Merry Christmas!

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PIGMAN: Halloween

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Jessica Sanders Champions Female Filmmaking

Jessica Sanders’ empowering new short film features some of the world’s most talented emerging female film directors, talking about their diverse and accomplished collective body of films.

The two-and-a-half-minute short titled “Fox Directors” celebrates the exceptional work being created by female directors, simultaneously casting a spotlight on shocking statistics about the numbers of women being employed as directors: just 7% of Hollywood films are directed by women – and accounted for only 9% of directors on the top 250 highest-grossing films of 2015 – and only 17% of TV directors are female.

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Sanders partnered with fashion and lifestyle media company Refinery29 to create a film for its programming slate ShatterBox Anthology, which profiles some of Fox’s leading female talent.  The resulting film was made in collaboration with Fox’s new Global Directing Initiative, a program that aims to create more opportunities for women and underrepresented filmmakers.  All the directors featured in Fox Directors participated in the initiative, including Sanders herself.

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Jessica Sanders is an Academy Award nominated, Sundance and Cannes Young Director Award-winning director and producer of narrative and documentary films and commercials.  Her credits include the feature documentaries After Innocence (Sundance winner, Academy Award shortlist), Sing (Academy Award nominated) and March of The Living.

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Fox Directors has been widely featured online, including selection as Creativity Online’s ‘Editor’s Pick’. Building awareness and provoking discussion are the first positive steps in a long journey ahead.

*Jessica is represented in China by P.I.G.*

PIGPEN CINEMA Presents CARTEL LAND

  • Tue. 30 Aug, 2016
  • Doors open 9 | Movie starts 9:30
  • 65 Maoming Bei Lu (Weihai Lu/Yan’an Lu)
  • Drink specials: beer|wine|cocktails
  • Free “Grumpy” movie popcorn
  • Only 35 seats
  • First come first serve policy

With unprecedented access, CARTEL LAND is a riveting, look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the violent Knights Templar drug cartel. In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the murderous drug cartel. Meanwhile, in Arizona’s Altar Valley – a corridor known as Cocaine Alley – Tim “Nailer” Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across the border.

Streams Become Reality

With the commercial opportunities, the meteoric rise of live streaming poses important questions for the society in which it thrives.

The ever-growing list of live streaming apps and websites in China currently stands at around 300.  In case tracking every thought, outfit change and coffee break by WeChat, Weibo and Meipai weren’t enough, every man, woman and celeb is now streaming themselves in real time, transporting viewers from exotic locales, to sport stadia, to the red carpet, all the way to the front rooms of glum bachelors chewing pot noodles.  It is estimated that at any given moment there may be more than 60,000 people live streaming themselves, with men comprising the majority of the audience, particularly for the two most popular subjects; live video games and doe-eyed, subservient young ‘Girl Goddesses’ preening and purring into their iPhone cameras. 

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Modern Chinese society provides a highly fertile environment for the phenomenon to spawn and multiply.  500 million smartphones in circulation contribute to the 5th highest worldwide penetration and ample opportunities for engaging.  In bleak cities everywhere, millions of lonely and bored migrant workers far from loved ones turn to streams to escape, alleviate boredom or seek companionship.  Stuck in a hopeless situation beyond their control, there is surely appeal to controlling the outcome of their interactions, even if in the smallest possible way.  In streams, a swelling middle class looks for lifestyle inspiration from achievers and adventurers, while a generation of twenty and thirtysomething only-children finds friends, confidants and role models.

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The phenomenon is intriguing, not so much for its popularity – after all, it may be considered just an extension of the already all-pervasive social media – rather for the fact that viewers are so eager to spend hard earned yuan on it.  It is significant that of the 300,000 people that watched Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin stream himself playing poker on a private jet, many of the low income viewers felt compelled to donate money to China’s wealthiest man.

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Live streaming has become an extremely lucrative industry, a mini economy fuelled by virtual gifts, in the form of e-roses, e-chocolates or other e-token that equate to money, that the viewer may donate in exchange for influence on the streamer’s behavior or to express gratitude.  The highest earners by far are the pretty young girls offering chitchat, makeup tips or flashes of cleavage, some of whom earn from 80,000 yuan per night, up as far as Papi Jiang, who whipped up a berserk 900,000 yuan during one 90 minute session.

