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Directors’ Statements for Chinese TV series


Edited by China Television Director Committee

Volume I

A must-have for film & television workers

180 maxims, 210 directing techniques, 73 behind-the-scene planning schemes

Notes on literature and art analyzing emotion, affections and feelings of Chinese people

“ Directors’ video diaries” with the strongest scene feeling, operability and personalization

Culture & Art Publishing House

Cataloguing in publication (CIP) data

Directors’ Statements for Chinese TV Series /Edited by China Television Director Committee

- Beijing: Culture& Art Publishing House, December 2012

ISBN 987-7-5039-5496-2

I.①China... II.①China... III. ① TV series-Art of directing-China IV. ① J911

China Archives of Publications CIP data He Zi (2012) No. 263162

Directors’ Statements for Chinese TV Series

Editor China Television Director Committee

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Bookbinding design: Yao Xueyuan

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China Television Director Committee

Since the birth of Chinese TV series, it has become our common beliefs.

We are a team full of love. We love our audience and love creation.

We promise we stick to artistic principle, abide by professional ethics, strive to serve people, and are loyal to our motherland forever.

Suggestion on hitting shelves: film & television culture

ISBN 978-7-5039-5496-2

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Building the Alternative

- Director’s Statement for I am Not a Lamb

Sha Bihong

Introduction of Author’s Main Art

In 1994, after studying directing in Germany, she returned to China and worked as a directress and hostess in CCTV. She has directed over 600 episodes of TV series and documentaries most of which won awards. The documentary One Dream of Generations of Women won the first prize of China Television Government Award. Her works also won such awards as gold award of French Prix Julex Verne and gold award in Hamburg International Short Film Festival. Influential works include: the first documentary themed fight against human trafficking in China- Heaven Has Tears and the first TV series themed fight against human trafficking in China- I am Not a Lamb (also called Flowers Blossom Again); a TV series Catch the Hands of Dreams; the first documentary showing problems of orphan education in China- Give a Boat to Dreams and a TV series on the same theme- Tears Yesterday; True Love for This Life, China Time-honored Brands, etc.

Overview

The TV series I am Not a Lamb (also called Flowers Blossom Again) focuses on the destiny of abducted women, which is also the first TV series themed fight aginst human traffcking in China.

It tells a story that three rural young girls who go to cities for work seek dreams, have dreams broken and have dreams realized. The heroine is Du Juan. After being abducted, she shows her life philosophy that the one who does not give up will get a new life in difficulties through her persistent, indomitable and unyielding character and spirit like a moutain flower. We wish that this TV series can light a lamp of hope in the heart of abducted girls who went through much suffering, and wish that the audience will care for this special female group by knowing the experience of another two female farmer workers Du Mei and Huang Xiaokai who are abducted and their miserable experience and knowing change in feelings of these girls. Morover, we will truly show blood, toil, tears and sweat and even lives offered by police officers for cracking down on human trafficking.

Background and Purpose

We once followed police officers to fight for several months in order to shoot the process of fight against human trafficking. We saw a group of abducted girls and children and were extremely shocked and pained by their miserable experience.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, criminal activities of abduction of women and children that had vanished since the founding of new China resurged and was still rampant despite continuous fights. In 2000, the Ministry of Public Security conducted a battle of fight against human trafficking nationwide. We had the opportunity to follow police officers for interview. During 8 months, our crew was divided into four groups and went tens of thousands of kilometers to over 10 provinces and municipalities and many rural areas throughout the country. We followed police officers to take actions over 50 times, interviewed over 2,000 abducted girls and had in-depth communication with many buyers and human traffickers. We recorded those unforgettable and true stories through shots and hearts and feelings. We completed the first documentary themed fight against human trafficking in China- Heaven has Tears (also called Social Care) consisting of 11 episodes lasting 50 minutes per episode, and it evoked great response in the society after being broadcast.

