Here is an amazing short documentary “Portrait of a Barber” by director Jeffrey Chu. I have had the luck of working with this great film maker on several occasions. The music in this film is by another Shanghai talent Uj He. It is about one of the last old-style barbershops in Shanghai. In true documentary style, Chu is preserving something that is worth sharing. This 80+ year old shop will be torn down soon and Chu decided to preserve its image. The barber himself was pretty sparse with commentary, but some of the things he said are powerful about the history that the shop represents. The images are beautifully shot and portray the texture and feel of the history and tradition of this shop. The music of UJ HE brings a delightful surprise to truly make this video pay off as Chu pushes the boundaries of the documentary genre with an experimental twist. It is truly delightful. Watch it on VIMEO and please give it a “heart” (vimeo’s form of like) and a comment! Thanks Jeffrey Chu for preserving a piece of our history. https://vimeo.com/99383268
|Drago Lazetich (front) poses with other cast members of the Chinese TV drama Detective Yang Jinbang. Lazetich plays the head judge on the show. (Photos provided to China Daily)
|Alexia Kalteis performs in the musical Rock On! Halloween at a popular theater in Shanghai.
|Independent filmmaker Richard Trombly coaches actresses Emily Feist (middle) and Emily Wallace-Kalouch (left) during the making of his latest production, Analysis.
Hong Kong continues to be a movie magnet, but foreign actors and filmmakers with an eye on the mainland hope to cash in on the action as it moves to China’s financial hub. Matt Hodges reports.Drago Lazetich is among a growing stream of European and American actors who are banking on Shanghai’s motion picture industry becoming a top regional if not global player as domestic movies grow in stature, co-productions proliferate and new infrastructure takes root.
Shanghai DreamWorks Animation, for example, is building a $2.4-billion entertainment complex in the city in conjunction with Chinese investment fund CMC Capital Partners. The project is already being touted as the next big thing after New York’s Broadway and London’s West End.
This will mean more jobs for foreign actors, screenwriters, directors of photography and even visual effects’ artists as fresh opportunities arise and entrenched attitudes change, expats say.
“I thought for sure before I came to China they’d have me playing bad guys, as a foreigner, but I can count the number of those roles on one hand,” says Lazetich, who claims to have “co-starred” in 50 films in China, although the majority did not involve speaking roles.
His latest role as a Roman gladiator in Jackie Chan’s Dragon Blade saw him spend three weeks filming fighting scenes in the Gobi desert.
“I’ve been a priest, a general for the Flying Tigers (squadrons of American pilots who fought for the Chinese Air Force in World War II), a US spy,” says the hulking actor, who studied for a time at the University of California, Los Angeles, and has a martial-arts background. He is wearing a black Warner Hollywood Studios bomber jacket and black Reebok Pump sneakers when we meet at a coffee shop downtown.
Lazetich, who is in his early 40s, was born in Mostar, a city in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina. He got hooked on showbiz as a cast member of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers World Live Tour in 1995.
“I mostly do TV shows and World War II films,” he says. “Sometimes months can go by while I’m waiting and waiting for the phone to ring.”
He earns between 400 yuan ($65) to 3,000 yuan a day, depending on whether the role is silent or scripted and is about to work on an indie movie that will be filmed in Shanghai and Beijing. He hopes this will be his big break.
Shanghai has carved a role for itself as a magnet for big-budget Hollywood flicks in recent years from Mission Impossible III (2006) to Skyfall (2012), Looper (2012) and Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), which featured several futuristic-looking backdrops in Pudong among other shots.
The city’s under-construction “Dream Center” will include the film production facilities of Oriental DreamWorks. One of the studio’s most high-profile animations, Kung Fu Panda 3, is due out next year. One-third of the animation work is set to be done in Shanghai.
The city is also set to open its much-anticipated Disneyland at the end of 2015.
“Shanghai, in my opinion, is the new Hong Kong,” says Austria-born actress Alexia “Lexi” Kalteis.
Like Lazetich, Kalteis has been living and working in China for about a decade. She studied Chinese and acting at the Shanghai Theater Academy and now serves as co-chairperson of the city’s East-West Theater.
Among her film credits are stints in the Jet Li flick Fearless and The Painted Veil starring Edward Norton (both 2006). She also teaches drama at a local primary school.
“So many movies are going to be shot here. The rate has already shot up so much since 2004. There wasn’t much work for struggling actors back then, but the competition is increasing like crazy now,” she says.
Hong Kong became synonymous with bloody police-gangster flicks and martial arts movies in the late 1980s thanks to directors like John Woo and stars such as Chow Yun-fat. For decades, the territory’s motion picture industry was only bested in size by Hollywood and Bollywood. Then South Korea crept in and stole the show with ultra-violent hits like director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance trilogy (the second installment, Old Boy, reached theaters in 2003).
