Continuing the theme of young women making their creative mark in a new China we were given a glimpse of the future of Chinese cinema with the remarkable Heiward Mak.
Heiward is just 23 but she has already written and directed her first feature film: High Noon.
High Noon trailer
Set in Hong Kong just before the Olympics itâ€™s the story seven boys, classmates, getting into scrapes, living, loving, fighting and generally trying to figure what life is all about. From the trailer it seems like itâ€™s a rites of passage movie but with a cutting edge like the best of that genre: Trainspotting, The Breakfast Club, Kids. I’m really looking forward to seeing it.
Heiward went to University in Honk Kong where she studied graphic design. She very nonchalantly said that her tutor one day thought she should try animation and moving image instead. Three years later she has a movie that has played in many festivals â€“ pretty incredible. She wrote the script in 2007 and finished filming this year. The whole project took just under a year. She founds actors from casting agencies but mostly from the streets (something that Larry Clark did with Kids). She cast the lead character after discovering him in a street basketball game. Her Art Director was convinced the script was written by a man or if not a woman who wanted to be a man. She explained that her ability to write from a male point of view probably came from having to live so close to cousins and neighbors who were all boys when she was a kid.
She shot the movie for an incredibly low budget â€“ around 40,000 dollars â€“ you canâ€™t tell from the trailer it looks extremely professional. She shot on HDV over a month in the coldest month in recent Hong Kong memory. Her actors had to pretend to be warm, especially for some of the swimming scenes. Heiward had practically no experience when she started this project. She learnt on the job, often doing technical things herself as some of the crew she worked with refused to help out. She said one of her key learnings was that she had to be more outgoing when dealing with freelancers.
She finished up by saying something about belief which when she said it seemed really obvious to me but I donâ€™t think I have ever heard anyone else say this: Belief was everything – if she believed in the project then her backers believed in the project. And if the backers believed, the actors believed. And if they believed then the audience would believe.
I think we witnessed a genuine star in the making. Believe.
PS. I got to play some Ping Pong on Sunday morning. I did a little digging online and after a few phone calls with the concierge managed to set up a session with Ms Gu from the Public Club. It was one hour of hardcore ping pong â€“ not quite as hardcore as this Bruce Lee Ping Pong ad for Nokia that has just surfaced – but I got a bit on film and edited a little movie on the plane. I think Iâ€™ll get Heiward to direct the next Celebrity Ping Pong opus though.
Me playing Ping Pong
A fantastic few days. Thanks to Mark and Daniele, the Microsoft crew and everyone on the ground in Shanghai who made it such a memorable experience.
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