Ferocious, painstaking and dangerous arrest & rescue action put an end to shooting of the documentary. But our concern about those victims did not end for completion of shooting. Who we’re worried about most were those flower-like girls and parents who were heartbroken by loss of chidlren. Those girls whose face adopted mosaic treatment in the documentary often came to our mind. We knew how much happiness, sorrow, dream and misfortune were covered behind. The pain in the depth of their heart and confusion they faced after being rescued often made us sleepless.

So after three years Hao Jian and I wrote together the script of a TV series I am Not a Lamb (also called Flowers Blossom Again) with focus on such girls’ heart and destiny.

I am Not a Lamb is a cry from the heart of abducted girls. The word lamb herein is irrelevant to religion. Its literal meaning is a young sheep- a little animal, and its symbolic meaning is the weak. Every abducted girl was raped and abused like an animal by the abuser, and they desire to own basic dignity as a human being; most of these girls who are rescued are timid and even weak. But the heroine Du Juan resumes her happy life with toughness and braveness. Thus, “I am Not a Lamb” is a cry from the weak and encouragement for such girls to get free from tragedy and stand on their own.

We hope that through this TV series more people will care for abducted women and children and the soceity will offer an equal and tolerant atmosphere to help them resume happy life.

Significance

We’re not “stir-frying leftovers” by choosing the same theme of fight against human trafficking for both documentary and TV series. This TV series can not be replaced by the documentary as it has its unique value and signifance. Differences between shooting documentary and TV series are not discussed here. Only two points are emphasized: 1. Documentary and TV series target at different audiences. In China, most of people like watching TV, so we should share and communicate with the audience on thoughts about social phenomenon of human trafficking in a comprehensible way; 2. Documentary is a huge material library for TV series, so stories are more true, vivid and powerful by selecting one aspect of events of fight against human trafficking in the documentary than making up groundless stories.

Unlike the documentary on fight against human trafficking, this TV series tells stories of individuals and destiny of characters with focus on women’s inner feelings and vicissitudes of destiny. We pay attention to not only events but also people and human nature in events.

Detailed Plot

This TV series tells a story that three flower-like girls who come from the same poor village go to Bincheng for work with beautiful dreams but unfortunately fall into the clutches of human traffickers and are forced to be wives and prostitute themselves. But the same experience leads to different roads of life of such three girls because of their different character and values.

The heroine, Du Juan, studies well, and are clever, tough, unyielding and perseverant although she looks thin and weak. Human traffickers attempted to rape her many times but failed. After being sold to remote mountainous areas and nightclubs, she escaped and seeked help continually, and she tried every means to protect herself and help victims around. After being rescued, she broke through discrimination, and left her fiance bravely and went to evening college. In the process of being rescued, she fell in love with Li Ruifeng, an undercover police officer, but repressed her feeling as she knew he had a girlfriend named Fang Qin. After going through much suffering, she was finally recognized by the society and obtained love that belonged to her.

Huang Xiaokai is coward, gluttonous and lazy. After witnessing Du Mei was raped by a human trafficker, she took the initiative to throw herself into the arms of the leader of human traffickers and be his mistress. She became a human trafficker inexplicably afterwards, and finally realized her mistake and tried to resist but was savagely killed by human trafficker.

Du Mei, Du Juan’s cousin, is a timid and childish girl. She was tricked by the host in the home where she worked as a housekeeper first, and was abducted, and was cheated by love tricks of a human trafficker and was willing to prostitute herself in a nightclub for “love” and repaying gratitude. After being rescued, she had to return to the nightclub due to discrimination.

Battles of fight against human trafficking were conducted continuously in Bincheng where Du Juan and other girls were. Li Ruifeng was a new undercover police officer from special anti-abduction group and a key police officer in the group. He was policewoman Fang Qin’s fiance, but Fang Qin did not know Li Ruifeng was doing undercover work among human traffickers.

It was surprising that Li Qifei, the leader of human traffickers, was Li Ruifeng’s long-lost brother. The fact that he was abandoned in childhood cast a deep shadow on Li Qifei’s heart. There was a vulnerable corner in his cruel heart. At last, when his crime base was found by his brother Li Ruifeng and other police officers, he killed Li Ruifeng cruelly although he struggled for a long time in the contradiction between emotion and intellect.

