China (mainland), INTERVIEWS, NEWS — 03/13/2012 9:15 AM

Yanfei 闫非 (Caui Studio, China): “we need to learn from outstanding production done by other producers”

Posted by

Yanfei, a Chinese independant documentary producer and director, speaks about the new trends in the production, financing and distribution of documentary content in mainland China. He also presents his weekly initiative to promote domestic and international doc to the beijing audience.

中国独立制作人及导演闫非接受本会访问,讲述对中国的纪录片制作趋势、筹集资金和分销等的相关看法。此外,他也向我们介绍了每周开放于北京观众的纪录片放映活动,希望通过放映宣传中国和国外的纪录片。

Can you introduce yourself  ? 请您自我介绍一下(教育、职业背景,如何/为何从事纪录片工作)

I majored in engineering design and advertising. During the past years, I have worked in different industries such as automobile, mining, internet, fashion design, public relations and industry related to commodities. These experiences help me a lot and I learnt different stories about those industries.

In 2007, when I was 37-year-old, I began to see the importance of thinking over the society, the people, what happened in the past and how our future will be affected. I became interested in things related to the society and people, as well as our history, even those in the ancient times or facts which still have not been unearthed. I think documentary is the way to go and that was the reason I got started in documentary production.

我有两个专业的教育背景,一个是工程设计方面的,另一个是广告方面的。此外,我还参与过很多行业的工作,比如说汽车行业、矿业、互联网、时尚设计、公共关系(PR)和日用消费品行业等,这些经历给我很多的帮助,也让我了解各种不同行业之间的故事。

做纪录片是因为我年纪的原因,我今年41岁,在2007年,也就是我37岁的时候,我开始觉得自己需要更多的思考一些事情,社会的,人的,我们的过去是什么样的,对未来又有什么影响?我开始关注社会和人的故事,更加愿意了解我们国家历史上的故事,甚至是远古的故事,还有一些未知的探索性的故事,因此,我觉得纪录片会给我带来很多的帮助,于是,开始尝试做一些纪录片的拍摄工作。

What do you think about the evolution and development of documentary industry during the recent 10 years in China?  你如何亲身经历、看待近十年中国纪录片领域的变化和发展?(面临的困难和机遇等)

Documentary itself does not have a long history in China, or rather, the audience is not familiarized with it yet. In the past, only very few people could manage to have the technology and equipment for documentary production. As time passed by and the cost boosts, it became more difficult to make documentaries. When I was with an advertising company, I have experienced a remarkable progress in video production. We have been using the most advanced equipment in our production. This progress covered the quality improvement in linear editing and non-linear editing and it made it easier to deliver different stories by broadening the vision of production, especially in the field of editing. Nowadays, home digital devices become more and more popular and it is no longer uncommon for one to be a documentary producer.

“Frankly, there is a huge number of documentary producers in China, probably a few hundred thousand or even more than a million people.”

When I first started working on documentaries, I have got the chance to meet some talents working in the documentary industry in China as well as some Canadian international documentary producers. They provided a lot of help and widen my horizons in terms of how producers in different countries work and produce their documentaries.

Compare to other documentary producers in the world, Chinese documentary producers have their own characteristics and unique thoughts, mainly due to the differences in culture. Basically there are two types of documentaries producers in China, which are those working in organizations, mostly national television broadcasting bureau, and independent producers who are totally independent from broadcasting bureau and other media. The former has a stable income and produces content decided by the broadcasting bureau, but they face a high degree of limitations. The latter is just the opposite; free topics, no limits but needs to find investors and raise money for production.

As an independent producer, I would like to share what kind of difficulties and opportunities an independent producer encounters. For the Chinese documentary producers, the biggest problem is the inefficiency of channels like financing channels and distribution channels. In the past, television broadcasting bureaus tend not to open up broadcast platforms to independent producers. Other distribution channels like DVD or theatre were not rather developed and it was nearly impossible to enter these channels. That is why the room for development was very limited for independent producers. Fortunately, the situation is getting better these few years. CCTV Documentary Channel is supporting independent producers by opening a production platform and I am lucky enough to be involved in the fundraising of the project and introduce my documentaries in this channel, which is a good start.

