans you have made, so they can easily do what you ask. There is not much time, so the most important thing you should do is follow your heart and trust your instincts. That makes me excited,” said Wen.

The commercial was produced by Mei Yang. Yang had heard of Wen from the lead producer at Mango TV, Shan Zhou. Zhou worked alongside Wen on a series of projects, such as the television shows Never Give Up, Salute to Life and Blossoming Flowers. Zhou told her friend Yang about Wen, and Yang was immediately impressed with the director after watching some of her work. Wen was asked to take part on the commercial right away.

“Jing Wen has very strong skills as a director, and also she can handle a lot of emergency problems while shooting. We only had five days to prepare this commercial. When she got the script, she went through it and found things that were impossible given our timeline, and found other ways to do it instead,” Zhou described. “For example, Jingwen Bao’s daughter Jiaozi, she is only three-years-old, and a lot of the time she was out of control. In order to complete shooting on time, Jing decided to use montage shots to show the reaction of Jiaozi in her enjoyable moment in the car. We also had the problem, where one day before shooting, the advertisers change the content of the shooting plan. Jing fixed the shot list and gave the advertisers new ideas that still were close to their suggestions, making them very happy. Jing did a very good job on this commercial shooting. I want to work with her again.”

Directing a difficult three-year-old is something that would cause many directors with a short time frame to become frustrated, but Wen never let that happen. Instead of trying to keep the child’s focus on the camera or the scene, Wen decided to let her focus on the toy. That way, she could then use the toy to lead Jiaozi to do something for the shot. The result looked very authentic.

“Wenjing and I worked together on Mom is Superman 2. We already knew we had a great partnership and could work together very quickly and efficiently. She is a big star in China, and she has almost 2 million fans in WEIBO, which is kind of like Instagram. She is really nice, and even sometimes when Jiaozi was really out of control, she helped me to deal with her daughter’s problem. She is a patient mother, and after were finished shooting, she always accompanied Jiaozi around the set,” Wen described.

When always aims to work efficiently. When she first got the script, she discussed the possible shooting locations with the producer. They only had five days to prepare the entire production, so after she chose the locations, she used two days to make a storyboard with my director of photography. She wanted to make sure she was involved with every aspect of the production, making sure to keep the client happy.

“Shooting a commercial, the most important part is talking with advertisers. Sometimes they will ask you to do something nonsensical in part in your film to show their product. At this moment, you need balance their intentions and the story telling. Know what they want to show, that’s the key to success when shooting a commercial,” said Wen.

No matter what project she is working on, success is always the end result for Wen. Her work on the web series Mountain Comeback, the Shenzhen television show Ji Ke Zhi Zao, and the promotional video for Red Nose Day of China follow in that same pattern. At the end of the day, however, it is about how her work resonates with audiences that drives this formidable director.

“I’m a storyteller, and I like giving hope to everyone and making them feel love all around,” Wen concluded.

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Producer Xueru Tang faces her fears, literally, in critically-acclaimed horror flick Emily

Xueru Tang’s life is making movies, and she loves every minute of it. Her work captivates international audiences, and her name is recognized all over the world. She is an extraordinary producer, and one of the best to recently come out of China.

While working on several esteemed projects, Tang has become an extremely sought-after producer. She has worked on films such as Locked, and Hot Pot Man. Both of these projects have gone on to do very well at several of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. However, what is perhaps the most decorated film of Tang’s career is the award-winning horror flick Emily.

“When I was asked to join the project, I was really interested. I love horror movies, but I always have trouble watching them because they scare me, so I really wanted to know how a horror movie was shot,” said Tang.

Directed by Jun Xia, the film tells the scary story of a woman named Emily. Emily dies giving birth at home after her husband, John, abandons her. However, she will have her revenge from beyond the grave when she returns as a ghost set on killing her widowed husband.

“I liked the script at first, it was short but it was interesting, and once I started working on the film, I began to really like the way the director told the story. He really caught the point at which everyone is frightened. It really made me scared. He really had his style and his visual for everything,” said Tang.

