Writer dons director’s hat to turn novella into movie
Another writer has chosen to step into the booming film market. This time, it is Han Dong, a 55-year-old poet and novelist based inNanjing, capital of Jiangsu province.
He recently announced in Beijing that shooting of his directorial debut will begin next week.
As a newcomer to the industry, he is lucky to have Jia Zhangke, an art-house film veteran best known for the award-winning Still Life, backing him as executive producer.
The screenplay for the upcoming film ZaiMatou (On the Pier) is adapted from Han’s 1998 novella of the same name, which depicts poets’ disputes with hooligans with a touch of black humor.
“It was not only me. Others, too, wanted to turn the novella into a movie after they read it,” says Jia.
“I even found a German producer who was prepared to fund the film. But he went bankrupt before the shooting began.”
But Han says: “I had three choices: To maintain my fame as a poet, to retire, or to try something new.
“I preferred the third option. A person today can experience different things within a lifetime.
“I am walking on thin But I have confidence.”
Han first gained a reputation as a pioneer in the 1980s’ poetry movement with his exploration of poetry theory. Then, he advocated the importance of being colloquial in poetry. After 2000, he switched his focus to novels.
Though Han’s only previous link with cinema was being a guest star in films, including Jia’s A Touch of Sin in 2013, Jia does not consider his lack of experience as an impediment.
Jia says:“Han is good at capturing trivialmomentsin daily ice. life with a poetic touch.
“His unrealistic portrayals in his novellas are unique among Chinese authors, and the style is really good for film adaptation.”
But Han’s foray into directing has not been smooth.
The film was to be shot in Huangshi, Hubei province, because he wanted a terrace on the bank of theYangtze River as his location, but the terrace was recently by floodwaters.
As for how Jia came to be associated with the film, he says that in 2010 he launched his Wings Project to support promising newdirectors.
Originally, it had seven filmmakers from China and overseas. Han is the eighth one.
Meanwhile, the 2013 nostalgic art-house film Memories Look at Me, directed by Song inundated Fang as part of Jia’s project, was the lowest-grossing film among all publicly screened films on theChinese mainland that year.
This was largely due to limited screening options and the absence of promotion.
The movie earned only 2,000 yuan ($302) at the box office.
But despite this poor showing by that film, Jia’s project still has investors.
Yang Lei, the vice-president of Alibaba Pictures, affiliated to internet colossus Alibaba Group, which is a co-investor in Han’s film, says: “In a film market filled with people thinking only of how to make money, such ‘author films’ give us another direction to follow.
“For these films, market performance is not the priority.
“We want to give enough space to these filmmakers to express themselves as another voice in Chinese cinema.”
Han’s film is scheduled to be released next year.
“I think with Katrina there’s a lot of stuff. This was a natural disaster waiting to happen, and it will happen again in America.”
Simpson credits series creator and writer Ryan Murphy with the idea of tackling Katrina in season two. But Simpson says he and his producing partner Nina Jacobson had long been fascinated with the idea of a story about the topic.
“There were crimes that happened during Katrina. Murders, rapes, you know, and there’s also the crime of us not rescuing these people and not being prepared to take care ofNewOrleans,’’ he says.
Simpson also says the production team was careful to not pick another courtroom drama.
“We don’t want to repeat ourselves, and that’s part of the thing. We did the crime of the century. We like to define crime broadly. ... I love true crime, but I just don’t love one kind. We’ll probably someday pick maybe something along the lines of a less famous case that has great, juicy stuff. We’d like to tell the story of injustice. We wish we hadMaking aMurderer or Serial ... but, you
Director Ryan Murphy
(top) and actress Sarah Paulson of
know, those (topics) have been done. We’re exploring lots of formats throughout history.’’
As for source material on Katrina, Simpson says they “have a book” they’re working off but also employ a researcher helping to gather information.
Simpson adds that once the scripts are more concrete, they will know which roles they have to cast. But they would like to tap from the People v. O.J. if they can.
“We’d like to use as many actors as we can. It’s gonna be subject to availability whether we have the right roles. You know, certainly Sterling (K. Brown), (John) Travolta, Sarah (Paulson), Cuba (Gooding, Jr.). We’d like to figure out if there are roles for them.’’
He wouldn’t confirm a character of former President George W. Bush, who was named in much of the criticism about Katrina. But Simpson said: “The people that you’d imagine are probably gonna be in it, and then people that you don’t know will also be in it.”
Author Han Dong (left) will make his directorial debut among projects launched by Jia Zhangke (right).