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As the girls get rich, so too are the hosting platforms, which take 50% or more of the gift revenue and are beginning to sell advertising space.  Investors have so far pumped an estimated $750 million of venture capital into live streaming apps.  Brands are pouncing too, paying key opinion streamers to endorse products, or streaming directly from their stores.  Last month, American department store giant Macy’s attracted 100,000 viewers to a live Chinese language in-store broadcast, while China’s highly evolved e-commerce ecosystem, which in this case saw Macy’s team with Tmall, allows viewers to easily make purchases within the stream. 

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In addition to the throngs of amateurs jumping on the stream train, established content creators are also taking notice.  Rebecca Yang, founder and CEO of IPCN, an IP licenser and original creator regards it as an opportunity that cannot be ignored, saying,  I can’t say I am pro this culture, but I want to understand it. We as content providers need to think how it can be taken to our advantage, to create something a lot more valuable and entertaining.”  IPCN recently launched a stream of their Shanghai office with heavily scripted elements occurring alongside the real.  It marks a new form of reality television, somewhere between scripted dramas filmed live, and real shows like Big Brother that, though heavily manipulated, are not actively scripted or cast with actors.

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Live streaming stokes the same debates about individual health and wellbeing that have existed since social media began dominating young peoples’ consciousness.  Despite connecting digitally, individuals are extracting themselves from the real world unfolding around them, often at the expense of physical human contact.  More than ever before, the impressionable are following unsuitable role models that promote unrealistic ideals or body image.

The psychological well-being of a growing numbers of addicted streamers may be a cause for concern for authorities, though a cynic might quote the benefits of an increasingly isolated, distracted population, venting their social frustrations in the relative harmlessness of online live stream rooms.  Regardless, said authorities are naturally monitoring the situation, while streaming services themselves are employing large teams to watch for political or overly sexual content.  However, with diverse new streams cropping up daily, rules on specifically forbidden content are being issued on a reactive rather than proactive basis.  Infamously, in a bid to curb the increasingly raunchy Girl Goddesses, streamers are now banned from eating bananas in a suggestive fashion. 

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Live streaming is no fad, hot app or hobby.  2D feeds will soon be supplemented with, and perhaps eventually replaced by, immersive virtual reality streams, as apparatus becomes readily available and app compatible.  As big business, brands and celebrities inject promotional and financial clout and little sign of the socio-economic conditions abating, expect the live stream wave to continue to engulf all before it.

PIGPEN CINEMA Presents THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY

  • Tue. 26 Jul, 2016
  • Doors open 9 | Movie starts 9:30
  • 65 Maoming Bei Lu (Weihai Lu/Yan’an Lu)
  • Drink specials: beer|wine|cocktails
  • Free “Grumpy” movie popcorn
  • Only 35 seats
  • First come first serve policy

The First Monday in May follows the creation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most attended fashion exhibition in history, “China: Through The Looking Glass,” an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton. Andrew Rossi captures the collision of high fashion and celebrity at the Met Gala. Chaired every year by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, the event features Wong Kar Wai, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano, as well as pop icons like Rihanna.

 

PIGPEN CINEMA Presents SALT OF THE EARTH

Tue. 24 May, 2016
Doors open 9 | Movie starts 9:30
65 Maoming Bei Lu (Weihai Lu/Yan’an Lu)
Drink specials: beer|wine|cocktails
Free “Grumpy” movie popcorn
Only 35 seats
First come first serve policy

For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project, which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty.

Sebastião Salgado’s life and work are revealed to us by his son, Juliano, who went with him during his last travels, and by Wim Wenders, himself a photographer.

British Invasion

The 2012 release of Xu Zheng’s Lost in Thailand marked the beginning of a period of explosive growth in the Chinese movie industry. This year Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid became the highest grossing film in domestic box office history and the first to take over RMB 3 billion (over US$500 million). Box office takings in 2015 totaled US$6.8 billion, a 48.7 percent year-on-year increase. That figure is expected to keep growing, with the number of cinema screens set to increase from 32,000 to 53,000 by 2017.