Tang was approached by co-producer Guannan Li to join the project. Li knew he needed a team of the best producers he could find, and having worked with Tang before, he knew she would be the perfect fit. Another producer on the film, Jingming Zhao, could not have agreed more.

“During development of the film, Xueru included her creative input for the film, and helped to polish the script, showcasing her creative abilities. She was responsible for renting equipment, creating and managing our budget and schedule, and making certain that this highly intensive work was made on our budget. Due to Xueru’s preeminent abilities as a creative thinker and a talented producer, she helped us to lay a foundation for the film, without which we would not have been nearly as successful. Of the many producers I have worked alongside, she is the most stand-out talent I can think of,” said Zhao.

Tang’s decisions for the film were very fruitful, as Emily has been a stand out at film festivals. After its premiere at the Los Angeles International Film Festival in August of 2015, it went on to be praised at the following festivals: Winner Best Horror Short Film – Hollywood Horror Festival 2015, Winner Best Short Film – Mad Town Horror 2015, Winner Best Horror Short – Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival 2016, Winner Best Student Horror Short – Hollywood International Moving Picture Film Festival 2016, Winner Best Student Horror Short – United International Film Festival 2016, Winner Best Director – Chandler International Film Festival 2016, Winner Official Selection Award – Chinese American Film Festival 2016, Official Selection London Digital Film Festival 2015, Official Selection International New York Film Festival 2015, Official Selection Full Bloom Film Festival 2015, Official Selection and Screening Big House Invitation Year One 2015, Official Selection Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 2015, Official Selection Horror Short Video Contest 2015, Official Selection Los Angeles Short Film Festival 2016, Official Selection and Screening Holly Shorts Film Festival 2016, Official Selection AFMA Film Festival 2016, Official Selection and Screening Hanhai Studio 1st Short Film Festival 2016.

“When we won the first festival, we all super happy, and one by one, after like 10, to be honest, we all started to feel like ‘okay, this is normal,’” said Tang. “When we started winning the big festival, we felt happy of course. I felt like it showed how hard we worked and how good we are. When we work it can be a really hard time and not easy for all of us, but we studied from this production and we grew because of it.”

For a film to do so well over such an extended period of time, continuing to impress audiences and critics over a full year, shows just how good it is, and Tang was a big part of that. She dealt with the crew, worked on the budget, and was responsible for hiring a team that she knew could make the film the success it became. One role in particular that she tirelessly searched for was the cinematographer, as the director Jun Xia wanted someone he could work well with and share his vision. Tang spent months searching and interviewing candidates looking for that special director of photography. This effort led to finding the ideal match, and was vital for the film.

The team worked so well together, that they decided to embark on another horror film Inside Linda Vista Hospital, which production companies were eager to be a part of after Emily’s success. The second film has gone on to achieve similar feats at many film festivals, showing audiences all over the world why Tang is so good at what she does.

Producer Albee Zhang doubles as Hometown Champion

Many people don’t realize they have a dream until they have already achieved it. This is just what happened for Albee Zhang. The Shanghai native always knew she wanted to make films, but it wasn’t until she realized she had made a career both in China and the United States that this was always what she wanted. She shows the world her culture through her work, and allows audiences to see both where she comes from and where she is now, as an internationally successful film and television producer.

This is exactly what Zhang achieved with the film Bride: Shanghai, I Love You. As a producer on the film, Zhang was essential to its success. She provided creative ideas for story meetings, prepared pitch materials, created and managed the production budget, scouted locations, recruited the crew, oversaw the art department and post-production teams to ensure deadlines, and cast the film. Without her, the film could not have been made.

“The cast she put together, the people that she put together for this project, it was really quite amazing. Albee is the master of multitasking, but never skips out on the small things. She has more drive and passion than anyone I have ever met. She is definitely a go-getter,” said the director of the film, Lian Xin.

