China’s booming film industry, which took in 44 billion yuan ($6.7 billion) at the box office last year and is set to surpass the US as world No 1 by 2017, needs better trained staff if its production values are to match those of Hollywood, according to a leading director.
Feng Xiaogang, who was addressing fellow members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, bemoaned the lack of professionalism among the country’s film crews.
He said many of those who work in lighting departments or as stage hands lack any professional training and most got the job simply because they knew someone else who worked on the film crew.
“We can say the Chinese movie industry is in a golden time, but its foundation is not solid－not only in terms of technique, but also the crew’s level of professionalism,” said Feng.
“I’m sorry to say that I often shout abuse during shooting, but it’s because the stage hands and prop people cannot understand what I want and sometimes even lack any common sense.”
His sentiments were echoed by Chen Kaige, another noted director whose movie Farewell My Concubine won the Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.
When directing 2005’s The Promise, Chen said he had to waste much time and effort on props and sets because the film crew could not give him what he wanted.
“Most of them joined the crew as manual labor, nothing more. They had no knowledge of movies,” he said.
In contrast, Chen recalled a time when he had directed a Hollywood production and was in need of an ashtray for a scene. The prop department provided him with five options to choose from and even made alterations to the one he chose to make it more suitable, he said.
“I was deeply impressed by their professionalism,” said Chen, “most were undergraduates or graduates, they loved movies and knew the aesthetics. Many had even majored in directing, acting or playwriting, but they were starting at the bottom doing the most basic jobs on the crew.”
To improve the skill level among domestic film crews, Feng plans to establish a technical school with fellow CPPC National Committee members Jackie Chan and actor Zhang Guoli to train the estimated 380,000 staff that the Chinese movie and film industry requires.
“It’s impossible for a director to train the crew during a production. But we’ve worked in the industry some 30 years, accumulated much experience, resources and of course funds, so it’s time for us to do something to refine the foundation of the industry, to nurture the next generation,” Feng said.
Quoting Premier Li Keqiang’s words in his government work report－”foster a craftsmanship spirit of striving for the best”, Zhang Guoli said: “We hope those young men who love movies and dream to join this industry would obtain the craftsmanship and strive for the best in every production.”