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Peep This: Sci-Fi Films From Shanghai By The Dude Who Does The STORM Visuals

By Feb 3, 2016 Arts


If you went to STORM Festival or NEXXUS, or you've visited 7th Floor or ICON club, you've seen 3D visuals by French artist Chromaphase, a.k.a. Matthieu Tondeur. Dude often looks like a mad scientist, and now he's making some impressive sci-fi short films in Shanghai city. His first, the two-minute long 3 Men, just finished the festival circuit (Another Hole In The Head, CalShorts) so he's uploaded it to the web. Check that and a few questions with the director after the jump.

"Three men are attempting to write a loop story while they are not aware that they may themselves be locked in a loop."

It's also on YouTube, if you prefer that. The film was self-financed by Matt and his partners for 30000rmb, then supplemented with another 30000rmb donation. Submitting to film festivals costs money too -- like 30-100USD per submission, so they spent another 7500rmb on that.

Matt's dayjob -- doing visuals for clubs and festivals

Up next, he's got a 17-minute long short called SENTIENT, followed by a feature length film that will hopefully come out in 2017. Check the trailer for SENTIENT:

These endeavors cost a lot: set design, costumes, camera rental, VFX, editing, taxis -- it adds up. For Sentient, Matt spent 50000rmb out of pocket, with some help from family and friends back in France for equipment. I caught up with Matt in Space Sector 88888 to ask him a few questions about his projects.

The auteur

I haven't heard of any sci-fi coming out of Shanghai or China -- is there any?

Matt: Not much sci-fi in China I'm afraid. Its a real pity because the Chinese audience LOVES sci- fi. They love Transformers, Inception, Interstellar. There's crazy discussion about Christopher Nolan on BBS. So I think there is a real market for it, but I suppose Chinese studio execs will tell us that we don't understand Chinese culture / market and that the Chinese audiences want only dramas and historical movies.

Another problem is that the Chinese audience didn't grow up with sci-fi movies. I really envy my friends when I give them Alien or Blade Runner on Blu-Ray and they discover it for the first time. When I see their reaction, I can tell that there's definitely a market for sci-fi movies here.

The third problem is the script. It's already super difficult to find a good script in Western countries, but in China for sci-fi it's just impossible. So the first mission is to find a good story and a good script and this mission can take years.

Why are there so few people making these kinds of short films in Shanghai? Clearly there's more on the Chinese side that's under our radar, but as far as I know, it's just you, Floating City, Mamahuhu, and Donny Does.

Matt: Well, many reasons. First, it's more expensive to shoot short films in China. You cant find real actors because they ask too much money. And even the "good" ones will be super expensive and still not very good anyway. Wanna shoot in the street? You need to pay. Wanna shoot on the sea? You need to pay. Wanna shoot in a hotel room? You need to pay. It's super expensive and people aren't into supporting art projects -- they see an opportunity to grab money. If you check some of the Sundance indies in America, they have thousands of submissions with low or zero budget, because in the USA you can find locations and actors for free, so you just spend on camera equipment and boom, you have an indie drama or comedy feature. That said, sci-fi is cheaper here because of Taobao and factories. It takes me two days on Taobao for anything I want.

There are talented filmmakers in Shanghai -- Chinese and foreigners -- but they are busy trying to make a living, so they get some good gigs now they have to get the work flowing. If one will stop for work on his own art project, within six months they'll lose all their clients and guanxi that they built for years. I'm very glad my cameraman and DP Gert Kombate participated in my short films despite being very busy with ongoing work, working at night on on the weekends for my projects and doing his best.

How was your film received in the festivals?

Matt: For now, 3 Men was only nominated in 2 festivals, both in California. We got a screening on Santa Monica Bvld so I'm really happy about it. Of course we wish we got more nominations but when I see the other nominees, who have high budgets and good acting, I'm very happy we made it with such a tiny micro short film. And when they selected only two foreign movies, and we represent China, I feel happy about that for me and my crew. We also got a lot of good feedback from people working in the industry. This is maybe the most important, and I hope Sentient will get more nominations, but in my heart I'm happy if people just like it and enjoy the time they spent to watch it. That's my best award.

What's up with your feature film?

Matt: My future project is a feature sci-fi set in space. I hope it can have an international cast including at least one Chinese actress. We are now finalizing the scenario and working on the script, and taking care to keep production costs low so the movie is profitable for investors. One simple sci-fi scene can overload the whole budget, so I have to keep that in mind when planning the scenarios and doing the script. I plan to build a entire set inside a giant studio. I'm delighted to do the first Chinese movie in space.




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