Po-01Posters of The Mermaid & Lost in Thailand

Chinese companies are mobilising to create content to feed the monster. Alongside expanding production by state-run powers such as China Film Group, behemoths from other industries such as Alibaba and Tencent have established film divisions, and in some cases are making massive investments in to productions. Most notable is Wanda’s US$4.9 billion Oriental Movie Metropolis, currently under construction in Qingdao.

MMetroWanda Picture Oriental Movie Metropolis

A glance at the list of hit movies clearly demonstrates the Chinese audience’s hunger for big visual effect (VFX) driven spectaculars.  To give their products the best chance of box office success, moviemakers are increasingly seeking higher quality computer generated magic, no matter where in the world the providers may be based.

The UK, with one of the world’s strongest VFX industries, is looking to capitalise on the China opportunity. Since the late 1980s, the UK government has been instrumental in developing the sector by offering tax credits for studios that bring their productions to Britain.  Concentrated almost exclusively in one square mile in Soho, London’s post-production houses provide effects for the biggest movies on the planet, both from Hollywood and the domestic market.

War and Peace_Napoleon_after_BBWar and Peace, VFX by BlueBolt

The UK industry is taking steps to explore the potential for collaboration with Chinese content creators.  In one recent initiative, the government-supported British Film Commission, in partnership with the China Britain Business Council and the UKTI, brought three leading British visual effects companies to Beijing for the UK-China VFX Forum, a day of presentations and discussion between founding members of Framestore, BlueBolt and Union and a handful of China’s most powerful film companies.

Game of Thrones VFX breakdowns, by BlueBolt

Though UK-China collaboration on movies has so far remained limited, some UK VFX companies have already begun working with China in other opportunity areas.  MPC, one of the UK’s ‘big three’ houses along with Framestore and Double Negative, opened a facility in Shanghai in 2015, their tenth office worldwide, to capitalize on China’s flourishing TV commercial market.  Additionally, the scores of theme parks being built in China is creating demand for media for attractions.  Framestore is currently collaborating with Wanda on a ride for their numerous parks around China.

War and Peace_army marching_before_BBWar and Peace_army marching_after_BBBefore and after scene from War and Peace, VFX by BlueBolt

Price presents one of the biggest challenges for potential partnerships. World-class talent and high London rents means UK VFX companies must charge a premium rate beyond the budgets of most Chinese studios. 

Fundamental differences in culture and business practices are also problematic. Chinese production schedules tend to be even tighter than those in the West, with financiers notoriously impatient to see films finished, released and a return on investment.  Then there is the language barrier and an eight-hour time difference complicating daily production. 

Guardians of the Galaxy, VFX by Framestore

Skilled producers, experienced in dealing with Western VFX vendors are essential but, given that collaboration with Europe is a new business model, such individuals are in short supply. “It’s on the burden of the production to manage international vendors. That’s what filmmakers and studios don’t get yet,” says John Dietz, a Beijing-based VFX producer and supervisor with 15 film credits in China, and founder of BangBang, a Chinese company that manages VFX and technology for local film productionsHe continues, “In China we tend to think that you hire a vendor and they just figure it all out, but that’s exactly what causes and fuels a mood from both sides [feeling] that it can’t work.”

Hg019065HmasterCompv119qcc0330Avatar, VFX by Framestore

There is no easy solution. Local producers need time to grow in experience, while UK companies must be open-minded, flexible and understanding in how they approach projects with Chinese studios. Chinese film studios will need to stop settling for ‘good enough’ and make world-class visual effects a priority, and allocate budgets accordingly.

One option for UK companies may be to establish a studio on the ground in China, though committing to working in China requires significant time as well as financial investment. Operating as a front office and doing the work remotely around the world has proven to be a flawed strategy, exemplified by the closure of several foreign post houses in the last four years.

