Tag Archives: Chinese Filmmakers

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.

Chinese Film Producer Yuxiao Wang Nails the Mark in Hollywood!

Yuxiao Wang
Producer Yuxiao Wang shot by Yiting Lyu

While the face of producers may not appear on movie posters or on the big screen, Yuxiao Wang’s name appearing in the credits is reason enough to get excited about a project. That’s because she has been singularly responsible for the development, production and distribution of a large number of incredible projects. In the process, the emergence of Yuxiao as a leading figure in the global film industry has marked a new wave of super-producers from China taking over Hollywood.  

In addition to her association with distinguished companies like Huayi Brothers, Enmaze Pictures and Sky Culture Entertainment, Yuxiao’s hugely successful run in the entertainment industry has been made clear by her involvement in numerous noteworthy projects in the US. Her romantic drama film “Yesterday Once More” starred Lauren Mendoza, who also worked with Academy-Award winning directors The Coen Brothers on “Hail Caesar!” and will appear in the upcoming mystery crime-comedy “Suburbicon” with George Clooney and Matt Damon. The cross-cultural themes are a direct reflection of Yuxiao’s multi-cultural background, as she grew up in China, but studied in Japan and the United States. Her film’s concerns are also evidence for her abilities as a producer who tells stories that transcend boundaries and resonate with audiences around the world.

Yuxiao Wang
Yuxiao Wang at the 12th Chinese American Film Festival

Two projects in particular stand out for Yuxiao when discussing her resume. The psychological drama “Harmonica” is another favourite of Yuxiao’s, as it gave her the opportunity to showcase her unique ability of transforming an ordinary location into an extraordinary one on screen. The shoot in reality took place in contemporary Los Angeles, but Yuxiao “worked really hard…to make things look like [they were] happening in Europe” circa WWII. Her other project “Locked” also brought her together with “That 70s Show” and “My Crazy Ex” TV star Corey Landis, as well as Leanne Agmon from the Emmy-nominated “Blue Bloods.” In the film, a man loses his wife and creates an imaginary world in which he fights with himself to save his wife and find the truth of her death. While A-listers marked the film’s screen time, the sounds of “Locked” were helmed by “Spiderman 3” composer, Aldo Shllaku.

Harmonica Yuxiao Wang
Film poster for “Harmonica” by Ye Kuang

Yuxiao’s success in securing an all-star cast and production team is not a feat that should go unnoticed; it’s something producers are rarely able to pull off because of the politics of Hollywood and the demands of actors and crew. Yuxiao’s exceptional capacity to communicate, envisage an inspired story, coordinate financing and wrangle impressive team members are all factors in why she has developed such an outstanding reputation to which industry professionals continue to flock.

Special effects, TV stars and award-winning crew members aside, “Locked” is a highlight on Yuxiao’s impressive resume because of its selection for the 70th annual Cannés Court Metragé as well as its prize of Best Narrative Short at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival in 2016. The outstanding final cut is a direct product of Yuxiao’s creative vision and executive talents, and ultimately proves how she marries creativity with business in a way that only the best Hollywood producers can. As she admits herself, she is “very good at management, which helps a lot in scheduling and budgeting projects.”

Yuxiao Wang
Film poster for “Locked” by Ye Kuang

While she may have strong ties to her native homeland, American directors and studios can’t seem to have enough of her and are keeping her firmly placed here. Her distinct ability to ensure a production is delivered not only on time and on budget, but also in a manner that is artistically inspired, functions as a magnet for other filmmakers in need of effective producers. As she proudly attests, she has “four projects coming up this year.” The series “100 Reasons of Not Being an Emperor” is headed to an online streaming platform (details need to be kept hush-hush), while three feature length projects showcase her wide-ranging story-telling interests: one deals with a female prison, another a psychological thriller and another an adrenaline fueled romantic caper.

A hugely impressive resume aside, it might just be the fact that people like Yuxiao’s personality for why she has built such a fantastic name for herself. As she simply puts: “I am friendly, considerate and kind, so people don’t get mad at me…it is important to let the conversation continue when you meet someone.” In Hollywood, a little nice clearly goes a long way.  

