We all have wondered how a movie is made, how our stars are created—and behind the screen, how all those scenes and special effects are created with what props… Many of us have even dreamed of being a star, and eventually it became possible to make ourselves stars today, but not in the conventional way...
Well, perhaps Qingdao is a bit too overshadowed by its prestigious “Tsingtao Beer”. As a matter of fact, the city has a lot more to be proud of. For example, Qingdao is China's only UNESCO City of Film, and it is one of the only selected 13 of its kind globally. Moreover, it is possible that no other city in China has provided as many movie stars and film practitioners as Qingdao: Tang Guoqiang（唐国强），Huang Bo（黄渤）, Lin Yongjian（林永健）, Wang Huichun（王绘春）, Xia Yu（夏雨）, Huang Xiaoming（黄晓明）, Bai Baihe（白百何）, and many, many other A-listers, are from Qingdao.
On the West Coast of Qingdao is the world’s largest film studio where many movies are made, including “The Wondering Earth”, a top-grossing movie during the Chinese New Year of 2019. The “Fengshen Trilogy (Investiture of the Gods)”, which is so far the most expensive Chinese movie, is being shot in Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, and is expected to be complete in 2020.
But how a movie is made? And what is the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis?
Together with AHK (German Chambers of Commerce Worldwide Network AHK), QIBA initiated and organised a trip to the Lingshan Bay Studio in July.
The visitors were taken to the film studios first. Nobody would expect “studios” to be just big, empty buildings, practically no different from those factory buildings, except that factory workshops are full of equipment and workers.
“Well, yes, this is exactly what a studio is like,” explained the Studio. “Filmmaking is an industry, meaning that a film is actually designed and produced in an industrial flow. As a product, it is then marketed and sold to consumers through its channels, in other words, cinemas. The studios are workshops where films are produced. Filmmaking is also a very sophisticated industry, with integration of technology, science and art. Thus, its workshops are also technically complicated—our floors are designed by the UK’s Pinewoods Studios, for example, although they look very simple.”
Technologies behind the screen? Yes, absolutely! In fact, a team of scientists and engineers are needed in order to materialise those dazzling special effects. Thanks to VR and AR technologies, these are lot easier, and a lot more striking than in old times. Bryan Mei, a VR & AR expert who made a special trip from Beijing at the invitation by the Studio, presented to the audience how those “hidden” heroes made all these possible, for example, the combination of animation, live action and performance captured by Jackie Chan, which indeed amazed and stunned the audience. Bryan also demonstrated a commercial that he and his team did for Louis Vuitton, with special effects on a very famous Chinese actress, Zhou Dongyu（周冬雨）.
“In addition to this technical side, or the ‘software’, this hardware is essential to make ‘big’ movies,” Helen Liu, Deputy Director of Strategy and Investment of Qingdao West Coast Development Group emphasised when presenting the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis. “We have a 10,000 square metre pillarless studio, which enables us to establish special setups, and a 7,000 square metre underwater studio for special water effects, such as in disaster films. Both of them are the world’s largest in size. However, these are not enough to make Qingdao China’s biggest filmmaking base—we are also step by step on a firm ground to set up all those functions and services alongside the full value chain of the industry.”
Listening to Bryan and Helen, watching those special effects of filmmaking, kids being taken care of with “Learning-by-Doing” activities by the Film Museum staff, then a BBQ night with crispy chilled Tsingtao—what a beautiful day. Although I said earlier that Qingdao is a bit overshadowed by its beer, after a half day visit in the Studio in such a hot summer afternoon, nobody would object to one for sure!