Low-budget Chinese science fiction film on the horizon
Most people take it for granted that making a science fiction film must be expensive because of its digital effects.
But Ten cent Pictures, the film arm of internet giant Tencent, recently said it is exploring the possibility of making a lowbudget sci-fi movie.
Titled Path Finder, the forthcoming flick features in the latest lineup of 21 movies and television series to be made or co-developed by Tencent Pictures.
A Chinese twist on the Star Trek franchise, the movie is based on its popular namesake online comic book, which follows a group of Chinese adventurers who explore space.
The book, which is still being updated online, has accumulated nearly 140 million clicks and has 9.1 points out of 10 on Ac.qq.com, Tencent’s website specializing in comics.
Film critic-turned-newbie director Zhang Xiaobei says his maiden work has a budget of a few million yuan— a fraction of a typical Hollywood sci-fi movie.
A sci-fi fan since childhood, Zhang, 41, has always been fascinated by Star Wars and also loves Alien and Blade Runner.
A key issue for the director is whether he can find a Chinese way tomake sci-fi movies.
Hollywood has a long history when it comes to such films, but the genre has developed mainly during the past decade in China.
A widely held view is that Chinese filmmakers do not have the appropriate technology or the budgets to make such movies.
“So, the solution is to explore a new way— unlike the formula typically followed by Hollywood,” says Zhang.
He says Path Finder will stress roles, emotional bonds and the characters’ humanity.
“Emotions, such as fear and love, are universal and appeal to audiences regardless of nationality or language,” he says.
The script has just been revised and digital sets are being worked on. Filming is expected to start early next year.
Path Finder, incidentally, is not the only low-budget Chinese sci-fi film on the way.
Award-winning director Lu Chuan, who rose to prominence with Keh Xil: Mountain Patrol, has teamed up with Ten cent Pictures on 20,000 Miles Plan.
The film, which was also one of the projects listed on Sept 17, is part sci-fi, and is inspired by Lu’s years working in a supernatural-phenomenon-research organization, a source says.
Meanwhile, although it is too early to predict how this new approach with regard to sci-fi will work, this time Ten cent Pictures is putting emphasis on originality.
The biggest investment when it comes to making movies is patience, says Cheng Wu, vice-president of Tencent and CEO of Tencent Pictures.
“The Chinese movie industry is already at a new level. By being brave, exploring experimental forms and providing an opportunity to those outside the charmed circle, we will create more possibilities,” he says.
Separately, other upcoming productions that are garnering interest are the coming-of-age thriller Blood of Youth, which is akin to documentary horror film Zhong Xie (Haunted); the animated remake of The Snow Child; Tuzki (based on a popular rabbit character) and the TV series Fighter of Destiny.
Fighter of Destiny, featuring actor Lu Han, has a budget of 400 million yuan ($60 million).
The Tencent list of upcoming films also includes some international coproductions.
Japanese filmmaker Takashige Ichise, who’s known for The Grudge, will work with Tencent Pictures to produce Koseidon, a cinematic remake of the popular Japanese TV series Dinosaur Corps Koseidon.
Among the other collaborations is the monster epic Kong: Skull Island, slated for release in March 2017.
Left: Director Lu Chuan (left) reveals details about his new fantasymovie with Tencent Pictures. Right: Zhang Xiaobei (left) talks about his directorial debut, PathFinder.