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Filmmakers capture life in nine short minutes

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai ( China Daily ) 2013-10-30

Yu Qing dreams of becoming a film director like Martin Scorsese, and making films that address social problems.

The young man from Hainan province went to the liberal arts college at Hainan University but never studied filmmaking.

Despite his lack of formal film education, the 24-year-old is on his way to realizing his dream, and his 10-minute short film Ashamed won the top award at the Nine Minutes Original Film Competition in 2012. This summer he participated in the competition again with a film shot on the old streets of Jiading district, in suburban Shanghai.

Filmmakers capture life in nine short minutes 

Director Li Yatao (right) works on the set of his microfilm in Jiading, Shanghai. Provided to China Daily

The Nine Minutes Original Film Competition is an open contest. Anyone can submit a storyline and apply for the opportunity to shoot a short film of no more than 10 minutes. Beijing Original Power Movie and TV Cultural Communications Co. Ltd launched the project four years ago.

Company president Qiu Qi found that many aspiring filmmakers worked on their own in China. Without adequate logistics or professional teamwork, beginners struggle to produce quality work.

"We want to build a fair and efficient platform for talent selection, and provide them with a professional team - to support young directors in the most practical and scientific ways," Qiu said during the filmmaking for the fourth competition in Jiading.

In September, when Yu shot his new project in Nan-xiang town in Jiading, the town helped him to install a temporary electricity line to light up red lanterns along the old street, on the riverfront, and turned off all other lights.

"My film tells a story that happens in Nanxiang, and I wanted to present the authentic landscape, with an emotional touch," Yu says. "The Jiading district has been very supportive of my work."

By attracting the filmmaking competition, Jiading wants to encourage the development of cultural industries, especially film and entertainment. The competition is like an incubator for new artists, and local officials hope such films will introduce the local tourism resources to the greater public, says Zhu Jian, deputy director of the district publicity department.

The Nine Minutes competition was held in Xiangshan, in suburban Ningbo City of Zhejiang province for the past two years. "Xiangshan opened all of its public space for our film shoot, and provided funding for all the contest films," Qiu says. In return, the competition brought the seaside town more publicity, "significantly enhancing the image of Xiangshan in Zhejiang and all over China".

He hopes to repeat the successful model in Jiading, and maybe other parts of China in the future.

Zhu says Jiading made a strategic decision to attract the competition. "Jiading is giving special emphasis on the development of cultural film and TV industries," she says.

Located at the northwestern corner of Shanghai, Jiading has a history of almost 800 years. Lots of historical traces are still there, such as several well-preserved gardens.

Now Jiading is China's "Motown", or motor city. A wide array of factories and workshops thrive by supporting the surrounding Volkswagen production base there. Jiading also has a wide spread of farm land, producing vegetables, fruits and rice.

A new TV and film center is under construction in a deserted industrial workshop. "We want to attract show makers to build their studios here," Zhu says. Jiading is looking for new fields to develop its economy, but not high-energy-consuming and heavy-polluting projects. TV and filmmaking seems a promising option.

Short filmmaking has been gaining more attention in the past few years, says Zhang Baiqing, director of China Film Critics Society. But some projects have been too commercial, producing films that are like lengthy advertisements. Other films are amateurish and can't be broadcast on any public platform, Zhang says.

Nine Minutes seems to be doing better than most others, as it not only provides the funding and logistics for young aspiring artists, but also helps to build the professional working procedures. A team consisting of makeup artists, camera operators, stage managers and so on, will join each director and his chosen actors to complete the shooting. Renowned film directors and professors at Beijing Film Academy come to offer their advice and guidance, too.

In the past three years, Nine Minutes productions have won various prizes at home and abroad. Some films have been presented on CCTV's film channel, or been broadcast on the high-speed train and airliners, Qiu says.

The results of this year's competition will come out next spring, and then a new round begins as the contest solicits the next round of stories.




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