Ming Zhenjiang on the future of the August First Film Studio

"Shen Zhou 11" won the Best Movie Award at the 28th Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Awards.

Chinese filmmakers have been quick to criticize a recently released propaganda film entitled “Shen Zhou 11” after it received the ‘Best Movie Award’ at the 28th Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers awards ceremonies.

Produced by the August First Film Studio, which is a military studio, the film has been generating a lot of controversy.

Sean Ching, a young Chinese director and film critic, was quoted as saying, “The Awards is out-dated and too state-controlled” because the awards recognized a propaganda film.

To respond to the outcry, Ming Zhenjiang, the head of the studio, accepted an interview with Sina.com yesterday and outlined his vision of the future of the August First Film Studio.

Ming said in the interview that the studio is now facing three difficulties, “The first is the state-controlled system. Li Changchun said in an inspection visit that ‘No matter who rules the studio, you must make excellent productions.’ But we don’t have theaters and markets spread throughout society like the China Film Group. We aim to make movies for armies. The second problem is about the material. We helped Feng Xiaogang produce ‘Assembly’ anonymously because we can’t film this kind of material for some regulations and political sensitivity. The third one is the aging of our production team and facility.”

Sina: After “The Founding of a Republic” and “The Founding of a party,” there was speculation on the internet that you will make a third movie, is that true?

Ming: I personally am opposed to the idea. These two movies have the same filming style—big events and famous stars. But our film industry needs innovation. I’ve discussed this with Han Sanping and Huang Jianxin. Audiences won’t buy it a third time.

Sina: “Shen Zhou 11” mentions some confidential aspects of our aerospace science and technology. Another movie produced by the studio early this year, “Sky Fighter,” borrowed several J-10 Fighters for its production. We know the US military has always been supportive of local movie productions. Will we adopt the same patterns when making our own “Transformers” franchise?

Ming: I don’t think so. After 9-11, the United States Department of Defense directly made seven subjects for Hollywood to show off their military strength and high technology deterrence. I don’t agree with making movie productions a political tool. It’s a very good idea to make stories like “Transformers.” Our Liberation Army can fight against invaders from outer space too. America won’t be the only force protecting the planet.

Sina: The August First Film Studio has its own special effects department and independent technologies. What will you do, considering the fierce competition?

Ming: We recently founded our own digital workstation and brought in an array of equipment that is valued at 20 million RMB. Our next step is to boost the digitalization of film-making. Movies are a combination of modern industries and comprehensive arts. America is the most successful country at bringing high and advanced technologies into movie productions, which has maintained the lasting prosperity of Hollywood studios. We will learn from Hollywood.

Sina: Many home-grown blockbusters employ foreign companies to do the special effects. Will you consider that?

Ming: It’s not because we don’t have a free mind. We still insist on developing our own technologies. Many audiences said we are both losing money and face due to productions that aren’t polished. But in the long term, we will catch up with Hollywood as we have enough talent.

Sina: Will you work with famous directors outside your system?

Ming: Of course! I’m friends with Feng Xiaogang and Chen Kaige. I’ve also talked with Zhang Yimou a few times. We should open our studio to society and join the competition.

Chen Nan
Chinese Films