Mr Wang, first of all thank you for finding time to meet and record this interview, in order to share with our viewers your story, points of view and plans.
- Hello everybody!
- First of all I’d like to say that my main major is TV Film Director, I’m focused on filming TV Shows, TV Film. I grew up watching films of Steven Spielberg, and also learned from him. When I went to University, I watched and learned from his works, such as “Jaws”, “Jurassic Park”, … etc. I watched a lot of his films and many times, because I needed to learn. That is why I believe that our generation received a lot of American filmmaking influence. And not only in film, but in tv shows as well. American film tv shows, as well as European and Russian, all made influence. I personally studied in Russia. So what I’m trying to tell you is that we, our development, received a lot of influence from the World film industry. 30-40 years ago in China we had not many chances. Industry wasn’t regulated by market, it was government regulated. Director could film what government needed to be produced, or may be TV Station had a project of TV Series. As far as I remember, at that time we had 2-3 TV shows made per year, 1-2 films per year at a film factory. We had around 7-8 film factories in China. They were not like modern company, it was just like a small factory. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changchun - these big cities had a film factory. Each factory produced 1 film per year. That is why to be film director during those times was very difficult. How come they could trust you to make the film? It was very difficult. But if you made it, you had audience of one billion viewers or more, and you could become famous right way. We got acquainted with successful directors of those times and we had a strange feeling. There was nothing too special about them. How come he became so famous? Then we realized that it was a historical matter. May be he didn't make the film very well, but because he got this chance - the whole country knew him. This is not fair, you know, you had to work so hard. Now it is totally different. Now we have about 500 films made per year, I mean those films which were screened. We might have 500 or more which weren’t screened. Hence, we have around 1000 films made per year. Regarding tv series, we have around 20 000 episode produced per year, huge volume. The industry, including directors, editors, producers, actors - became like a pyramid. In the lower level a lot of people are making films. You have chance to get to another level if you make a very good product, only this way you survive. If you stay only on the bottom level, there are no much chances. Billions of RMB are wasted there. Chinese market is huge, a lot of financing is coming not only from the film industry. There are bankers or other business people, and they get interest in investing in a tv film or film. Chinese market is also growing, developing very fast. May be in few years or 10 years, it can be as stable as it is in America or the EU. As for example Hollywood, or New York. There are only these big and professional companies who compete in the market. In China things are still changing, but again the market is very active, what is very good. That’s why I believe we, directors of my generations, live in a very good era. It is also connected with Chinese economic development. People stabilized their lives, they live a good life. Now if we make a tv show or film, my salary, for example, is about the same as it is in Hollywood. Generally when they make a film or tv series, they can earn about few millions of dollars. Here we earn about the same. But I mean of course our earnings in Chinese currency. But I must say that you can make these money only when you achieve this certain high level. For example if I work on a tv series I can earn 2-3 millions of dollars. After you reach a certain level you can make it. If you are in the bottom level it is impossible. Just as it is in America, we are about the same. Majority of actors and directors, their lives aren’t rich. When you achieve high level, such as Steven Spielberg, then of course, your earnings can get close to numbers he makes. I also think we have many opportunities to partner up, this is a thing I’m happy about. I visit America each year at least once, we go to Hollywood. Now we have a lot of mutual projects to develop.
- Mr Wang, you have just shared with us the history of development of the filmmaking industry of China. It is very interesting for us to know your story. When you became interested in this sphere? What made you interested in filmmaking?
- In 1988 I entered Shanghai Drama Institute. I have been studying there for 2 years. At that time I liked drama a lot. Then there was a chance to go to Russia. At that time it was Soviet Union. It was a wonderful chance, also because the government paid for my studies. They offered me this opportunity and I accepted it. I came to USSR, started learning Russian language, and entered the St Petersburg (Leningrad at that time) University of Drama, Film and Music. I studied there 1 year and then, I went to Moscow Film University for a masterclass. It impressed me so much and I decided to move to Moscow for my studies. In Moscow I started my major in film. At that time, 80-90s, Soviet Union had a very good quality film education. I studied there for 4 years and then came back home. After I returned I decided to be film director. However, for a young person, there were no chances, because as I already told you, during those times we had only few films and tv series produced per year. At film factories there were many old film directors, waiting in line. For me, a young guy in his 20s, nobody would give this chance. Therefore I decided first to work at the TV Station, to make documentary films. I was still thinking what to do, because I wanted to make movies. I believe at that time one of the best directors was Mr Xia Gang, he was a very famous director. He liked me and my work a lot, He asked my story, I introduced myself, my background and he invited me to work with him. I came to his studio, started by working as Director’s Assistant. We made 3 films together. I did many different jobs, as well as Director’s Assistant, Vice - Director. When we were working on our 3d project, an investor approached me and asked if I wanted a chance to work on my own project as director. At that time market already opened and there was a need in young directors to film tv shows. So they approached me and asked if I wanted to be director on their project. I felt shy and said that director (Xia Gang) is here, I can’t decide without him. They talked to Xia Gang and he happily agreed. It was a 3 episode tv show. Xia Gang told me to take this project. I didn’t have much experience at that time and I don't think the project was filmed perfectly well. Nevertheless it was pretty successful for that time. Since that time I worked in this sphere around 15 - 16 years.