Bride: Shanghai, I Love You is a film made for the 15th Shanghai International Film Festival, hosted by SIFF and the Information Office of Shanghai Municipality, as part of city promotional videos during the festival. It’s a story about a young photographer who meets his long-lost ex-girlfriend on her wedding day. Originally, he accused the fast pacing city life of changing them and made them break-up, but he finally realizes without all the tough times in his life, he wouldn’t be who he is right now. He moves on with relief and looks forward to the future with deep love in this city, Shanghai.

“It’s such a compelling life changing story. Any dream seeker in the big cities would find similarities to the character. The release date was in a summer, same as the graduation season in the story, which made the whole story resonate with more people. I love the idea that we started from an ordinary person’s point of view to reveal the beauty of this city,” said Zhang. “It’s a light-hearted and inspirational story to motivate the young professions to following up their dreams. We had a very young team making this film. Although they may lack of professional experience, they brought so much energy and joy to the crew. They gave us lots of ideas of how to capture a city wanderer’s life. And in return, we were trying to give these young professionals an opportunity to work on this film. All they needed was an equal chance, just like everyone else.”

Zhang wanted to share her love for her city through the film, and that is exactly what she did. She worked on the project from start to finish, from the development stage, casting, accountings, getting equipment deal and transportation, to its premiere at the festival. She was working at MT media at the time, and the director, Lian Xin, reached out to her to be a part of the film, knowing he needed the best to make the film a success.

“Lian Xin is a very hands-on director. He likes taking different jobs at the same time while making his films. He directed, wrote, filmed, and even gave lighting directions on our film set. In the editing stage, he would prefer to have a director’s cut. By looking at his works, you would know what’s a ‘Lian’s style’ movie. He was calm and quiet person off-set, but as long as the camera was rolling, he would rule the set. We had worked on few other projects before, so I knew from my heart that he had the capability to do multiple jobs on set. If it was another director, I wouldn’t let him do that. But it’s all about trust and mutual understanding. When he was in charge, I had nothing to worry about,” said Zhang.

The film was a non-profit project, and therefore had a very small crew. This required Zhang to wear many hats at the same time to ensure the production went smoothly. As a producer, she is known for her commitment to her work and to each project she works on, which is why they have gone on to see such success. Her more recent work on the film Caged has gone on to be an Official Selection at many festivals, and win several awards. She knows what it takes to achieve greatness, as that is what she continuously does. Having Bride: Shanghai, I Love You, premiere at a prestigious film festival such as The Shanghai International Film Festival was nothing out of the ordinary for this producer.

“It was a great honor to be part of the film festival program. Producing my own hometown promotion video for SIFF made me think about what my home town means to me. I was born and raised in Shanghai, and lived there for the majority of my life, but I never thought about what impression does this city leave the world, until I started brainstorming ideas for this project. It’s a place you will easily lose yourself in a materialistic life, but after all the struggles, you will eventually be deeply in love the city with and understand how inclusive this city can be,” said Zhang. “Since I am purely from Shanghai, that was a great chance show the world how great my home city is. I am proud that I can become part of the production.”

BRIDE

Production Designer Shuhe Wang contributes to the delightful horror of ‘Inside Linda Vista Hospital’

Making something from nothing is what all filmmakers achieve every day. They are creators, they are storytellers, and they are artists. Shuhe Wang knows this well. She takes the pages of a script and transforms them into sets. She creates a visual world, turning each nothing, such as a meaningless prop, into something, creating a masterpiece. She is a one-of-a-kind production designer.

While working on films such as Stay, Dancing for You, Red String, and Cartoon Book, audiences were given the opportunity to see Wang’s ability to transform a drama into a completely immersive experience, making it evident why she is considered one of the best. However, this past year, Wang has brought her extraordinary talent to a new genre: horror. Working on the film Inside Linda Vista Hospital, Wang’s production design skills were on full-display, helping to fully immerse audiences in the terrifying story.