Bastille Day VFX breakdown, by Union VFX

Jinhaian Films director and producer Liu Xiaoguang, speaking at the UK-China VFX Forum, was blunt in his assessment, “It’s very different here. We make CG and use the same software, but those are the only things we have in common [with the UK industry].” He warns those setting up in China to “be prepared to suffer for at least five years.”

bastille_157_050_beforebastille_157_050_afterBefore and after scene from Bastille Day, VFX by Union VFX

John Dietz on the other hand, is optimistic. He is currently working with a UK shop on his next movie and predicts a gradual positive evolution. “There will be lots more UK-China collaboration; it’s about experience – little by little,” he says. “Both sides will just need to go through some growing pains. It takes a lot of work to make a VFX film and to work through cultural, business, language and experience differences. The producers need to understand that. When it gets hard, both sides need to work through it, not get defensive and point figures,” he continues. “If they really want to make it work, they will.”


本文由China Britain Business FOCUS 2016年4月刊一篇文章改写而成。

This article is adapted from a piece first published in China Britain Business FOCUS, April 2016.

Chinese Burn

What began as a gathering of 12 friends on the beach in 1986 has since grown into a 70,000-strong annual extravaganza in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.  The weeklong experiment in art and community sees a mass migration deep into the scorching wilderness, the construction of a vast encampment dotted with towering wooden sculptures, and a carnival of raw human expression culminating in an apocalyptic blaze.  But as any ‘burner’ will tell you, it’s impossible to explain Burning Man.  To truly understand it, it must be experienced. 

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Burning Man 2015

A growing number of these burners are attempting to recreate that experience in various locations worldwide.  Shanghai’s Dragon Burn was launched in 2014 by a group of experienced burners led by Sven Aarne, one of the 80-odd participants in 1987 at the second ever ‘Burning Man’ on the beach in San Francisco.  Burning Man’s relationship with the Middle Kingdom first began in 2004, when it featured a Chinese Speakers Tea Party for Chinese attendees to gather in the Nevada desert, a tradition that has continued every year since. 

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Burning Man 2015

Physically, Dragon Burn bears no resemblance to its Nevada counterpart.  300 people in a park with built-in amenities is a far cry from the hordes that populate the unforgiving Nevada desert, and Shanghai burners will (probably) find no ‘mutant vehicles’, orgies or nudity in Anji this year.  What connects it, and other affiliated events, with Burning Man, and differentiates it from other conventional festivals, is ten guiding principles.  Free of commercial interests (decommodification), the cashless communes necessitate self-reliance and a system of gifting, while ‘leave no trace’ dictates no litter or scars should be left on the site after the event. Inclusiveness is mandatory and self-expression central, whether that is to create art, hug a stranger, or just get high and sprinkle someone with glitter.

Burning Man 2013

Burning Man 2013

As such, Dragon Burn features no sponsors, no cash on-site and all money from ticket sales will go to grants for art installations, administrative costs and the 12-foot dragon effigy that will be constructed by a team of volunteers and incinerated on the last night.  Burners will bring their own food, drink at a free bar and can enjoy free massages, yoga or any of the other workshops provided by fellow community members.

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Burning Man 2015

Aarne acknowledges that transferring and upholding the ten principles in a new territory, especially one as commercially-driven and environmentally indifferent as China, poses challenges, but believes it is a cause worth undertaking, “When people are no longer surrounded by money and commerce, they change. Those moments are precious and the founding volunteers of Dragon Burn are trying to share that unique interaction with the people that attend.  Our goals are to hold events where cell phones and selfies are useless, where your experience is personal and treasured.” 

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Burning Man 2015

Dragon Burn has been gathering momentum since launching in 2014.  This year, half of the tickets have already been sold without any marketing, submissions to construct art installations have risen to 70 up from 15 last year, and there are plans to construct more small stages to accommodate the extra volunteer DJs.  Organisers are seeking to shift the balance away from the previous foreigner dominated events by attracting a larger Chinese contingent, an aim that should be aided by a growing awareness of the Burning Man philosophy through Chinese social media. 

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Burning Man 2013

Dragon Burn may be incomparable with its US forefather, but remains one of the more unique among the recent wave of festivals to hit China, particularly as it is expressly non-profit.  It will be interesting to see how the principles resonate with the increasing number of Chinese burners and how large the movement is able to grow in the coming years.