Overall Style

Truth, true feeling and penetrating deep into people’s heart are what always we stick to. We position this TV series as a TV series with a documentary style.

The documentary style herein refers to a documentary feeling instead of a method of reproduction of scene. What we’re producing is a TV series, so it should own all elements required for TV series, and the documentary feeling should be added on this basis, to make characters’ performance, scene and application of shots be more natural and more realistic. Thus, all such factors need to be grasped well.

Shooting

“Do I need to shoot this TV series in the way that I shoot a documentary?” If our cameraman asked me this question after listening to style orientation above, I would give a negative answer. We wish our cameraman can shoot with emotions and feelings and unusual shots can be used sometimes; for example, about the scene in which human traffickers run after Du Juan who is escaping, our cameraman might as well run with them, to make the camera be our eyes and the audience’s feet and produce a feeling of panic. Moreover, more attention should be paid to design of each shot. Take scene involving running for example again. There are three shots: one is about running, one is about chasing, and another is usually needed to describe spatial relation between two people in a full scene. But I think if the third shot shifts rapidly from the person who is running to the person who is chasing to tell the audience they are just within arm’s reach, it will add tense atmosphere produced by the plot… Also, for scene about emotion, apart from actors’ performance that is important, cameraman can find a more proper way to shoot the scene or try using shots showing characters’ subjective feelings; for example, when a person cries, the object he sees is possibly vague, and the object seen through peep possibly has scenery or some obstacle that shields it in part. All these are just common sense and platitude. We just want to remind our cameraman not to be too conservative during shooting and to make the shots more flexible with a unique mode of manifestation.

Acting

First of all, actors should play characters with sincerity and true feeling. Differences between actors and characters need to be eliminated continuously. Actresses who play abducted girls, in particular, need to find the same feelings as abducted girls’ in order to shorten the distance between characters and themselves. We suggest watching the documentary Social Care (also called Heaven Has Tears) repeatedly.

Let’s analyze main characters: Du Juan, Du Mei and Huang Xiaokai, three girls who seek dreams.

Du Juan is the heroine. This character represents our wishes for many girls who are rescued. She is an “example” to other girls. If this character is not grasped well, it will look unrealistic. However, there is no need to worry because this character is refined from true images of many abducted girls. Actors can find many bases and things that can be used for reference from characters in documentary to create this character.

Actress does not need to act deliberately and does not need to imagine how brave or clever she is, as she is just a young girl like yourself. Above all actress should find this character’s personality trait- unyielding. Because of this personality, she can get rid of tragedy, can stand up after experiencing misfortune and is able to help more abducted girls.

Character is destiny. This sentence is too appropriate for these three girls. Unlike Du Juan, Du Mei is very weak and she only wants to work by keeping to the beaten track and does not have any defense ability. She was tempted by the host to have sex with him when she was a housekeeper, and took the initiative to prostitute herself in a nightclub in order to repay her boyfriend after being raped by a human trafficker and being “saved” by him, which were all caused by her timid and simple character. The process, from feeling delighted after being rescued to returning to nightclub due to discrimination, is a process of increase in harm. Actress needs to feel this character’s personality with heart and feel small psychological changes accompanied with fear, worry and weakness during continuous twists and turns. She has no power of resistance like an ant. Too many tears and too much despair exist in this character.

Huang Xiaokai has different personality compared with two characters above. She has innate quick wit, but this merit puts her into danger. She’s too clever to be wise. She gave herself to a human trafficker as his mistress, and became a human trafficker too, which conformed to her character but was against her personality. So she was unhappy. Everything she did for self-protection did not redeem her dignity as a human being. Thus, when she knew she was just Li Qifei’s toy and breeding machine, she “turned around” despite all risks, which was an inevitable result due to her character. At last, she ruined herself. Her sassiness and a young girl’s craftiness make her very different from Du Juan and Du Mei. She is unique and distinctive. Actress should remember she is a girl with a strong personality while grasping this character.