“This is a classic horror style film, so I focused more on how to show and even amplify the emotion and tense by color, texture and overall set dressing. Even each small prop can be an important storytelling step. That quite an adventure for production designer,” said Wang.

Inside Linda Vista Hospital tells the story of a young girl who wakes up in a hospital surrounded by police covered in the blood of her boyfriend. With the help of a video camera, she slowly pieces together what happened, and she may not like what she finds.

“Horror stories are connected with our real lives, but with different point of view. I needed to find and create the elements to scare the audience and keep the emotion of the storyline in the right place, and at the same time the elements should make sense in the world.
Color and tone are always the most important parts in designing a horror story. Even a tiny subtle difference would affect the whole feeling of the set,” said Wang.

The film has gone one to do exceptionally well at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. It was an Official Selection at the Festival de Cannes Short Film Corner and the Pasadena International Film Festival, it won Best Director and Best Horror at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Best Editing at the United International Film Festival, and Film of the Year at the AFMA Film Festival of Young Cinema 2017.

“Horror story is always a popular style, but there are a bunch of these type of films that are terrible when it comes to actual storytelling, that is what divides a good horror film from a bad one. This film is a good one because it shows a tense, strong and simple story, which perfectly matches the horror genre, so I think the film totally deserves all those awards,” said Wang.

The production design directly contributed to the film’s success. She had to design in accordance to many special effects and stunt work, and the film is set in a true historical building, and the cultural importance of this influences the story in an important way. To make the set highlight this, she researched and applied this to her work.

“It was a dramatic and kind of emotional showing story. I watched a lot of classic experimental and psychology films to get more inspiration and insight into how to let the audience feel the inner world through the production design,” said Wang.

This commitment to both the genre and the film impressed all that worked alongside Wang on Inside Linda Vista Hospital. The director, Jun Xia, knew no one else could do the job but her.

Working with Shuhe was a great experience, she was familiar with each of the details of the whole story, and her plan for working was effective for the shooting process. Shuhe is sensitive with color and designing, and she knows how to create and decide the correct textile and color to present the emotion. That is actually a really important part of the horror genre,” said Xia.

Xia approached Wang to work on his film, knowing he needed the best to make the film the success that it eventually became. When he sent Wang the reference of the visual style, so knew she wanted to take part in the project, as it was quite similar to the style she always loves.

“I felt confident and interested in designing this film after talking about the film and the story. Jun is a talented horror film director, he is always enthusiastic, and he is really insistent on what he wants which is good for making a great film,” Wang said. “What I really liked was how I could see how the set dressing worked so well when the lights and performance came together. It makes the visual complete and seemed like we accomplish the original idea of the director.”

There are many nuances to production design that are easy to get lost in the big picture of a film, but with Wang as the designer, audiences are sure to take in each and every part of it.

Editor Minghao Shen talks impactful new film ‘Cartoon Book’

Only someone that truly loves what they do can enjoy it the way that Minghao Shen enjoys film editing. His understanding of his craft and his commitment to the artistic elements of it allow him to excel at what he does. Not many people are lucky enough to be so talented and so passionate about their work. Shen is one of those fortunate few, and on top of this, he is considered one of the best Chinese film editors right now.

While working on award-winning films such as Red String, Emily, Inside Linda Vista Hospital, and Stay, Shen’s editing skills were extremely evident for both audiences and critics.

“I am a creative minded person, so I love the re-creative part of editing a lot. There are many ways to make a film, and I feel editing is one of the best ways to engage in the filmmaking production,” said Shen.

Shen engaged in both the filmmaking production and with audiences with his work on the film Cartoon Book. Cartoon Book is about a little boy who tries to go against the school and teacher under severe rules. Afterwards, it seems that the teacher gradually controls the boy by using his vulnerability and letting the rebel boy become a tool to manage other students. The boy draws cartoons, but he feels it is hard to choose between his desire or his morals when the teacher bribes him to be her spy who needs to betray his friends.

