Wen Muye: Ready to Di­rect

China Pictorial (English) - - Front Page - Text by Xi Luo

“I have al­ways re­mained ded­i­cated to mak­ing warm and touch­ing films with a sin­cere at­ti­tude, so that when the spec­ta­tors step out of the the­ater, they are filled with hope and courage to face the dif­fi­cul­ties in life.”

Many have said that Wen Muye was born to be a di­rec­tor.

On July 5, 2018, 8, the Chi­nese com­edy film Dy­ing to Sur­vive hit cin­e­mas across China, mak­ing its di­rec­tor Wen Muye a house­hold name.

De­spite the fact that Dy­ing to Sur­vive is Wen’s de­but fea­ture, no trace of in­ex­pe­ri­ence can be found d in his so­phis­ti­cated and flu­ent pre­sen­tan­ta­tion. The act­ing is ex­cel­lent, and the he tightly crafted plot fo­cuses on both h en­ter­tain­ment and phi­los­o­phy.

How­ever, the pre­vi­ous cre­ations ns in his ca­reer as a di­rec­tor are only a hand­ful of short films. Di­rect­ing with Courage and In­sight

Ac­claimed Chi­nese di­rec­tor Jia a Zhangke opined that a di­rec­tor must ust hon­estly and solemnly cap­ture and d present the ups and downs hap­pen­ing ning on the land they live as well as the peo­ple’s daily wor­ries.

Wen has al­ways been fas­ci­nated d by re­al­is­tic themes and sto­ries. Most of the short films he shot dur­ing his early days in univer­sity de­pict deep re­al­is­tic is­tic and hu­man­is­tic con­cerns. Fa­mous film critic Huang Shix­ian com­mented nted that it takes courage and in­sight to o cre­ate such works.

Ning Hao, the pro­ducer of Dy­ing ying to Sur­vive, said that by watch­ing Wen’s short films he de­ter­mined that the di­rec­tor ex­cel­lently de­picted ted marginal­ized peo­ple with hu­man­ist st val­ues, so he re­cruited him to di­rect ect the fea­ture film.

The film is based on the true story tory of Lu Yong, a leukemia pa­tient from om China’s eastern Jiangsu Prov­ince, who needs Gleevec, a Swiss med­i­ca­tion, n, to sur­vive. The patented medicine costs osts him nearly 300,000 yuan a year, which hich

he can’t hope to af­ford.

Even­tu­ally Lu dis­cov­ers In­dian gener­ics that cost only one-twen­ti­eth of the price of the name-brand drug. After us­ing it, he rec­om­mends the al­ter­na­tive to other cancer pa­tients. How­ever, be­cause the In­dian generic drugs have not re­ceived of­fi­cial ap­proval in China, they are deemed fake medicine—a real-world para­dox.

It took a to­tal of two years just to re­vise and ad­just the script. Dur­ing that time, Wen en­dured a lot of “self-strug­gle.” He con­tin­u­ously edited the script over and over again to bal­ance com­mer­cial in­ter­ests, en­ter­tain­ment value and real­ism.

“To en­sure that the re­al­is­tic film is in­ter­est­ing rather than bor­ing and sad, we have to add com­mer­cial el­e­ments into the re­al­is­tic theme with­out dam­ag­ing its core,” he ex­plained.

Wen hopes more peo­ple watch the film and con­nect with the

hu­man­ity in the story. “I have al­ways re­mained ded­i­cated to mak­ing warm and touch­ing films with a sin­cere at­ti­tude, so that when the spec­ta­tors step out of the the­ater, they are filled with hope and courage to face the dif­fi­cul­ties in life,” he beamed.

“Just Keep Shoot­ing”

Wen still re­mem­bers stand­ing be­fore the en­trance to Bei­jing Film Acad­emy as a post­grad­u­ate stu­dent who came to reg­is­ter for en­roll­ment. The young man was shak­ing with ex­cite­ment. “For me, the acad­emy was the Promised Land,” Wen re­calls. His pas­sion for film blos­somed as a fresh­man in univer­sity after he learned that “shoot­ing earned dig­nity.”

In the early 21st cen­tury, many Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties be­gan launch­ing ra­dio and TV edit­ing and di­rect­ing de­part­ments. Wen was among the first 120 un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents

to ma­jor in the field at North­east Nor­mal Univer­sity in 2004. They lacked sea­soned up­per­class­men and ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers, hav­ing only some equip­ment at their dis­posal.