- Mr Wang, I noticed that stories of your projects are almost always tied with history, historical stories, and culture. Why did you choose this genre? Why, for example, didn’t you choose science fiction or futuristic films, such as James Cameron’s “Terminator”, when a person from future comes to the past…
- I believe it’s because, when I was small, I got education in the USSR. Soviet war films made impact on me. For example, Bondarchuk his films. Yes, imagine, I met Bondarchuk alive. Later he passed away, unfortunately. Soviet culture and education influenced me a lot, made me interested in history and different historical events, wars, etc. Actually I was more interested in history since I was a little kid. In the beginning of my career I made some modern tv shows, for youth. Later I thought that it isn’t right, my direction isn’t right. The more I was watching, the less sense I found in these projects. Then I took a moment and thought about what I like the most. If you are a film director you have to first of all ask yourself what your favorite thing is, what things are touching for you. Then you can make a good quality film. I believe no matter if you are director, or you have different position at this project, it has to have some connection to your life. Directing should not be acting. For example, Steven Spielberg. First of all he is Jewish. That is why he could film so good his projects “Schindler's List”. He put a lot of himself, his heart in this film. I watched “Schindler's List” a lot of times. I’m sure that this film for sure has a lot of Spielberg’s feelings, his views in life and historical non fairness towards Jewish people, and German aggression towards Jewish. I believe that he could make this film so good because of these matters. The same is with me. I asked myself - what is the thing I love the most. For China and Chinese people, their path was very difficult. Starting from Qing Dynasty, we had a lot of bitter times. Today, me being Chinese, living in this era, I have a great feeling of happiness in my heart. Just try to compare, and only if you’ve learned history you can understand. For example, our modern life today. My year income is about 2-3 millions of dollars. From the point of view of American citizens, it’s nothing much. In the US many people can achieve this level. However for China it is different. I’m a regular person, I don’t rely on rich parents or something like that, only on myself. I am an ordinary person. May be from the film director’s level I’m reached a bit higher level, but still I am a regular person. I don't think I’m something amazing, and I don’t compare myself with big bosses. Nevertheless I have the feeling of happiness in my heart. Through hard work I could get a good house, good car. Each year I can travel to any place in the world. Or I can buy a vacation house in another country. In China, 30-40 years ago such things were not achievable and unbelievable. At that time my parents together only earner about 50 yuan. I was studying at the University at that time. If we look at even earlier times, when my father was young then it was much more difficult. It was the time of war. Guo Mingdan and Gong Chandan were fighting each other. Before that - Japanese invasion. Before that another war, before that - Qing Dynasty. In China each era had it’s difficulties. When it was the time of the Emperor, ordinary person’s life had no value. That’s why I believe that in China today, after 100 years of these hardships, our lives became much better. People with good income, no matter where they go, to the USA or Japan, their income now is about the same. Now nobody can look at, lets say, Americans from below because they drive a car, or have a fridge. It was a long time ago. Now everyone is about the same. That is why history is very important. We came to this level today though a very hard path. Therefore I always continue studying history, and through history explain our modern life. If you don’t study history you can’t understand where you might appear and what direction to take. Life has limitations. I am 48 years old right now. May be I’ll work 18-20 more years, and then I won’t make any more films. This period is very short. That’s why, as director, I believe that I must have social responsibility and I’m sure American directors are the same. Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks - they have a huge social responsibility. Their ways or interpretation might be slightly different but still, they have this responsibility. This is the most important matter why my films are all based on history.
- I understand now. This your story and understanding are very touching.
- Yes, absolutely. If you are director, your story has to be touching and touch yourself first of all. I saw many directors, not good directors, they are acting as they were touched by the story.