Find­ing a way to train young direc­tors

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By XUFAN

China’s rapidly grow­ing movie mar­ket has long been thirsty for qual­i­fied direc­tors. Now the short­age may ease slightly thanks to a pro­gram which aims to find new tal­ent.

The coun­try’s two top movie au­thor­i­ties— the China Film Di­rec­tor’s Guild and the film bureau of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion — have jointly launched a pro­gram to sup­port young direc­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to the spon­sors, five novices, ages be­tween 18 and 38, will be se­lected af­ter a four-month na­tion­wide com­pe­ti­tion, the first edi­tion of the an­nual project.

The win­ners will have five famed direc­tors to guide them. The direc­tors will act as ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers.

This year marks the 110th an­niver­sary of the birth of Chi­nese movies. “But young tal­ent and their di­rec­to­rial works have ac­counted for a sig­nif­i­cant part of China’s cin­e­matic cul­ture and history,” says Zhang Hongsen, di­rec­tor of the film bureau.

Up to 10 mil­lion yuan ($1.56 mil­lion) has been set aside for the project, and more pref­er­en­tial poli­cies and funds will be pro­vided to sup­port new film­mak­ers seek­ing to achieve their bigscreen dreams, says Zhang.

For Li Shao­hong, pres­i­dent of the 300-mem­ber guild, the new film­mak­ers rep­re­sent “the cre­ative power” of the do­mes­tic in­dus­try, which is wor­ried about ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion from for­eign ri­vals.

Though in­dus­try sources ex­pect China to over­take the United States to be­come the largest movie mar­ket in the world in two to three years, around 40 per­cent of this year’s box of­fice tak­ings — so far gross­ing worth nearly 42 bil­lion yuan — come from Hol­ly­wood block­busters, which num­ber around one10th of home­grown ti­tles.

Wang Chang­tian, chair­man of the in­dus­try gi­ant En­lightMe­dia, says the mar­ket is cur­rently short of around 200 “ma­ture, skilled” direc­tors.

The an­nual out­put of movies made for gen­eral release is around 300 in re­cent years.

A reg­u­lar pace for vet­eran direc­tors is one ti­tle per year, and cur­rently only around 100 direc­tors meet this norm, saysWang.

With its own project to train stars to be­come direc­tors launched in 2011, En­light has helped at least 20 celebri­ties in­clud­ing ac­tor Xu Zheng, Tai­wan singer-ac­tor Alec Su and Tai­wan idol ac­torWal­lace Chung.

Some who have proved their po­ten­tial be­hind the cam­era in­clude Xu, whose di­rec­to­rial de­but Lost in Thai­land (2012) was the high­est-gross­ing do­mes­tic movie ti­tle for three years un­til Mon­ster Hunt sur­passed its nearly 1.3 bil­lion yuan col­lec­tion this year.

The best way for a new­bie di­rec­tor to con­vince in­vestors is to start with com­mer­cial work, says Wang, al­though most film ma­jors pre­fer making art-house pro­duc­tions.

When a film­maker proves his value to the mar­ket, he has more chances to “speak on some­thing buried deep in his heart”, he adds.

Ex­pe­ri­ence is also key to bet­ter film­mak­ing, say more than 60 vet­eran direc­tors and of­fi­cials from around 30 film stu­dios.

Feng Xiao­gang, a big name be­hind scores of com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful block­busters, will helm the first edi­tion of the pro­gram.

Re­veal­ing that he did not understand what it meant to be a di­rec­tor in his early years, Feng says he started to understand the en­tire sys­tem only af­ter work­ing on at least 15 ti­tles.

“It’s a very tough job. When you walk deeper into di­rect­ing, you find more strug­gles in your heart.”

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