Film

Production troubles on a community DV shoot

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Song Jianjun scouts locations.
It was supposed to be simple community project: Beijing's Tiantongyuan neighborhood was going to shoot a DV short at the end of July, using talent from within the community itself.

The film, How can I rescue you, my daughter? (拿什么拯救你,我的女儿) as originally written told the story of a mother who saves her daughter from kidnappers using her kickboxing skills, ultimately joining with the police to arrest the hooligans. Director Song Jianjun, a graduate of the Communication University of China, said that he wanted to make the film to highlight the poor security of his community. From a posting on the Tiantongyuan community website:

Since entering 2006, a series of public security incidents have occurred in the large-scale community of Tiantongyuan in Beijing. The year after next, when the global gathering for the Olympics convenes in the Ya'ao Business Circle, and when the government is doing its utmost to drive the establishment of a harmonious well-off society, how the public can be moved to pay attention to the safety and harmony of their homes, their neighbors, and their communities is a positive and meaningful issue. So the "Tiantong Drama Society" has drawn up plans for a major public-service shoot. I hope that it will receive the support and enthusiasm of the community."

The subject matter didn't sit well with some residents and related oversight organizations, who felt that the film would reflect badly on the community and would drive down property values. Some people accused Song of taking advantage of the community of Tiantongyuan for his own self-promotion aims. When only a few preliminary scenes were shot, Song announced that he was halting production. From his blog:

Our community DV art short is but a creation and a hobby stemming from personal interest. I never imagined that we would encounter a situation of social conflict - this is not what I had hoped for. Now, how to rescue my movie has become an even greater problem and uncertainty. Government departments, building management, the community committee, as well as homeowners and the media - these existing societal connections suddenly have come to put pressure on our small production team. Actually, what I am pursuing is nothing more than an idea to remind people to be on their guard, and to stress family harmony; I never imagined that it would stir up a chain reaction. I hope that our community can be harmonious, and I also hope that we can calm down ourselves. There is too much uproar, and no way for creation to take place. Fiction and reality have come into conflict. I respect reality, but I ask everyone to give a little more understanding and support to fiction.

I am currently considering making some revisions to the story: eliminating the kidnapping plotline, and change it to the story of an online lover swindling the girl out of her purse and her mother educating her.

Speaking to Beijing's The First newspaper, Song said, "Now I'll delete the kidnapping storyline and weaken the security issues; I'll also increase the tone of familial affection. And the shoot location is no longer Tiantongyuan; it might be in Hebei or some other place. It's no longer a community film, but just a light comedy." The following day, the theater team ceased all media contact.

There's a happy ending to the story, however: by the 12th, it was back on track with the original storyline, which the rest of the cast and crew had convinced Song to keep, although the setting was changed to a location outside of Tiantongyuan proper.

When filming resumed, however, it was no longer a small DV project; the producers had rented a professional camera and tracking equipment, and a local media company donated the time of two crew members to help with filming.

The 30-minute film How can I rescue you, my daughter? has an estimated budget of 3000 yuan and will probably screen in early September on the community's website, but distribution deals are still being worked out.

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