“It is a kind of classic tone film, so rather than edit it ‘correctly’, director more like to keep the smooth and stressful feeling by editing. That is why I, as the editor, needed to understand the story indeed,” said Shen. “We had a lot of footage, so it was quite a lot of work at the beginning. But, all the effort and hard work was worth it.
The director had her own style for the entire pace of the film, and the film had really good results.”

The film went on the be an Official Selection at the prestigious Cannes Short Film Corner where it premiered last year, as well as the Berlin Student Film Festival, the Goa Shots International Short Film Festival, and the Accolade Global Film Festival Competition.

“I had a feeling that the film would see a lot of success in festivals, so when I found out the film got some awards I was not surprised, and I think it deserves even more and bigger awards,” said Shen. “The director is good at screenwriting. The first time I read the story I was so intrigued and really connected with the story. I was really looking forward to work with the director and making great film, which we did. It was not the first time we worked together. We know and understand each other very well. She is natural born storyteller and I always looking forward to work with her.”

The film was written and directed by Shuhe Wang, who had previously worked with Shen on her film The Regret, and was immediately impressed by his talents. Knowing they work well together, and that she needed the best to make her new film a success, she reached out to Wang to join her on Cartoon Book.

“I worked with Minghao on my award-winning short film Cartoon Book. I was the director and he was the editor. We worked together really well. He was so full of thoughts and understood the story deeply. When we were on set, Minghao watched the footage carefully on each shooting day. His did the rough cuts very quickly and helped me to get the overall storyline,” said Wang.

Shen was vital to the successful of the film. He says working on Cartoon Book was unlike any project he had worked on in the past. He read a lot of the director’s notes and talked about the story more than just the editing technique with the director. He would meet the cinematographer and communicate about the shot, knowing they all needed to be on the same page for the overall tone of the film. This understanding of not just his role, but the entire filmmaking process, is outstanding.

“The most exciting part of making this film was the journey of the main character. There were many twists and turns in it. It is a bit challenging for editing because the complex storyline, but on another hand, it offered a variety options for editing, and that is what makes my job fun,” Shen concluded.

Editor/Colorist Liang Xia Expertly Combines Technical Precision and Nuanced Emotion

The film industry is home to an army of specialty craftspeople and technicians, each working in distinct specialized niche disciplines. These widely varying duties abound in the post-production field and while many seem almost esoteric in their limited scope, some actually have a critical impact on the finished films emotional appeal and ability to directly reach an audience.

Chinese born Editor/Colorist Liang Xia is a prime example of this. His is a uniquely demanding position, one that requires a masterful sense of nuance and subtlety, balancing the aesthetics’ which a production’s setting and style requires while subtly enhancing the film’s overall mood and emotional appeal. Xia achieves this with a both comprehensive attention to minute detail and an overarching perspective on the sweep of the entire film.

“There are three different things that a colorist does,” Xia said. “First, I adjust the exposures of the footage. A lot of things, such as lighting issues, weather, location and cause the cinematographer to get incorrect exposures. In most films, there will be several shots under or over exposed and colorists fix those issues in post-production, making sure each shot is the correct exposure and matches other shots.”

“Second, Colorists need to correct unnatural colors or unwanted colors. Sometimes, color temperature of the lighting is not accurate, or if the camera setting isn’t right, the color in footage will not be correct. Even when every setting is right, the camera sensor will receive more light and colors than we can see, and there will be some unwanted colors, or the contrast will change. Colorists fix all these problems during the process of color correction. And after this process, the color will become very accurate and satisfying to audience.”

The third aspect of the colorist’s job is the most important, and also where Xia excels.

“Color can also express emotion,” he said. “As we know, red means passion or blood, blue means cold or peace. Colorists can also use color theories to emphasize emotions in scenes, chapters or even whole films. A subtle change of color tone is not very obvious to audiences, but when they watch the film and see the color, they will have a natural, almost subconscious reaction to the color tone. In this way, a colorist enhances the film, allows it to further express subtexts and emotions.”

