Thursday, June 9, 2011

Abe Kwang And Gordon Chan Chat About "The Mural" at Screen Singapore

"The Mural" concept poster
For those who were invited to Screen Singapore's gala premiere on opening night, 1 minute was all they got for "The Mural" 's trailer.

When news was released that director Gordon Chan was doing a follow-up to the successful "Painted Skin" (画皮), "The Mural" (画壁) became one of the most highly-anticipated Chinese movie this year. This was especially after knowing that "The Mural" was going to be a action-romance-fantasy film set in a magical fairy land, involving over 2,000 special effects shots.

As it always happens on opening nights, the screening of "The Mural" teaser faced with an initial sound glitch! Red Dot Diva asks, who released those nasty Gremlins in GV Vivocity, huh? Anyway, it was quickly re-screened again so that the audience could take in the fast-moving images for another time.

The teaser began with a beautiful sequence of ink paintings that sets up the Chinese period story from Liao Zhai Zhi Yi (Strange Tales of Liaozhai). Whilst on his travels, a scholar (Zhu Xiaolian) was attacked by some nasty bad men and escaped to a temple, where he was sucked into a painted mural. He was transported into a fantastical fairy land where he found romance.

Only in the last few seconds of the teaser were the audience was shown some real movie footage featuring a flying demon surrounded by female fairies getting ready to do battle. Plus a close-up of a multi-eyed demon, which Red Dot Diva thought looked pretty good actually.

Even though it was really short, the teaser set up the tone of the movie very nicely as a beautiful fantasy realm that was equally as dangerous. It sure left the audience wanting for more.

At the official press conference
Yan Ni, Collin Chou, Liu Yang

There was a press conference held with director Gordon Chan, producer Abe Kwang, and cast members – Collin Chou, Yan Ni, Liu Yan, Xie Nan, Bao Bei-Er the next day and more movie details were discussed. One can read about that in Red Dot Diva's blog contribution at End of Show website.

In the same afternoon, she also attended interviews together with two really nice local blokes (who are also bloggers), with producer Abe Kwang, director Gordon Chan and actor Collin Chou. And managed to get more scoop about "The Mural".

It was been noted for awhile that the HK film industry has been suffering for quite some time, so a question was posed to producer Abe Kwang about what the positive aspects of working in collaboration with China for movies were.

Producer of "The Mural" - Abe Kwang
Abe explained in an honest practical fashion, "After 'Painted Skin', we saw a big potential and China's audience has been growing so we decided to continue with the collaboration. For most HK films, the budget is mostly below HKD 7 million but with 'Painted Skin', we had a huge budget of about HKD 40 million. For our next projects - "14 Blades", "The Lost Bladesman", "The Mural" and "The Four", the budgets have not gone under HKD 60 million. Without a budget, it is a difficult to do things so the money definitely helps enable us to meet the expectations of a growing market."

Red Dot Diva also nosily found out that it costs about RMB 10,000 per CGI special effects shot for "The Mural". And mid-way, Abe found a wonderful CGI editor from LA with very impressive skills that enabled the team to render the special effects faster. So this editor was also hired for the movie "The Four".

When Red Dot Diva and her friends met well-known HK director Gordon Chan for the interview, they were pleasantly surprised to find him extremely down-to-earth and could speak fantastic English. It was an utter delight chatting with the man.

"To be honest, I wanted to get away from the supernatural genre. But after 'Painted Skin', everyone was expecting me to make a sequel. I don't like horror movies. I don't like to spread fear, so to speak," Gordon said. "So I read through Liao Zai and found this story about the mural and it wasn't even a ghost story. It was a fantasy romance story about a scholar who went through a magic mural of a beautiful girl into another world, and was chased by golden warriors and he was yelling for help, and was then rescued by a monk. He came back into the real world and asked the monk 'What happened?' The monk said, 'How do I know? It was all in your head.' Is it a dream or is it something in your mind. And that's what attracted the story to me. It's about what you think is important in your mind. Being a short story, it also allowed me freedom to be create my world for it."

About the many special effects shots to be done in "The Mural", Gordon said that the Chinese film industry had not much success with CGI because they had the notion it only involved post-production work. In actual fact, Gordon says that the planning should very early on during pre-production when you decide to shoot that special effects shot.

The Diva and Gordon Chan
It was also definitely interesting to obtain insights from Gordon about working in China's film industry. Due to China's strict restrictions for film, Gordon admitted that he had to remove the sexual portions in the movie. "China is a very different territory. Sex and action doesn't always work. Then again, something else works." He also mentioned that the audience in China like watching movies with some insights and contains philosophical offerings.

"Being a director is a very difficult thing. Because there are not a lot of topics you can write and there are not a lot of things that you can expand on. Whenever you write or create, you always look at it from the chair of the censorship and ask yourself whether you can screen it. This kind of thinking constraints creativity. But then again, I understand the situation in China and it's not easy to change these things even though they are opening up. 'Painted Skin' is actually a sign of the society opening up."

Gordon continued, "When I talk to the Chinese film bureau, we had a very frank talk and I was actually pretty grateful. They really wanted to help us build up the Chinese film industry. They need trust from us, and in return they need us to let them trust us. If they let us pass certain topics, you won't give them something that would backfire."

Red Dot Diva will have more news when she reveals what happened at the interview with "The Mural" actor Collin Chou. Look out for it!

And if one is wondering, "The Mural" is expected to be released around end September 2011, to coincide with China’s National Day holidays.

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