“I am currently working on a project in coordination with CCTV Documentary Channel and it really gives us new hope.”

纪录片做为视频或者说影像的存在,在中国,尤其是进入大众视野的时间并不长,以前只有少数的一群人能够有设备去拍摄,后期更不要说了,成本非常高。我做广告的时候,可以说经历了视频制作的一个大的跨越,我们一直是使用最前沿的设备进行制作,从对编到后来的非线性剪辑,这个跨越是一个质的,它打开了我们的视野和剪辑方式,让讲故事更加容易,也千变万化。直到现在家庭数字设备的大量普及,让很多人都可以成为一个纪录片制作者。所以,我想说,中国的纪录片制作者非常多,也许有几十万,甚至上百万。

我刚开始做纪录片的时候就认识一些中国纪录片行业中非常有能力的人,也认识了一些比如加拿大国际纪录片制作人,他们给了我很多的帮助,并开阔了我的视野,让我初步了解到世界上做纪录片行业的同行们是如何工作的,如何完成自己的纪录片的。

和世界上纪录片同行们相比,中国的纪录片制作人可能更加独特一些,我想这大概是因为文化的不同吧。
我们讲,中国的纪录片基本上分为两类人,一类是体制内的制作人,他们是在国家电视台工作的。另一类是独立制作人,他们完全独立在电视台媒体之外。第一类制作人基本上完成的是电视台计划的内容,收入稳定,但题材相对局限性大。第二类制作人则正好相反,他们自己独立选择题材并自己想办法筹集资金来完成制作,题材跨度非常大,范围广泛。

因为我是独立制作人,所以,我可以更多的谈论独立制作人遇到的困难和机遇。对于中国的独立制作人来讲,最大的困难是渠道的不畅通,包括融资渠道和发行渠道,以前电视台是很难向独立制作人开放这个播出平台的,其他的发行渠道,比如说DVD,院线也都非常不成熟,能够进入这个渠道的非常少,几乎是不可能。所以,独立制作人发展的空间很小。但这个状况目前正在开始好转,我们看到今年中国中央电视台纪录片频道开始面向独立制作人,开放制作平台给我们,我们有机会参与项目的融资,并有机会将自己的纪录片通过这个渠道播出,这是一个很好的开始。我自己现在就有一个项目和中央电视台的纪录片频道正在合作,这让我们开始逐渐产生新的希望。

You are the initiator of a weekly screening of domestic and overseas documentaries in Beijing. How and why did you have this idea? How does it work ?

作为一亩三分地/百老汇纪录片放映创始人,为何您会有这样的想法?是如何运行的(免费或付费,座位数,场次数等)?放映情况如何(国产和国外影片数量,已播的国外影片名称,观众反馈情况,影片受欢迎情况等)?您是如何引进国产和国外纪录片、如何与国外纪录片制作人建立联系的?

First of all, as a documentary maker, it is necessary to improve the quality of our production and capability by learning and discussing with each other. More importantly, we need to learn from outstanding production done by other producers constantly. Besides, we are open to listen directly to our audience about their opinions on documentaries.

“We believe communication is an important key to help them better understand our documentaries.”

I have been organizing my screening in a very splendid art cinema [Moma Broadway]. The people from the art cinema are very supportive and they offered us a regular showing site. The site is not a spacious one and it can only seat 60 people. However, since it is an open area, people who cannot find a seat will not bother to stand throughout the whole show. Sometimes the number of audience will even reach 120 to 130 people.

