Young directors come to the fore
Updated 22:34, 14-Mar-2019
By Yang Yan, Yang Ran

Back in 2013, China and the US launched an initiative aimed at encouraging exchange and communication between the two countries' filmmakers. Within a year, a group of young Chinese directors found themselves in Hollywood for a week, learning about the more sophisticated US approach to filmmaking. 

Among them was Guo Fan, the man responsible for this year's blockbuster "The Wandering Earth." CGTN talked to him, and two other young directors – Ning Hao and Chen Sicheng – about how the trip to Hollywood has influenced their subsequent work.

"The Wandering Earth" caused a sensation when it hit cinema screens at the Spring Festival.

Director Guo Fan believes the film addressed a long-standing desire among domestic audiences, to see a Chinese-made science fiction movie. "Demand is the fundamental value of literature and art. 'The Wandering Earth' is following this rule,” director Guo Fan said.

Guo was among five Chinese directors who visited Paramount studios in Hollywood in 2014.

Director Ning Hao /VCG Photo

Director Ning Hao /VCG Photo

They watched a VR edition of the movie Interstellar, talked with the executive producers of the Terminator series, toured properties departments, and discussed global promotion strategies.

"It deeply impressed me, every detail, from the administration to the production, and the professionalism of every member of staff. And we experienced VR – it was rare at that time," director Ning Hao said.

The trip to Paramount reshaped their understanding of film production – everything from adaptation to shooting, editing to distribution. 

Chen Sicheng was writing the script for "Detective Chinatown" at the time of the visit. Witnessing first-hand the industrial production process operating in Hollywood, convinced him he wasn't ready to film there. So instead... he chose Bangkok. Bolstered by the film's success, and in the interests of producing a better commercial offering, he set "Detective Chinatown 2," in New York.

"The first movie took 101 days to film, and the second one, 47 days, even though it was more complex. It's because Hollywood operates under a mature, industrial system,” director Chen Sicheng said.

Director Chen Sicheng /VCG Photo

Director Chen Sicheng /VCG Photo

"Detective Chinatown 2" was the first Chinese movie to work with a US Labor Union. Making this film taught Chen Sicheng a lot about what it means to be not only the director of a movie but what it takes to be a producer.

A film that received good reviews but did poorly at the box office was Brotherhood of Blades. However, director Lu Yang felt that, based on what he had learned at Paramount, it was worth making a sequel. This time, he secured more investment, upgraded the cast and improved the story structure.

"With more investment in a movie, it's possible to try a more industrial approach to production. Every professional group is part of the greater force. And this leads to upgrading in terms of production and narrative, as well as the audio and visual effects," Rao Shuguang, secretary-general of China Film Association said.

The past five years have seen China's film market grow considerably more mature. These young directors, with their talent and passion, and by opening up new avenues for expressing their creativity, are becoming a major force in the country's burgeoning movie industry.

(Cover: Director Guo Fan /VCG Photo)