The Film making industry in China has been colourful and turbulent and Shanghai is a very important place as it’s where it all began. Motion Pictures first came to Shanghai in 1896 to kick start the industry. Shanghai film makers were trained up by their American counterparts. In recent times, films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero are the results of this movement.
Sarah Zhang is a TV producer and director. Originally from the Sichuan province, she studied in Beijing then worked in New York and is now based in Shanghai. She is a partner in House Films a Shanghai production company which produced the first Chinese reality show in the US. She has also worked with Chinese superstar Jet Li making stuff for the World Health Organisation
Nee Hao talks to Sarah Zhang.
What is a typical day like for you?
I get to the office around 9 am, check e-mails then liaise with my staff to see the work they need to do for the day, most of them are editing or planning for shooting. In the afternoon, usually supervising editing and more meetings with the day not finishing until after 7 pm.
When did you get involved in this industry?
When I was in New York, I did acting for a few years; TV commercials, TV series and print modelling to name a few. Then I joined House Films in New York in 1999 and I started enjoying working behind cameras instead. I find it more satisfying and fulfilling than acting. While actors are waiting for the calls, producers have more to say about creative ideas and other elements of a project.
” I met Jet Li when we were shooting a project for World Health Organization; he’s a very cool guy, modest and professional ”
Are there any differences between working in the US and China?
China and USA are so different. In terms of production, of course the industry is more sophisticated in New York, it’s easier to get good crew and actors there. China is still new in terms of production, sometimes it can be frustrating to do a production but there are more opportunities in Shanghai today than in New York. Therefore, Shanghai is a great place for me now.
What do you do to relax?
I love hanging out at coffee shops when I can, reading or chatting with friends. For relaxing, I enjoy drinking wines, shopping, watching American and British TV shows and on weekends, I love going to the suburbs of Shanghai to see the green parks/nature.
What makes a good TV series or film?
I think to make a good film, it needs a good script first, then a good director, who can choose good actors and give direction to actors and DP; so basically you need a great script and a great director.