Every Saturday night, we show two documentaries at a fixed time. The screening of documentaries has been going on for nearly two years and there are 80 documentaries screened so far. Our documentaries are usually scheduled at the same period of time as some hit movies and we found that at times documentary audience appears to be more than movie audience. We really hope that our documentaries are as good as those films.

The screening is totally free and we have negotiated with numerous production companies to get the right for showing the documentaries. In the meantime, we do our utmost to protect the copyright of the documentaries by signing an agreement on copyright protection and strictly following the terms. During these two years, there was no any piracy problem occurred.

The numbers of Chinese documentaries and foreign documentaries screened are more or less the same. We have shown 39 foreign documentaries which are from Germany, Denmark, Canada, USA, India, Israel, Australia, France, Iran, South Africa, New Zealand, Mexico, UK, Italy, Norway, Bulgaria and Singapore. Some are coproduced documentaries.

Some of the recent international docs we have screened: “Automorphosis” (USA), “Gueorgi and the Butterflies” (Bulgaria), “Before Flying Back to The Earth” (Lithuania), “For the Best and For the Onion!” (Niger), “Beats of freedom” (Poland), “Hackney Lullabies” (Japan), ”Sunday School” (Philippines Zambia) …

We are mainly supported by Guangzhou Documentary Film Festival, and also the department of cultural affairs of some foreign embassies in China. We are looking to cooperate with more foreign production organizations and we do hope that the screening is reciprocal. We would love to bring Chinese documentaries to participate in screening events overseas. I believe this exchange of ideas is beneficial.

You are international doc rights owners (distributors, producers ..) and you want to screen your content to the Beijing audience. You can send your proposal and contacts to info@asia-documentary-network.com

创办“一亩三分地”主要是两个方面的考虑。首先我认为做为纪录片从业者,我们有必要不断提高自己的制作水准和能力,这需要学习和不断的相互探讨,因此,我们有必要经常观摩一些国内外制作人拍摄的优秀纪录片。另外,我们也非常希望能够听到观众直接对我们谈论他们是如何看待这些纪录片的。我们也通过交流让他们更好的理解纪录片。

于是我们选择了一个非常棒的艺术电影院,他们支持我们的放映工作,提供我们一个场地做为我们固定的放映基地。这个场地不大,每次大约能够容纳60人左右,但这个放映区域是一个开放式的区域,所以,还会有很多人没有座位的情况下,一直站着看完这个放映,多的时候大概有120-130人参加。我们每周的星期六晚上都会有两部纪录片在这里放映,放映时间是很固定的,这样的放映已经持续了将近两年的时间,一共有约80部纪录片在我们这里放映,我们的放映时间经常安排在和时下最流行的电影在一起,但有时候,看纪录片的观众要比看电影的多,我们希望我们放映的纪录片不会比那些电影差。

这个放映完全是免费的,我们和很多制作机构商谈,获得他们的授权来完成这个放映,我们也尽自己的努力对这些参加放映的纪录片提供版权保护,签署版权保护文件并努力按照文件执行,两年时间没有发生过任何盗版事件。

我们放映的中国纪录片和国外的纪录片数量差不多一样多,我们已经放映的国外的纪录片有39部,分别来自德国、丹麦、加拿大、美国、印度、以色列、澳大利亚、法国、伊朗、南非、新西兰、墨西哥、英国、意大利、挪威、保加利亚、新加坡等国家的,有些是联合制作的纪录片。

我们大部分是通过中国广州国际纪录片大会来帮助我们,此外也和一些驻华大使馆文化处取得合作。我们也非常希望能够和更多国外的制作机构取得联系,相互合作。我们也很希望这样的放映是相互的,也愿意提供组织中国制作人制作的纪录片到海外参加交流展映的工作。我想这种交流对双方都是有益的。

How can Chinese independent director/producer produce their project?  What is the average budget of a 50 minutes documentary in China?   中国独立制作人是如何发起/制作他们的项目的(资金来源:电视台投资,自我投资,国内外制片人等)在中国一部50分钟时长的纪录片大约需要多少制作经费?

