Yes. It's very hard to produce a feature film when you're a full-time university student, so initially I filmed four discrete sections with four separate story lines. It was only later on that I connected the pieces through characters' personal relationships. I had an upperclassman friend who helped me contact an investment company. They were quite interested in the story and wanted to invest tens of thousands of rmb. However, after viewing the short version, they suggested I make it a full-length feature. So they invested 200,000rmb and that's how I was able to make the film feature length. I had just graduated when I wrote the screenplay and we started to shoot within a year.
About the narrative - actually, at the beginning it was a simple story about a man and his ex-girlfriend: he asked her out to karaoke. But as I developed the plot I thought it would be more interesting to let them meet each other in a high school reunion setting to more closely simulate real life.
As the plot progressed it became about making the choice between the dreams of one's past and the reality of the present. Every aspect of the movie is about choosing a path that may determine the rest of the characters' future. What road will these individuals walk? Do they choose to live in their dreams or to face reality? What is the appeal about returning to an ex-lover, and is this appeal based purely in fantasy?
Yes. Park Shanghai is indie. Initially a network company invested in the movie but the company backed out so Shanghai University took on the project. Obviously, Shanghai University is not a production company, let alone a filming studio. So, to this effect, Park Shanghai is as indie as it gets. The University only invested 200,000rmb on the project from start to finish.
Also, the stars of Park Shanghai are mostly non-professionals. The male and female leads are professional, but the others are not. Most of the "actors" are friends. The person who played Da Qing is a half-professional -- a stage actor.
The film scene in China is changing rapidly. The situation used to be that only those who owned a filming label could produce a movie. Like, if there were an individual group that wanted to make movie, they would have to be marketed to the Shanghai Film Studio, who would then invest.
But recently the policy has been opening up. With the government encouraging the film industry, the concept of independent film has become pervasive. Before, all indie movies were considered illegal.
Yes, those from the 6th generation are actually all indies.
Chinese directors that graduated from Beijing Film Academy and the Central Drama Institute in the late 1980s and 1990s would be considered 6th generation. Their films tend to focus on contemporary society. Zhang Yi Mou is from the 5th generation. Everyone after him, like Jia Zhangke, would be considered 6th generation.
Yes, but it didn't win.
The audience was very attuned, very sensitive to many of the movie's nuances. It also seems that they related to Chinese culture. For instance, the female star, Du Raray, was born in China, went to England to study, but ultimately married some Chinese guy. The audience thought she made the traditional choice...very Chinese, also very Russian.
I am. My next film is about a married couple, a Chinese man and French woman. The marriage is on shaky ground. It's my plan that the entire film takes place during the course of a single day.
Yes, I love making movies at this pace. Park Shanghai takes place during a single night.
No, not at all. I developed the story from parts of my own life. The story is not just about relationship problems, it's about the inevitable conflict between two different cultures, which I find fascinating.
And of course, getting the French involved is a way to open the film to the European market... it does upset me that Park Shanghai won't appear in cinemas.
Not enough people will go to watch this type of movie in a cinema. It's just not financially viable.
I can't confirm that Park Shanghai is in DVD stores yet. CCTV 6 will run the movie on television first and then I'll get back to you when the movie is officially released in Shanghai.
Read SmartShanghai's review of Park Shanghai here (Feb 2009)