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Interview:
Juan Vargas
By Jun 9, 2009 Arts


Juan Vargas is the founder of MeiWenti Productions, a loose collective of individuals drawing on each other's technical and creative support to realize various film projects. MeiWenti has put together a slew of short film contests in Shanghai, with their next one expanding their efforts to the international stage. Check their website here for more on that.

This Thursday, MeiWenti unveils arguably their most ambitious/awesome project: SWAT CHICKS: Shanghai 2020, the first indie action movie ever shot in Shanghai.

The only chance you'll have to see the thing is this Thursday (3 screenings: 8pm, 9pm, 10pm) at Xinguang Art Film Center (586 Ningbo Lu, near Guangxi Bei Lu), so mark it in your calendars or cancel whatever other lame thing you're doing and head down.

It's a thirty minute short feature, half the film is in Chinese and half of it is in English. Subtitles of both languages are provided.

SmartShanghai talked to Juan about SWAT CHICKS, Shanghai in the future, and spandex.

***

SmSh: So maybe you could tell me about the move. Give me the pitch. If you were pitching it to some Hollywood studio. Your elevator pitch...

JV: The elevator pitch is we want to make the first cool action movie coming out of Shanghai. So Shanghai 2020 is a sort of pilot for us to see the process of making an action movie, test how the story works, and of course to have fun... with 150 people.

SmSh: 150 people. So it's quite a large production?

JV: Yeah, it's an action movie so you've got the good guys, the bad guys...

SmSh: So what's the plot?

JV: So the plot is we're in the future after a long recession... in a way we were justifying that the cars would look the same [Laughs] so it's after a long dark recession in 2020. Then there's a new marketing system towards people who have chips implanted in them. Credit cards, mobile phone, everything is in these chips, and marketing companies are tapping in on these chips because they can find out where you are and what you're buying.

SmSh: Uh huh.

JV: And so in 2020, Shanghai is the financial capital of the world, and the two biggest "neo marketing" companies, they're having this war among themselves.

SmSh: Nice.

JV: And so two days before a new scrapper owned by one of these companies is inaugurated, it's blown up...

SmSh: Awesome.

JV: ...by a terrorist group. so the movie which is like a half-hour movie, is both companies and their reaction to this terrorist event.



SmSh: So you had five directors working on it? It is five separate segments?

JV: No, it's the same story, we just divided it that way to get it done...

SmSh: Oh so it was different groups working on different aspects to get it done in a shorter amount of time...

JV: Yeah, exactly. Everyone was working for free so we had to adapt to people's schedules. It was a good way to organize it because for people to commit to it, they had to see a horizon to it being finished...

SmSh: So who are the SWAT CHICKS? Are they the good guys?

JV: The SWAT CHICKS work for one of the companies like mercenaries... one of the companies is lead by this eccentric woman and she has these SWAT CHICKS, and the other company is a more conservative company lead by a board of directors and they have their killer whose name is "Delete Key".

SmSh: Nice. [Laughs.]

JV: Yeah, he's the guy who fights the SWAT CHICKS.

SmSh: So is it like a big budget action movie? Guns?

JV: We had to do costumes, props, special effects. Some 3D. In the end we had to cut a little bit of the 3D though. We had a prop designer and she designed the props and then we would check Taobao to buy stuff. We had an Italian designer who did a great job to design the costumes.

SmSh: Spandex?

JV: We had some spandex.

SmSh: So Shanghai 2020. What does the future look like? Did you make crazy futuristic sets? Or was it more exploiting the already present elements of Shanghai?

JV: We didn't have too much money for sets. The whole production we had only like 3000 euros...



SmSh: Is the cast all made up of people living in Shanghai?

JV: Yeah. Most of the people are working regular jobs. Some people are professionals...

SmSh: So it premiers this Thursday?

JV: Yeah, it's in one theater, Xinguang Art Film Center, playing 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm.

SmSh: Do you have plans for taking it out of Shanghai?

JV: Well, we'll do this screening first. Actually I haven't even seen the final, final product. We're integrating the music today. So first I want to see what we've got, then I can think of what we can do. If it turns out to be okay and everything then of course we would send it to some festivals. Other than that we would put it up on the website to see people's reactions...

And also this is a pilot, maybe we can make it into a feature film.

SmSh: Are there a lot of avenues for independent action film makers? Independent film seems to be arty, serious drama, and I was wondering if there were a lot of people doing indie action movies?

JV: [Laughs.] Yeah, I think it's pretty limited. And it's hard to when you are first getting into it. Like we did a car chase...

SmSh: Awesome, you did a car chase? Awesome.

JV: Yeah, we did two car chases. We had to do a lot of planning but we didn't have enough time with the cars... and we couldn't block off the roads so we had to fix it with editing.

SmSh: So apart from SWAT CHICKS, MeiWenti is putting together another short film contest?

JV: Yes, the theme is "Against All Odds" and we'll see what people come up with that. So this time we have other cities participating and each city will have their own local contest, finishing at the same time, and a local awards ceremony on July 18. And then we get all those together and have an international contest. For cities we have Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Moscow, London, Paris, Madrid, St. Louis...

SmSh: Wow.

JV: So the idea is that we're going to expand these contests to every city and town all over the world, and then once we have this community, we'll have a network to show indie feature films. So we're trying to build the community first to have a place and audience for the films.

SmSh: Awesome.


***

More on MeiWenti, their ongoing projects and upcoming short film contests is available on their website.

Swat Chicks: Shanghai 2020 blasts the big screen this Thursday only at the Xinguang Art Film Center (586 Ninbgo Lu, near Guangxi bei Lu). Maps and advance bookings available on the webber. Screening times are 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm. Tickets are 70rmb.

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2 comments.

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  • whiskeycoke

    This article is horribly written, filled with spelling mistakes, and generally a poor excuse for journalism of any kind. I know I personally would be ashamed to put it on the front page of my website.

    First of all, I\'ve never heard of \"Ningo lu\" so I would not be able to \"mark it in [my] calendar\" to go see a \"short feature\" (those words are opposites, btw) even if there are \"subtitles of both languages\".

    \"so the movie which is like a half-hour movie, is both companies and their reaction to this terrorist event.\" (Was this sentence written by a 5-year-old on a keyboard with no SHIFT KEY?)

    And what is a \"scrapper\" anyway?

    This post took me 3 minutes to write, which is obviously longer than the effort put into the article itself.

    If you need someone to edit your future work, PM me.

    Have fun.

  • morgan

    K. I\'l Pm you. Dfinately need ur servics. How mch do you charge?

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