His work on the recent feature film Strawman exemplifies Xia’s perfected mix of vision and expression. A gritty look at a youth forced into a life of petty crime to support his siblings after their parents abandon them, Xia’s atmospheric approach and attention to detail further burnished director Tian Xie’s impactful drama.

Xia is driven by a fascination with the human condition and the inescapable drama of common life. It’s a combination of sensitivity, aesthetics and technique striking an unusual balance between meticulous technical precision and broad emotional strokes. For Xia it’s almost therapeutic and this unusual artistic perspective enhances every project undertaken and has, in a few short years distinguished him as a professional force to be reckoned with.

Strawman was the first time I worked with Liang,” director Tian Xie said. “Besides his editing concepts and skill, Liang has very good vision and a feeling for color, so his color correction is excellent. Liang had a five-year experience in studying paintings, including traditional Chinese painting and watercolor. I think that’s an important reason for his excellent sense on color. When we worked on Strawman, I told him the story takes place in summer, a hot summer. Liang did some adjustments on his color panel and created an ideal overall look, immediately. That color tone was what exactly I want, and I said, ‘that is the one.’”

Xia’s lifelong affinity for both art and film created the perfect combination for his profession. “I’ve loved film since my childhood,” he said. ”After high school, I studied TV and film directing in college. After I came to U.S. to study film, I found my logic and patience gave me a strong advantage and decided to work on editing. Then, during my post-production study, I found I am sensitive to color, so I started to study color theories on my own and also took some class about film color grading.”

And it’s working. Strawman took Best Foreign Feature at 2016 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and Best Feature Film Diamond for director and editor at the 2017 NYC Indie Film Awards, and led to an on-going collaboration with he and director Tian Xie, most recently on the short Promise. In fact, Strawman and Promise each won a Gold Remi Award at 50th WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival. Additionally Strawman officially selected in the 19th San Francisco Indie Film Festival, the 6th Richmond International Film Festival and 23rd New Jersey Film Festival.

“I love editing and doing color,” Xia said. “My goal is to keep working on indie films. In my opinion, indie films more focus on humanities and society. I want to have more chances to edit more indie films. It not only provides me editing or color jobs, but also makes me connect to the real world.”

*I like dramas that focus on people who are often ignored or marginalized by society, and these give me the chance to using my post-production skills to build complete characters—and to build a complete me.”

PRODUCER ZHEN LI BRIDGES THE INTERNATIONAL GAP WITH STORIES OF REAL PEOPLE

As the producer of a few CCTV (China Central Television) shows Zhen Li has gotten the opportunity to do things in the US that many Americans only dream of doing. For example, what self-aware Star Wars fan hasn’t dreamt of finding themselves with full access to the birthplace of the magic of the film series in order to become one of the films iconic characters? Li has done this…and so much more. From getting his “Star Wars Geek” on to delving deep into the political and historical relations between these two cultures, Li has revealed the comparison and contrast of two great civilizations. From his beginnings in China (Zhen won a talent program competition to become a TV host) Zhen threw himself into behind the scenes production and quickly became one of the most sought after producers in China, one who also gained access to Hollywood via his work in Chinese productions like the CCTV programs “Documentary Dream Road” and “2014 Spring Festival Star Wars Series Special Program.” Li’s time in front of the camera enabled him to quickly become a knowledgeable, effective, and respected producer.

The Star Wars franchise is almost certainly the most influential and profitable in the history of film. Now in its fourth decade of production and creating fans, it shows no sign of slowing down. Generations of Americans share an obsessive affinity for the films, their storylines, and characters. China is no different in their love of the series. Producer Zhen Li was able to fulfill every Star Wars fan’s dream when he was sent by CCTV to oversee the filming of a three-part documentary at Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound titled, “2014 Spring Festival Star Wars Series Special Program.” Li confesses, “I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since I was very young, thus I was very excited to visit the company that produced the Star Wars series and meet with those legendary filmmakers. When I saw the original trilogy, I was 6 years-old. I believed that this world truly existed. Everything was so real at that time! As a mischievous boy, I had a great imagination about life in outer space. It was the beginning of my interest in Sci-Fi movies.”