 

Creating Realities in Film that Effectively Transport Viewers: Art Director Haisu Wang

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Art Director Haisu Wang shot by Tian-ran Qin

 

As the art director of the films “Is That A Gun in Your Pocket?,” “Contrapelo” and “Day One,” ABC’s hit television series “The Muppets,” the Asian television series “My Sunshine,” and commercials for major global clients including Kia, Chinese native Haisu Wang has carved out an indelible place for himself in the international entertainment industry as someone who’s skill effectively transports audiences into the world of the stories on screen, no matter how far fetched they may be.

While it is no secret that the film industry is full of oversized egos often competing for the glitz and glory, what makes Wang so special, besides his adept technical skill and unparalleled creativity, is the fact that he always lets the director’s vision for a project guide his work.

Never failing to design an atmosphere that creates the perfect environment for a story, the versatile nature of his creative vision compounded by his intuitive approach has allowed him to nail the mark every time.

“My passion is always creating environments to help storytelling,” admits Wang.

It is no coincidence that practically every project that Wang has art directed to date has received coveted accolades. As the art director of the film “Day One,” which earned a nomination for an Oscar Award at the 2016 Academy Awards, in addition to winning two Emmy Awards at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences College Television Awards in 2015, one of which earned director Henry Hughes the award for Best Director, Wang’s work garnered worldwide attention.

About Wang’s invaluable work on the film Hughes explains, “Haisu’s vision and rare skill using digital software to create some of the most challenging sets for ‘Day One’ was invaluable to our production, especially considering the geographic challenges of the location. Without his contributions it would have been nearly impossible to construct these sets in the amount of time and within the allotted budget. He is definitely a huge asset to the film industry.”

Whether he is working on a film, television series or commercial, Wang’s attention to detail combined with his logical and budget conscious approach to outfitting each set with the right props has been imperative in setting the tone and creating believable environments for each and every production he’s contributed to.

As the art director of Kia’s “Extraordinary Day” commercial, also known as “When an Ordinary Day Turns Extraordinary,” which currently has over 900,000 views on YouTube and was produced by BuzzFeed, Wang turned the sets of a simple car commercial into a project that plays visually on screen like a narrative story. From the minor knick knacks of a local garage sale, to colorful balloons falling from the ceiling after one of the character’s wins a raffle in a convenient store—Wang’s work manages to keep viewers engaged as we watch a love connection sparked between two Kia Soul drivers all started from the fact that they share the same kind of car.

For Wang, who also spent time as a visual effects artist for three-time Emmy Award winning VFX and animation company, Base FX, based in Beijing, China, art has been a major part of his life since childhood.

“I practiced Chinese calligraphy with my grandpa since I was a kid and also learned how to make shadow play puppetry with him, and I think that set the foundation of my path in art,” admits Wang.

Wang recently wrapped production as the art director of multi-award winning director Ryan Velásquez’s (“Ojalá,” “Record Breaker”) film “Drowning,” which is slated for release later this year. The film follows Gabe, played by Jovan Armand (“The Middle,” “Shameless,” “Parenthood”), an overweight teen who finally starts feeling good about himself after he musters up the courage to talk to Sarah, the girl of his dreams, and an unexpected friendship forms. However, when the high school bully and bane of Gabe’s existence makes Sarah his newest target, Gabe is forced to decide between remaining a coward in his comfort zone or standing up to the bully and fighting against injustice.

As the lead art director on “Drowning,” Wang had the difficult task of arranging a set to depict Gabe falling onto the ground combined with a montage in water. He was able to build a vertical wall on a track and dress it to appear as the floor so that the actor was able to pretend to hit the ground without hurting himself. On “Drowning,” as he has done on many of his past productions, Wang utilized his excellent CGI skills to create a revisualization animation to rehearse the timing of the scene; this assisted the director greatly in explaining how the scene could work for the actor.

Through his work on screen it is easy to see that Wang is passionate about the worlds he creates for the characters in a story; and, as all of the worlds from film to film are completely different, the versatility he’s shown across projects is just another testament to his seasoned skill in creating the perfect environment for each project on an individual level.

With “Drowning” on the verge of release, and Wang set to begin production as the digital asset art director on the highly anticipated sequel “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” later this year, audiences can look forward to seeing more of art director Haisu Wang’s ingenious work on screen very soon.