One of the biggest releases from South Korea in recent years seems to point the way forward: Na Hong-jin made the male leads of his excellent thriller Yellow Sea two ethnic-Korean Chinese from Yanbian, Jilin province. Having rival gangsters from both countries engage in a long bloodbath was guaranteed to draw an international audience.
Lazetich, meanwhile, is keen not to put all of his eggs in one basket. He says he has found a niche with Wise Hit, the web series he both stars in and directs. The spoof Western set in a modern Asian city has met with enviable success on KoldCast.tv and Blip, another online platform for original web series.
Given the explosive growth of Chinese cinema, it is little surprise that local productions are creating more speaking roles for expats, with the caveat that they often have to say their lines in Chinese.
“I like the fact that most of the roles I’ve been playing recently are the good-guy roles, not the stereotypical ‘bad foreigner’ that seems to be all too prevalent in Chinese productions,” says Karl Dominik, who owns Constellation talent agency in Shanghai.
“I am daunted by the amount of Chinese I have to learn, but I love a challenge.”
Another of Shanghai’s top foreign acting talents, Englishman Charles Mayer, had a high-profile supporting role in Yip Man 2 (2010) as a corrupt police sergeant in wartime Hong Kong. It was exactly the kind of racially charged role people like Dominik are eager to avoid.
“Things are changing, which is great, because there are some real acting heavyweights here like Arran Hawkins, Christy Shapiro and Jim Bennett,” says Kalteis, reeling off a list of well-known names among Shanghai’s theater community.
“The Chinese used to treasure looks way above acting skill. If you weren’t model-skinny they weren’t interested, but now they appreciate real talent,” she adds.
Others say Beijing offers greener pastures than China’s glamorous commercial hub.
Richard Trombley, a Beijing-based independent filmmaker, left Shanghai several years ago to forge closer ties with industry figures. He says he is now seeing his efforts bear fruit.
“All the big deals these days are done in Beijing. It’s still a bit more government-run than in Shanghai, but the industry is also more developed and professional here,” he says.
“It’s still very challenging for anyone to initiate a project here, but there are plenty of ways to get involved if you have some talent, for example as a director of photography or screenwriter.”
“Commercials, corporate videos and indie films are really the way to get your foot in the door,” he adds.
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The next China Independent Film Showcase
Presents in cooperation with
STRICTLY DESIGNERS UNITED
Entry 20 RMB
Date: Saturday 17 May 2014 Time: 7:00 to late night.
A night of short film screenings and creative industries networking event
which will be held at:
Strictly Designers United
Shanghai’s South Bund area 上海南外滩
55 Fuxing dong Lu 复兴东路55号,
near Zhongshan nan Lu 近中山南路
Phone: 156 0187 7199
Nearest metro station : Line 9 Xiaonanmen Station地铁9号线, 小南门站
Richard Trombly firstname.lastname@example.org +86 13818837641
Vivienne Wei email@example.com
The showcase features short works by local and foreign directors made in China or by Chinese talents around the globe. Featured works include Actress/Director Zheng Mei Huizi (Lost in Beijing and Summer Palace) , Yao Garu, Tim Chu, Richard Trombly and more.Some of the film makers will be present to discuss their films Some select films from Shanghai KINO will be played and founder Vivienne Wei will introduce the Kino group and her own experiences in low budget film making.
All are welcome…
16 November 2013, Shanghai – Obscure Productions (www.obscure-productions.com) announced its partnership with Shanghai-based Crashdown Studio http://www.crashdownstudio.com/ to create unique content for international markets.
Crashdown Studio is a boutique animation and visual special effects company that is currently working with Obscure Productions to produce the animation and VFX-packed short film ANALYSIS by Obscure Production’s Richard Trombly with 2D animation by Pierre DeCelles (http://pierredecelles.deviantart.com/)
Pierre DeCelles and Richard Trombly will be collaborating with Crashdown Studio to provide content creation and development of animated TV series and films for international markets.
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Lead Actress Sofie Fella, 12, speaks with director Richard Trombly on the set. Analysis http://www.obscure-productions.com/analysis.html was shot on location in Shanghai China in August 2012.
Actress Sofie Fella 12-year-old star of Analysis by director Richard Trombly which will film in Shanghai, China
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Yuri’s Night International Space Flight Day celebrates Human space flight anniversary of Yuri Gegarin’s 1961 flight. In Beijing. Boris Yim organized a small gathering at Beijing’s Veggie Table restaurant as part of the worldwide celebration. www.Yurisnight.net
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Richard Trombly is an American Journalist – turned film maker living in China since 2003. He has made several short films and worked on or produced feature films. http://www.imdb.me/richardtrombly His company is Obscure Productions http://www.obscure-productions.com/ which is currently making the short film Analysis. … Continue reading