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Film making in China


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#1 Erwin Landau

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 04:43 AM

I just read an article about film making in China...

With regards to the size of the Chinese camera crew in comparison to the average European team, the Chinese DP is a very lucky guy. Besides his operator and his steadicam operator, he also has a "Vice-Cinematographer" who measures exposure and establishes the iris opening. Moreover, he has one assistant to pull focus, one to change the lenses and thread the camera, one to load the magazines, one to connect the video assist system and two as stand-by assistants. None of the ten camera crew members holds the slate: This is the duty of an assistant Director....


We could solve the unemployment rate for the Local 600 with that concept. But I have the feeling that they would not go for the salary suggested...

Looks like a nightmare for Producers... How many people do we have to feed? Are you nuts....
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#2 Mitch Gross

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 11:25 AM

This reads like the beginning of a bad joke. "How many Chinese film crew members does it take to ..."

Erwin, I know you were not making any off-color statement here, but just describing an item of fact. It does remind me of terms like "Chinese sandbag," which is East Coast crew talk for having a person stand on something to hold it in place. In a society such as China's where it is best to keep as many people employed as possible, the more the crew tasks can be compartmentalized the better. While it can be nice to have so many people helping out in one department, I could also imagine it being a bit of an administrative nightmare to have to deal with that many people just to get each shot done, especially when you're in a hurry.
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#3 Erwin Landau

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 01:56 PM

I could also imagine it being a bit of an administrative nightmare to have to deal with that many people just to get each shot done, especially when you're in a hurry.


Administrative nightmare...

I was shooting yesterday at CBS Radford on New York street... (Low budget, Non Union)
The sun was hitting hard so we needed the over head silk moved in place, had to wait for 20 minutes for the Union Grips to come and push the button. There were a couple of trucks in the shot on the turn around. The teamsters moved one, then we had to wait for the art department for one, the props for another and transpo for the genni... all the keys were in the ignition... but we had to wait for the different drivers to move them...

Sounds familiar? What's my point? It's funny as long as you are not in the middle of it...
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#4 iankerr

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 02:29 AM

I DP'd a docu-drama project outside of Beijing last year and was surprised by the number of crew that showed up on the first day. The camera crew alone for a video project was three camera assistants- the third who also acted as dolly grip.

My apprehension about the different working style disappeared when we set up our first shot. I was impressed by the professionalism, speed and respect of the crew for a couple of foreigners trying to tell stories of China. These guys rocked!

All this talk about "run-away" production? The Chinese are going to be a huge force in the next 30 years- they're smart, know the gear, motivated and know how to work together (all departments readily pitch in to help each other). I'd work with any of that crew again and I'd bet that there rates were at least 1/10 of what is charged in Canada. They bunk together when out of town- work flat days- no OT. They have a very different aesthetic (they love bad handheld during action scenes for example) but that'll probably change as well.

I walked into the largest camera/lighting shop in Beijing to look at their lamps- ARRI HMI's fresnels up to 12K- but wait! They're not Arri! Copied bolt for bolt and even painted Arri blue... They look handmade when you look closely. Apparently DVD's aren't the only thing they know how to duplicate... :D
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#5 Dave Bittner

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:22 AM

Sounds familiar? What's my point? It's funny as long as you are not in the middle of it...

We had a multicamera video shoot last year in a hotel ballroom in Chicago last year. Chicago is a union town, to put it mildly, and it's been my experience that overall the crews are professional and hard working. On this occasion we had an early load-in into a hotel for a 7am start time, taping a medical conference. We'd hired a local guy to handle all of our union issues. A good investment, since he knows all of the local players and how best to handle unique situations. For example, we needed to use the hotel freight elevator. The union wanted us to hire two guys to handle to load-in requirements. Given that it was a Sunday morning 4am load in and we would have had to hire them for the whole day it would have ended up costing us around two grand. For elevator operators. My local guy made a deal where we made a $200 donation to the union christmas fund and suddenly the requirement for the elevator ops went away.
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#6 Mitch Gross

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 01:36 PM

I walked into the largest camera/lighting shop in Beijing to look at their lamps- ARRI HMI's fresnels up to 12K- but wait! They're not Arri! Copied bolt for bolt and even painted Arri blue... They look handmade when you look closely. Apparently DVD's aren't the only thing they know how to duplicate... :D

I've seen Chinese copies of the Arri 2c, a Moviecam Super and an Aaton XTR. All were basically handmade. I was told that I could give them pretty much any item and within a month I'd have an exact copy for pennies. Talk about runaway production.
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#7 PatrickvanWeeren

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 11:11 AM

Don't want to discriminate and be prejudice but :

How many Mexican taxi-drivers do you need to get your steadicam gear transported?

3

(Imagine camera, gear and three volkswagen beetles in the Mexico City traffic jam, going 75 km an hour in first gear !!!)

Fortunately they removed the front seats so I could bring a tripod as well, well ... as long as the windows stayed open.

Kind regards,

Patrick "love the food and people though..." Van Weeren
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#8 JamieSilverstein

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 02:26 PM

More than several years ago, I was lucky enough to get to shoot a film in NYC and in Hong Kong. This is before the unification, so I imagine things are a little different there now, but just the same, I must say that the crew was MARVELOUS. The electricians were eager and focused as well as experienced and the camera crew (five in all not including the grip who is also part of the camera crew) was beyond any criticism. In a word flawless.
Hong Kong was unbelievable as were the people....... Thanks for bringing me back there for a moment Erwin.
Jamie
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#9 Mik Cribben

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 02:07 PM

I was lucky enough to get to shoot a film in in Hong Kong.  This is before the unification, so I imagine things are a little different there now, Thanks for bringing me back there for a moment Erwin.
Jamie

Like Jamie I did a picture just before unification in Hong Kong. The director was Ken Russsell's (Woman in Love and Tommy") son. He was a 6'2 Englishman with a 3rd degree black belt and spoke fluent cantonese. The picture was a martial arts film. We had a crew member for every light and they stood by their light. By the time the camera was moved from one spot to the next the set was relight. I was amazed by the quality of what we got working this way. I haven't heard of any Americans working their since unification. Are there any steadicam operators in Hong Kong? Is it harder to work there after unification.


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