At the beginning of 2019, The Last Judgment, a Beijing Film Market "Best Project Pitches" of the 8th Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) wraps on the Dongshan Island in Zhangzhou, Fujian. Beijing KAI Pictures, China UniCreative Industry Group, and Shanghai Xihu Pictures jointly produced the film, and Flying Youth Pictures saw to its post production. The famous Hong Kong-based director Ye Weimin supervised the shooting process. Directed by Han Zhi and starring Wang Xun and Li Yixiang, the realistic film is going to be released in the second half of 2019.
Every year, the BJIFF Beijing Film Market project pitch platform selects high-quality projects to fully match with market resources, incubates film newbies and transfers them to the market. As the project pitches of the BJIFF's previous sessions begin to deliver films, the platform-supported talents have successively stood out in domestic and international film festivals. The BJIFF is expanding its effect as a platform of project pitches, attracting the involvement of mature production teams. The Last Judgment participated in the 8th BJIFF as a project pitch under the leadership of Xu Yiding, chairman of Beijing KAI Pictures and producer of the film. Xu has a clear goal: he hopes to take the BJIFF as a fulcrum to engage more extensive industry resources in the project.
The Last Judgment followed the principle of "focusing on script development, not relying on traffic-generating stars, supporting new directors and scriptwriters" in its production. It brought into play the directing, screenwriting, art, action, special effects, and film editing talents that have been selected for the "Steam for Future" program. From its acceptance as a project pitch to its final approval and road show, the film has connected extensive resources through the BJIFF project pitch platform.
Of course, the "small circuit" must be tested on the "big market." Xu Yiding also realized that participating in the BJIFF project pitch was a good opportunity to train the young creative team. Therefore, seizing the growth opportunity brought by the project pitch platform, the project's planning and scriptwriting personnel took turns to make project presentations. Finally, The Last Judgment won the "Best Project Pitch" award. On the eve of the day of project negotiation, nine of the twelve planned negotiation sessions were already booked.
In The Last Judgment, an accident traps several groups of people on a cliff. Facing the crisis, each character exhibited their own nature, and the secrets behind these people who do not seem to know each other are gradually revealed. Xu Yiding disclosed that after the famous director Ye Weimin became the supervisor, the film's core plot was retained. The introduction of Ye Weimin was to ensure the project creativity and make up for the newbie director's weaknesses while exerting his strengths.
The following is an interview with Xu Yiding on the topic of project pitch.
Q: What are the weaknesses of young directors according to your experience of working with them in recent years? How can you help them?
A: Young directors tend to address problems separately. As directors, however, they must think in big-picture terms. For example, when Han Zhi was directing The Last Judgment, some scenes required a refitted vehicle. The vehicle must be meticulously designed with the future needs in mind. Otherwise, if something went awry in the content, reshooting or modifying these scenes could have caused heavy costs. They may just think about the next step, but we have to think about the next three steps. As a producer, I must help them to consider the future situation as a whole. Such help is what many young directors need today.
Q: This question is a continuation of the last question. How do you help young director to fully channel their creativity into the films according to their characteristics?
A: We certainly must leverage their strengths and avoid their shortcomings. For example, I told Zhang Qing, director of Chef Nic, not to discard the experience of cooking shows. On top of this, I allowed him some room for imagination so that he could deliver good works. In fact, we collaborate like hedgehogs. We try to hold together for warmth, but we will hurt each other if we are too close.
Q: Nowadays, many project investors hope that the films integrate commercial value and personal expressions. In particular, seeing the success of A Cool Fish, what do you think of such project pitch works?
A: Some films go after benefits, while others pursue ideals. Occasionally some will reap both fame and fortune, but that rarely happens and everything must go the right way. So I think that you must know what you are after when participating in a project pitch. If you only pursue a personal expression, then concentrate on the goal to achieve it. Certainly it will be better if you can also make profits. But such rare cases will only happen to the best and luckiest directors. If you want everything, you may get nothing.
Q: The 9th BJIFF Beijing Film Market will add some project pitches that are WIPs. What implications does it have for mature producers like you?
A: As a producer, I take a keen interest in the WIPs. We think more in big-picture terms than directors. Now investors are taking a wait-and-see policy, so China will be short of films in 2019. In the past, for example, if I had a fixed sum of money, I would invest it in a big project. But now I may invest it into three small projects. In this case, I actually need a resource platform like the BJIFF. This addition to the BJIFF 2019 is very important for us producers.
Q: What do you think will get investors to consider investing in WIPs through the BJIFF project pitch platform?
A: I think all the resources are superimposed and "chemically" react with each other. The BJIFF promotion can bring about a transformation. The transformation is more crucial because it enables the BJIFF to interact with other film festivals. At the end of the day, we are doing business, so we must think about turning investment decisions into business operations.
The Last Judgment is currently at the post editing stage. And the film crew is actively preparing for the 9th BJIFF red carpet & opening ceremony. For the producer Xu Yiding, the assembly is already summoning him to the frontline of film promotion and release.
The 9th BJIFF is now earnestly inviting project pitches. The deadline for application is March 3rd, 2019, and the deadline for submission of WIPs is March 10th, 2019. As one who has "waded through the water", Xu Yiding's advice for enthusiastic young filmmakers is as follows, "In mind, start from scratch, embrace changes, and march high ambition with real ability; in action, do not work behind closed doors but demonstrate your value with good ideas and good works."
Bring a project, and take away a film!
The 9th BJIFF is looking forward to your participation!