Li Ruifeng and Li Qifei are positive and negative characters respectively, who are blood brothers but deadly foes. The difficulty in acting lies in how to face family affection and hatred. About internal conflict and struggle of these two characters, I hope actors will read the script carefully, understand the lines carefully and do a lot of homework.

Fang Qin is a policewoman who is tender like water and abhors evil as a deadly foe.

Although the mother of Li Ruifeng and Li Qifei does not often appear, it is quite a challenge to acting. In the face of her two sons at daggers drawn, when she can determine life or death of one of them, which choice will she make between evil and conscience and between family affection and principle? When she knows one son kills another, how does she feel? So the actress needs to have very high acting ability in order to show such complicated feelings.

All in all, we hope each actor can perceive inner world of respective character based on your own feeling. We hope all of you can read the script carefully, memorize the lines, and blend in with characters as soon as possible. The reason why the producer pasted the name of the character you plays onto your room door is that we wish to help you blend in with characters as soon as possible. From now on, you are just the character you plays and should forget yourself temporarily until the day that shooting of this TV series is finished.

Scene

We should try to shoot true scene. The whole TV series includes totally 270 scenes, over two times the number of scenes for most of other TV series. It is a challenge to shooting period and money, but we insist on it as it is of crucial importance to documentary style pursued by us. Moreover, truth can move the audience most.

Apart from rigorous selection of scene, we should also add elements we want to improve to the scene. For example, as to the house of farmer household who buys Du Juan, we should find a house of a real farmer household and add our creation to it. This family buys her for they want to have a grandchild, but the family is very poor. Thus, there should be some objects in the house which can show the background of this family. For example, we can paste bright-colored baby photos onto the wall. These photos must be bought from farmer's market or market in the suburbs. The scene in which Li’s mother goes to visit the prisoner is very important. True prison environment cannot meet our shooting requirement, so the scene can be built. Art designer and props group should cooperate closely in producing design drawings as soon as possible.

Truth should be kept but creation is also needed. Truth is an essential requirement and details are higher requirements. Both are indispensable.

Non-ignorable lighting

I have talked about lighting many times. Someone said to me once, “Directress, there’s no one like you who have so many requirements for lighting while shooting films. Since we need to save money and rush to shoot TV series in China, how can we find time to pay attention to lighting?” I said, “anyway, we should try our best to pursue perfection. ”

I oppose the opinion that it’s unncessary to focus too much on lighting while shooting TV series. Whether we can do this is another matter, but it is wrong to give up pursuit of effect of lighting and expression through lighting. Lighting is a kind of language. The overall creation will be incomplete without lighting, so we cannot ignore it. Morover, we should create emotions on the basis of truth. For example, when a girl falls into the den of human trafficker, the light in “den ” should reflect the girl’s fear. It should not be shot too deliberately and exaggeratedly like a horror film, but the atmosphere should be shown. And the light in “den” when human trafficker pursues pleasure, a monstrous and inhuman revelry, should be different from light in the girl’s eyes, and could be very bright but will make the audience feel uncomfortable and disgusted while watching.

Pursue innovation

We’ll add an interview on the real person corresponding to the character in TV series at the end of each episode, to make the audience have a strong sense of reality while watching and strenghthen stories’ shocking effect and appeal. It’s a method never used in TV series that were shot before, and I beleive it’ll obtain very good effect. All in all, for scene, actor’s acting or cameraman’s shot, truth and true feeling that run through the whole shooting process should be kept in mind.

I sincerely hope all departments will try your best to pursue perfection in order to create quality products, realize great love in our heart and undertake social responsibility.

Step by Step, No Regret for the Past

Director’s Statement for The Grand Ancestral Hall (Da Ci Tang)

Yan Jianguo

Introduction of the author’s main art

Main achievements: Best Director Award of “Chinese Television Flying Apsaras Award”; “Emmy Awards”; an artist of excellence in both art achievement and moral integrity; Best Director Award in 2011 Youku Television Award Ceremony; Best Director Award of 2011 Chinese Television Series Award. Representative TV series: First Emperor of Qin Dynasty, The Dust Settles, Chinese Land, The Orphan of Zhao.

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