Dur­ing his four years at North­east Nor­mal Univer­sity, Wen shot five short films. In four years fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion, he shot three more. Later, dur­ing post­grad­u­ate stud­ies at Bei­jing Film Acad­emy, Wen made two more shorts. “Since the day I first ar­rived at univer­sity, my life has been film-cen­tered,” he notes. “I wrote a script and turned it into a film. Then I wrote an­other script and made it a film. My life con­tin­ues to re­peat this cy­cle to this day. Most re­cently, I wrote a fea­ture-length screen­play and shot a fea­ture film. The whole time, I have fully uti­lized ev­ery minute of my life, seam­lessly tran­sit­ing from one film project to an­other.”

To a large ex­tent, con­tin­u­ous and tire­less cre­ation makes Wen the per­son he is to­day.

Ev­ery time he fin­ished a short film, Wen searched on­line for rel­e­vant con­tests in which he could par­tic­i­pate. Even­tu­ally, two of his short films won in­ter­na­tional awards and at­tracted mas­sive do­mes­tic at­ten­tion. “At­tend­ing in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­vals is the fastest way to be no­ticed.”

At the FIRST In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, held an­nu­ally in Xin­ing City, Qing­hai Prov­ince, Wen once re­vealed that he dreamed of win­ning an Os­car. “When I look back on that goal to­day, I pre­fer to see China’s own ‘Os­car’ emerge in my life­time,” he says. “China should con­struct a sys­tem to ex­port its core cul­ture and val­ues. I feel a greater sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to my coun­try­men and na­tion as a Chi­nese film­maker. ”

Even if he hadn’t been ad­mit­ted to Bei­jing Film Acad­emy, Wen be­lieves he would still be shoot­ing films to­day. “You just keep shoot­ing and never stop,” he stresses. “It is the most im­por­tant way to hone your abil­i­ties in self ex­pres­sion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion while es­tab­lish­ing your own style.”

“Clear” Is Key

“Clear” has been an es­pe­cially im­por­tant word for Wen dur­ing his evo­lu­tion as a di­rec­tor. From set­ting the goal of be­com­ing a di­rec­tor to re­leas­ing his first fea­ture, Wen has re­mained clear on his in­ten­tions the en­tire time.

Wen en­sures the set is exquisitely de­signed be­fore film­ing al­most ev­ery scene. His di­rec­tions for ac­tors are quite clear: “Slow the whole tempo down a lit­tle bit, and you can be a lit­tle bit more ex­ag­ger­ated when slump­ing down to the floor.”

Tan Zhuo, an ac­tress in Dy­ing to Sur­vive, was im­pressed, declar­ing, “We were sur­prised the di­rec­tor was so pre­pared.”

Wen has ev­ery­thing he could pos­si­bly need at his fin­ger­tips dur­ing work, due to his thor­ough prepa­ra­tion. Long be­fore shoot­ing started, the ac­tors gath­ered at least four times to read through the script. Two weeks be­fore shoot­ing, ev­ery ac­tor was called for re­hearsals of ev­ery scene from first to last.

“I ask ev­ery­thing to be clear, which I be­lieve is the nor­mal process for shoot­ing a movie,” Wen ex­plains. “If you don’t know what to do on set, you’re in the wrong place. All prob­lems that emerge dur­ing shoot­ing are the re­sult of in­ad­e­quate early prepa­ra­tion. that’s for sure.”

Wen be­lieves that the big­gest ob­sta­cle im­ped­ing the de­vel­op­ment of young di­rec­tors is lack of self-knowl­edge. Many young di­rec­tors don’t have a clear un­der­stand­ing of their strengths and weak­nesses or what steps they need to take.

“Peo­ple in any era may face the same ob­jec­tive prob­lems of that spe­cific era,” Wen ar­gues. “How to han­dle new prob­lems is an im­por­tant is­sue. Young di­rec­tors should first be clear about what kind of di­rec­tor they want to be or which road suits them. The sec­ond thing is meth­ods, which is how to pro­ceed on that road. After these things are clear, the road ahead will be­come smoother.”

April 12, 2018: Di­rec­tor Wen Muye at­tends the pre­miere of in Bei­jing. IC Dy­ing to Sur­vive

Di­rec­tor Wen Muye and ac­tor Zhang Yu in­ter­act with fans dur­ing a road­show of Dy­ing to Sur­vive in Ji­nan, cap­i­tal of Shan­dong Prov­ince. VCG

De­spite the fact that Dy­ing to Sur­vive is Wen Muye’s de­but fea­ture, the film earned rev­enues of nearly 3 bil­lion yuan in its first 25 days of re­lease.

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