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Burning Man 2015

The Ten Principles

  1. Radical Inclusion: Welcoming and respecting the stranger.  Anyone may participate.
  2. Gifting: Instead of cash, participants are encouraged to rely on a gift economy.
  3. Decommodification: Creating social environments without commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. No cash transactions are permitted.
  4. Radical self-reliance: Encouraging the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources. Participants must bring all their own supplies.
  5. Radical self-expression: Encouraging self-expression through various art forms and projects. The event is clothing-optional and public nudity is common.
  6. Communal effort: Valuing creative cooperation and collaboration and striving to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces and works of art.
  7. Civic responsibility: Assuming responsibility for public welfare and endeavoring to communicate civic responsibilities to participants.
  8. Leaving no trace: Committing to leaving no physical trace after the event.
  9. Participation: Encouraging deep personal participation to help achieve transformative change.
  10. Immediacy: Overcoming inter-personal barriers, recognition of inner selves and reality of others, participation in society, and contact with the natural world.

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Burning Man 2015

 

Information

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China’s Leftover Women

An evocative new film from cosmetics brand SK-II, produced by US production company TOOL of North America, and locally by PIG China, directed by Floyd Russ with creative ideas and strategy by agency Forsman & Bodenfors, highlights an emotionally charged phenomenon permeating modern Chinese society.  The film, which has received over 1 million views on Youku within 24 hours of its initial release, uncovers the plight of ‘leftover’ women – a term that has come into common usage in China in recent years to describe unmarried women – and challenges the unforgiving attitudes of their overbearing parents.

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China’s development steam train has brought immeasurable benefits but left a wake of social problems, including a chasm in values between conservative parents and their grown up children. This means having a career, being independent and choosing one’s own destiny, combined with the influence of western culture in which the sanctity of marriage continues to be eroded, has led to a major shift in attitude among China’s Generation Y.

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Their parents however, raised in deeply conservative times, hold a staunch set of contrasting beliefs. Marriage is a central tenet of the all-important family unit. For them, it is not possible that a daughter could be happy, or sufficiently well off to lead a comfortable life without a husband, something she will find increasingly difficult to find after the age of twenty-five, when she will be deemed ‘over the hill’. Filial piety, a cornerstone of traditional Chinese values, dictates that your parents’ wishes and beliefs should be respected. They have been selfless in raising the child and it is the duty of the grown up child to pay them back.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 19.19.41People’s Park ‘Marriage Market’, Shanghai

The results of this generational divide are bizarre and depressing. A booming matchmaking industry plays out alongside ‘marriage markets’ across the country, regular gatherings at which parents and grandparents shop their unwed offspring around like animals at a farmers market. Parents worry themselves sick and place blame on the child. Desperation to see their daughter marry leads to unhappy relationships and a soaring divorce rate.

While it is unlikely that a single film will effect any change in the deeply embedded attitudes of Chinese parents, the already buzzing discourse online confirms that this is a real issue for millions of women across China. Hopefully bringing the problem into the spotlight and sharing their experiences can provide China’s single women with some measure of relief.

Credits:

  • Client: SK-II
  • Advertisers Supervisor: Kylene Campos
  • Advertisers Supervisor Titel: Brand Director, Global SK-II
  • Creative Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors
  • Account Supervisor: Susanna Fagring
  • Account Manager: Linda Tiderman
  • Art Director: Sophia Lindholm, Karina Ullensvang
  • Copywriter: Tove Eriksen Hillblom
  • Designer: Christian Sundén
  • Planner: My Troedsson
  • PR Strategist: Amat Levin
  • Agency Producer, Film/Digital: Alexander Blidner (film), Peter Gaudiano (digital)
  • Production company: Tool
  • Postproduction: Cut n Run
  • Media/PR agency (inkl. adress etc): BeOn
  • Director: Floyd Russ
  • Producer: Mary Church
  • Music: Victor Magro / Future Perfect Music 
  • Exec producer: Robert Helphand
  • D.O.P: Jacob Moller
  • Editor: Robert Ryang
  • Sound: Cut n Run