In the past, most of the independent producers in China needed to raise money for their project.

Today, the situation has become better and television broadcasting companies including CCTV Documentary Channel, Shanghai Documentary Channel, iSun, CNEX and some foundations have begun to invest on projects created by independent producers.

Foreign production companies like National History New Zealand and Discovery Channel have also taken a step forward to fund independent producers.

In China, the production cost of a 50-minute film can vary a lot. The budget of my self-invested documentaries is usually below RMB100000 and CCTV documentary will get an investment of RMB 1 million.

中国的独立制作人以前大多是自己筹集资金来完成拍摄,这个状况目前正在不断的改善,有国内电视台如中央电视台纪录片频道,上海纪实频道,阳光卫视,CNEX,部分基金会等机构开始尝试投资给独立制作人,也有更多的国外制作机构也再做这样的尝试,比如说新西兰自然历史公司,美国探索频道等。

在中国,50分钟的题材制作经费差别很大,我自己投资的纪录片都在10万元人民币之内完成,而中央电视台的纪录片有将近100万元人民币的投资。

Could you introduce some of the documentaries which were directed and produced by you? 请您介绍下您已制作的纪录片(题材、时长、播出等)?

. “Are you sportsman?”

Category: Society
Length: 60 minutes
Description: The doc has been screened in International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, at CNEX Taiwan and Krakow Film Festival.

《你是运动员吗?》
种类:社会类题材
时长:60分钟
介绍:参加德国莱比锡电影节、台湾CNEX电影节、波兰克拉克夫电影节等的展映。

. “Wo De Lao Po Liu Hu Zi” (My wife has a mustache)
Category: Culture
Length: 60 minutes
Description: Screened in some film festivals.

《我的老婆留胡子》
种类:文化类题材
时长:60分钟
介绍:参加一些电影节的展映活动

. “Zhong Guo Ren De Xian Dai Sheng Huo” (The contemporary life of Chinese people)
Category: Society
Length: 30 minutes
Description: China Intercontinental Communication Center to be responsible for overseas distribution.

《中国人的现代生活》
种类:社会类题材
时长:30分钟
介绍:由中国五洲传播公司负责海外播出

“My 4-Fen Land”
Category: Society
Length: 5 minutes
Description: Screened in some film festivals.

《我的四分地》
种类:社会类题材
时长:5分钟
介绍:参加一些电影节展映活动

“Chao Ji Gong Cheng” (Super construction)
Category: Architecture
Length: 52 minutes
Description: Currently shooting; invested by CCTV Documentary Channel and will be broadcasted on this channel.

《超级工程》
建筑类题材
时长52分钟
正在拍摄,由中央电视台纪录片频道投资,将在这个频道进行播出。

You had mentioned that Chinese documentary makers should learn how to tell good story and make documentaries profitable one day. What do you think are the necessary elements to make good stories? 
您曾说过中国的纪录片制作人应该学习如何讲好故事并且纪录片应该最终是要盈利的,请问您觉得哪些必要条件能做出好故事?

I think the key is to understand how to tell a good story, meanwhile, supported by nice shooting and post-production. I would love to know any ideas from foreign documentary producers regarding this. China is very big and stories are everywhere. We have many audiences too. As long as we figure out a good way to tell stories, documentary is feasible and can be profitable. We are very interested in knowing the new role of internet as a new media and broadcasting channel. The online market in China has a great potential, which is very much different from the other markets.

我想懂得如何讲一个好故事是关键,然后还要有好的拍摄和好的后期剪辑制作来支持。这些方面,我很想听到国外同行的介绍。
中国很大,不缺少故事,也不缺少观众,只要我们找到好的讲故事的方法,这个市场是有的,也会让纪录片在这里盈利的。我们目前对互联网市场作为一个新的媒体和播出渠道很感兴趣,而中国的互联网市场又和其他的市场不一样,它的基数非常大,因此,潜力也是巨大的。

What’s your current project? Are you looking for partners overseas for this project? 请介绍一下您当前的项目(题材,预算,时长等),您是否正在为该项目寻找国际合作伙伴?

