Saturday, June 30, 2012


Shanghai is a weird place.

Don't get me wrong, travelling there was a good experience overall. I was honoured to attend the 2012 Shanghai International Film Festival. I met the Producer of 'Star Wars', the producer of the Oscar nominated short 'Raju' and a bunch of excellent short film makers from around the world. I even accidentally sassed the Director of 'Enemy at the Gates', with a question after his speech.

But Shanghai is still a weird place.

It is a city that is obsessed with appearances over substance. This obsession is so complete, that it permeates everything in the city.

The hotels look perfect from the outside, but inside they are dated and infused with cigarette smoke.

The restaurants have big glossy signs, but inside they are like cafeterias with unhappy (and largely unfriendly) waiters.

And then there was the Shanghai Film Festival itself.

The festival is accredited by the 'Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films' (FIAPF), who also accredits the Berlin, Cannes and Venice Film Festivals.

The opening ceremony of the festival was attended by film luminaries such as Jean Jaques Annaud, Jackie Chan, Aaron Eckhart, Mike Medavoy and Chow Yun Fat.

The media was there.

Glamorous sponsors.

The short film awards ceremony, which I was there for, was attended by Chinese Celebrities and was broadcast live on Chinese television.

To an outsider or a media person, it had all the appearances of prestige.

But the truth is the festival got the media showpieces right and ignored the important little details.

Like Shanghai's hotels and restaurants, the film festival had its quirks when you got inside. It was the small touches, like the fact they lost a screening copy of my film and couldn't work out what to do until I brought it, IN PERSON, one hour before the screening. Or like that televised award ceremony for the short films, where they: transported us, the filmmakers, to the ceremony; trotted us along the red carpet; sat us up front for the ceremony; trotted us back out of the ceremony location; and then transported us back to the hotel.

No drinks. No after party. Only the Chinese Celebrities were allowed in the VIP area for a drink. We were brought out for the glitzy media event, then tucked away again.

I don't think they did this deliberately, mind you. It is just a part of their innate obsession with the facade.

The Shanghai perspective, ironically, is very similar to people who are new to film.

To an outsider, a film is a glorious exercise filled with beauty, publicity, celebrity, fame and artistry.

The truth is that it is hard work. Meaningful and wonderfully fulfilling, yes, but still hard. Filmmaking is a blend of art, science and commerce.

The film I was representing in Shanghai, 'The Good Neighbour' was completed at the start of 2011. That means, from script, to production, to distribution, I have lived with the film for around two years.

In addition to making the film, the director and I spent hours creating promotional materials for the film's release. I worked on the distribution strategy and have put many hours and late nights into getting the film out for the world to see.

But that is all in the background.

What an outsider observes is me attending a glitzy awards ceremony in Shanghai, wearing a nice suit.

It looks like easy, glamorous work, but appearances are deceiving.

It's also the reason why everyone at the major film festivals appear so eager to kick back and enjoy themselves. They are eager because it is really the culmination of hundreds of hours of work behind the scenes. They've earned a drink or two.

If they are allowed in the VIP area, of course.

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