Journey to China Pt.2 Shanghai

Journey to China Pt.2 Shanghai



Continued from Journey to China Pt.1 Guangzhou.

After our busy day in Guangzhou, the delegation and I woke up at 5am the next morning to catch an early flight to Shanghai.

As soon as we arrived we were immediately immersed in the mood of film-making (as well as the Christmas spirit!) as we had lunch at a hotel actually owned by the Shanghai Film Group.  Due to this, the lobby was furnished with film props as well as plenty of portraits of film stars and talents who have visited in the past.


Photo courtesy of James Heyward.

After lunch, we quickly made our way to the first meeting of the day with Mr. Hu Jinjun, Director General of Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture Radio Film & TV.

There were quite a few interesting sights along the way:

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Above: Might be a Mosque? Correct me if I’m wrong!

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Above: Skyscraper window cleaning – China style. Photo courtesy of Steve Barr.

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Above: Electrical lines/ cable management/ public safety – China style (yes, that’s all held up by that tree!).

Finally we arrived at the SmARFT offices where we were appropriately greeted a pair of 石獅 (Guardian Lions):

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The meeting ended up being a bit more intense than I expected, as Mr. Hu was very bold and pragmatic in expressing his views on how we can put Sino-NZ screen co-productions forward.  However, there were a few key points I felt were quite on point and we should all think about from both an industry and governance level here in NZ.

  1. More meaningful engagements/ communications/ connections.  Even though this was NZ’s first official screen delegation, we’re effectively 5 years late.  Mr. Hu stressed that we needed to visit China more and I do agree with him on this point.  Also, I think perhaps next time it would be worthwhile to stay longer in a specific cities for a deeper level of engagement with filmmakers, festivals, companies etc.
  2. Establish a local office to keep connections going once established and to build on them.  This might be a bit tough in terms of resources from NZ, but since we have an official New Zealand Central office/ events space in Shanghai, perhapes the creative/ screen sector could have a rep based out of there?  The tough part would probably be finding the right person/ people for the job – as a very indepth understanding of both cultures/ industries would be needed for such a role.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the NZ screen sector is lacking at the moment when it comes to driving China NZ co-pros,  it really is a bit of a chicken-n-egg dilemma.
  3. Script – just what are the subject matters actually relevant to both our cultures? And just how are we supposed to find them here in NZ if China is changing at such a rapid pace?

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How it looked everytime a meeting ended – we all changed from film sector professionals to camera-trigger-happy paparazzis in an instant. Photo courtesy of Steve Barr.

After the official government-to-government meeting was over, we travelled to visit our first industry contact – Shanghai Film Group Corporation.  Being one of the largest Chinese media conglomerates with some of it’s production studios’ history going back as far as the 1890’s, Shanghai Film Group can trace it’s heritage back to the birth of Chinese Cinema.  It is precisely because of it’s long and prestigious legacy that Shanghai Film Group actually decided to build their own film muesum.

This amazing building was our first destination.  First, we were greeted by a classic:

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We also couldn’t resist a group photo (yes, that’s the Shanghai Film Group Film Museum behind us, and of course, it’s massive):

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Photo courtesy of James Heyward.

We were played a promo vid on an appropriately massive screen (yes, this is going to become an ongoing theme of this trip):

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And then in we went!  The fantastic tour kicked off with a true movie style treatment meets the cutting-edge pace of modern development in Shanghai – a digital red carpet complete sound and animations of paparazzi snapping photos of us as we walked in:

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Here’s what it all looked like in action:

Little did we know, the real treat was still to come!

Being a film and lover of many different art forms and creative disciplines, the Shanghai Film Groups Museum was absolutely fascinating and I totally geeked out a bit too much!

In fact, there were quite a few moments where I got too caught up taking photos of everything that I lost track of the delegation group (it really is quite a large museum).

However, I definitely thought this was one of the highlights of the trip for me and I hope you guys enjoy the images (do excuse the image quality on some of them, they were all taken by me in a hurry with an iPhone 4S under low light conditions).

The museum offered us a great overview of Shanghai Film Group’s prestigious history, which as I mentioned, is deeply connected with the history of Chinese cinema itself.  The interesting part was this respect and love for the films and film makers were expressed through a variety of artistic creations.

Such as sculpture:

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And miniatures!

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Ofcourse there was also a large collection of props and equipment (unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap many photos of these, got lost at this point):

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I believe these aren’t so much as props as actual guns used in WWII:

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Isn’t it funny how little has changed in the design of sound-recording equipment over the years?

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As someone who comes from a visual arts background the was the section that excited me the most was undoubtly the one that contained:

Old school film posters!

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Old school concept art/ production design!

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…and oldschool traditional animation designs/ cells!

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Now, as this post is already very long and image intensive, I’ll save everyone the trouble of more scrolling.

If you’re interested in checking out more oldschool film posters, designs and animation resources, I’ve made a separate post HERE.

Some other highlights along the way:

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A section celebrating Shanghai Animation Film Studio’s classics.  It’s a real shame that so much talent was lost during the years of 1966-1975.  They were a real powerhouse in animation back in the day, pioneering many new techniques inspired by traditional Chinese art such as papercut animation, and ink wash animation.  Even as a kid growing up in the 90’s in China, I still vividly remember watching ALL of the classics above.  It’s a true testiment to the quality of their work and the legacy that they’ve left behind.

For more information and background, check out the wiki page here (it’s not very detailed but does give a nice overview).

As a bonus, here’s a link to an absolute classic – ‘Uproar in Heaven’ (the monkey king’s tale adapted from the prologue to Journey to the West) created in 1964:

This super rad dude who goes by Laitma also has part 2 as well as 1979’s classic NeZha Riots the Seas subtitled for your viewing pleasure here:

Other interesting finds:

An interactive transparent screen! Quite a brilliant way to let visitors read manuscripts from classic films without actually touching/ potentially damaging these valuable artifacts.

There were art everywhere around the facility:

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And then of course, the tour ended with the giant wall of all the awards they’ve picked up over the years:

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What followed was the massive round table intro meeting we’ve come to expect now.  This was the slightly disappointing part of it all for me.  After being fully immersed in Shanghai Film Group’s amazing history of film making, I was reminded of it’s current reality.  These days, they’ve become so huge, and do business in so many areas outside of film, that I’ve heard the majority of their current profits actually come from property development. With state-backing, it seems film making itself has become less and less of a focus. I am curious to see what types of projects they would be interested in when it comes to a potential Sino-NZ co-pro.

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After the quick meeting, we had to start rushing towards our final destination of the day – the Shanghai evening networking dinner at New Zealand Central.

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It was my first time visiting New Zealand Central, but I have to say, the venue was simply fantastic.  I really commend NZTE for setting this up.  It’s based in a fantastic location in town and really showcases the culture and personality of New Zealand.  It also feels a heck of a lot more friendly and approachable than an embassy!

By the way, the Chinese version of the name is actually “Window to New Zealand” which sounds a lot nicer too!

Dinner was great, although my voice had almost disappeared by this point, and weather was starting to get colder and colder as we headed further north.

By the time it was over, everyone was exhausted – and we hadn’t even checked into our hotel yet!  Big props to Chris of NZFC who was surely more worn out than all of us at this point but still did an amazing job of co-ordinating everything.

…aaaand that’s it for the first day of Shanghai! Sorry for such a long post but it was a loooooooong day.  See you soon in the follow up – China trip part 2 | Shanghai day 2!

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