Currently I am looking for partnership on 2 documentaries I am planning to produce.

目前我正在考虑制作的纪录片都在寻找合作伙伴。


・“She Ying Bu Kao Yan Jing” (Eyes are not needed for filming)

Category: Culture and Art
Estimated length: 60 to 100 minutes
Description: 30 years ago, Mr. Ren Shulin, a young photographer made use of his spare time and took pictures of campus life of high school students. For the past eight years, thousands of pictures are forgotten in the boxes at his home. He never expects these pictures will trigger a great echo in the photographing field.
30 years later, all other photographers in the same era with him walked away from the photographing field one by one. Only him is still active in this circle. “Eyes are not needed for photographing.” This is what he finds with 30 years’experiences and thinking.
Budget: RMB 200 000 – 300 000 

See the film presentation on ADN projects database

・《摄影不靠眼睛》
文化艺术类题材
片长:预计100分钟
简介:讲述三十年前青年摄影师任曙林利用空余时间拍摄高中学生的校园生活照。这些照片在过往八年一直被遗忘在家中的旧箱子里,而他也从没想过,这些会在摄影界引起这么大的回响。三十年后,原本与任先生同期的摄影师一个接一个的离开摄影界,唯独他自己依然热心摄影。「摄影不靠眼睛」——这是任先生三十多年来摄影和思考所得的领悟。
预计投资:20-30万元人民币

・ “Jia Zhi Lian Cheng De Gu Ci” (Priceless antique porcelain)

Category: History
Length: 60 minutes per episode; 5 episodes
Description: It is about a series of stories behind priceless antique porcelain. Porcelain is originated in China. A few hundred years ago, the creation of porcelain changed the development of China and influenced the world as well. We will probe into the stories behind the precious antique porcelain among local people. With exquisite design and fine craft, ancient porcelain is still highly praised by nowadays’ craftsmen.
Budget: RMB 300 000 – 400 000 per episode

・《价值连城的古瓷》
历史类题材
片长:预计5集,每集60分钟
简介:讲述一系列价值连城古瓷背后的故事。中国是瓷的原产国,数百年前的瓷,改变了中国发展进程,也影响了世界。我们将深入中国民间,探求古代那些价值连城瓷器的故事。精美的造型、考究的工艺,有些制作让现在的工艺大师都望尘莫及。
预计投资:30-40万元人民币/集

What’s your favorite European and Chinese documentary that you watched recently?
您最近看的中国和欧洲的纪录片里,有您特别喜欢的吗?

I have watched a documentary named “Five Plus Five” coproduced by a Chinese producers and an Italian producer, which is really good. It talks about a cabman serving Chinese artists, with a sense of humor and uniqueness. The point is, this Italian producer understands Chinese culture very well. He applied his knowledge when he shot the documentary in an international angle of view and developed the storyline, so that it is more understandable to the Chinese audience.

最近看到一部中国制作人和意大利制作人联合制作的纪录片《五加五》,是一部很不错的片子。讲述一个为中国艺术家提供服务的出租司机的故事,视角独特,幽默。关键是这个意大利制作人非常了解中国的文化,因此,从国际视角上拍摄和架构这个故事的的时候,也能够让中国的观众很容易理解它。

Interview by PY Lochon, on 27 February 2012

Related posts:

The World’s Most Fashionable Prison (2012, Singapore / UK)
The Boxing Girls of Kabul (2011 / Canada)
China Heavyweight: Documentary uses boxing to examine China (The Montreal Gazette)
China’s CCTV Cocumentary Channel announces its new slate of doc. series and partners
Ariel Snar : "International film makers who want to make docs in Afghanistan should work with A...

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.