Consider this; the Chinese Spring Festival is a time of year which is known for family viewing of special programming and higher than normal viewership. As the only nationwide professional film channel, CCTV-6 covers a population of 852 million. Its average annual ratings and market share in the national TV channels is among the best. The “2014 Spring Festival Star Wars Series Program” was among the top three rated programs in its time slot, meaning a viewership in the hundreds of millions.

CCTV 6 special Program about Making the STAR WARS SERIES-Li Zhen with Oscar winner Ben Burtt @ Skywalker Sound 000

Besides hiring the entire local crew for this production, Li Zhen also coordinated the shooting in Lucas Film, Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, organized and conducted interviews with important figures, such as John Knoll (Oscar winning VFX supervisor known for AVATAR, Star Wars IV & VI, Mission Impossible, Pirates of Caribbean), Chief Creative Officer at Industrial Light & Magic; Benjamin A. Burtt (2 times Oscar Sound Award Winner known for Wall-E, Star Wars IV, Kong: Skull Island, Jurassic World, etc.);  Matthew Wood (3 time Oscar Nominee known for Star Wars I & III,  Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, Guardians of Galaxy, etc.). While the massive attention the viewers gave this series was the most rewarding, Zhen admits to a close second stating, “I was C3PO for an hour. I put on a motion capture suit which had more than 30 reflection dots attached. The suit covered my body from my head to my hands and feet. I walked in to the motion capture stage where I believe there were more than twenty-four cameras placed from different angles capturing my every movement. On the computer screen I saw C3PO moving as I do. Somewhere deep inside me, my six-year-old self was jumping in the air with joy, but I was cool and professional on the outside.”

“Documentary Dream Road” is a CCTV 32-episode series telling the story of China’s last century of history, through revolution, destruction, construction, and reform, that offers an accurate and well-rounded explanation of how this nation achieved everything it has today.  Zhen Li was a producer on this incredibly popular program. The two episodes which focused on China/US relations, the “Sino-US icebreaking” and “Big country diplomacy” were filmed in the United States. During the shooting, Li Zhen visited the headquarters of Boeing in Seattle, Microsoft headquarters, Amazon headquarters, and also visited the Nixon Memorial Museum located in the city of Yorba Linda.

Li Zhen with President Nixon's grandson Christopher Nixon Cox at Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace- producing documentary DREAM ROAD for China Central Television 002

One of the most influential US figures in American relations with China was President Richard M. Nixon. Nixon’s grandson, Christopher Nixon Cox, travelled to California to be interviewed for the program about the former president’s historic trip to China in 1972 attempting to build a bridge between the two countries. While the discussion of these two international powers was at ease, the requirements of the production was not the same. Zhen confirms, “Besides the 30 episodes shot in China, I only had a month to deliver the footage of the two episodes shot in the US. As the producer, I needed to build up a camera department and sound team within a week; then find good cameras, lighting, and sound equipment within budget…and of course negotiate contracts with them. At the same time, I got a list of people’s names to interview, but none of the them had been contacted yet. I immediately began approaching them about being in the program. By default, I was the one to interview them, which meant that I also needed to prepare more questions in addition to the ones the Chinese team had given me. All this work overlap made it quite stressful. In the end, the results were amazing…but it’s not the type of schedule one hopes for.”

Even though Zhen Li is comfortable on camera and is sometimes pulled back in front of it, he admits that his true desires exist on the other side of the camera, far from the public view. It’s the stories and the challenge of setting the essential parts in place, in a proper order, that really entices him. The eclectic nature of his work: documentaries, films, TV, all of these share one common element…a producer who propels them to greatness.