Jim Morrison speaks to Tim Lies. The deceased former frontman of
1960's band The Doors allegedly visits the Beijing-based
musician/independent filmmaker in his dreams and offers the kind of
encouragement that you'd expect to come out of the mouth of an
ageing hippy fortune-teller or self-empowerment guru.
"He (Morrison) was singing to me in front of a full symphony
orchestra and he said: 'Tim, the revolution is coming through your
head, the revolution's coming through your head'," Lies said. "I
woke up the next day and before then I hadn't played a musical
instrument but from the next day on all I could hear was music from
After stints as a journalist and an underground film producer in
New York, the New Jersey-born Lies moved to Harbin of Northeast
China's Heilongjiang Province before coming to Beijing, where he
formed a band called The Supernaturals and has spent nearly every
Sunday of the past two-and-a-half years making a feature film
called Megwoman (a play on the Chinese term meiguo ren, meaning
A jack-of-all-trades, Lies is the film's writer, producer and
director. Not content with these numerous professional titles, he
has also adopted the alterego, Dr. 666. He can also talk the legs
off a table.
Jokingly claiming (we assume) to be 666-years-old, Lies
explained that he was searching for a way to combine his love of
rock music with his love of movies when a figurative bolt of
lightning struck him shortly after he touched down in the Middle
"When I first came to China I didn't know that they had rock
bands, it was a revelation to me. When I was in Harbin we were
playing at clubs that have never had rock bands before. But when I
arrived in Beijing I saw that they have a little scene going on
here and so I started seeing bands and making friends with people
and I started to wonder how I was going to get this movie together
and I just thought - it's gotta be about the new rock
Megwoman charts the adventures of Lucifer Jones, a middle-aged
musician who winds up in China after being deported for unknown
reasons from the United States. Upon meeting a motley crew of
hedonistic English teachers, Jones chases the end of a rock rainbow
where lies a pot of gigs in a handful of live venues. Being a
"semi-autobiographical" production, the industrious Lies decided to
cast himself in the lead role, which sees him bed numerous women
and pursue a life akin to that of a boozed-up college
Far from being just another story about a sleazy, washed-up
rocker who continues to grow old disgracefully in an environment of
cheap beer and impressionable young ladies, Lies says that Megwoman
is actually a rich social allegory.
"The movie is not just me walking around being a rock star, it
has a deep subtext - it challenges the Western concepts of good and
evil and the entire history of the world by saying that China is
going to rise up and America is going to fall," Lies said.
"It works on a lot of deep levels."
Calling on every friend he could to help out, Lies shot Megwoman
on a single digital camera and stuck to a meager budget he saved
over a few years from his job as an English teacher. When there was
no one else around to assist, improvisation kicked in.
"I went to Harbin airport, put the camera down and shot and
there's people all over the place. The movie is just a lot of
willpower and a ton of love," he said.
"There's not a professional actor in the film but there's a lot
of good acting. You'll be surprised that people who are complete
amateurs are better than these idiots who are making these
A firm believer that China's underground rock scene is on the
verge of worldwide recognition, Lies sought the co-operation of
local venues and dozens of bands including Brain Failure, Ordnance,
Second Hand Rose and Tin Liquid Oxygen.
"We have four major clubs portrayed in this movie: 13 Club, Mao
House, Yugong Yi Shan and Mix Club and there's no way that if I was
in Los Angeles that I could even get into a club and shoot
anything," he said.
"China is a place where bands actually help each other. All of
the bands in this movie are all part of this community and all
support each other 100 percent. Like anywhere there's some negative
stuff, some backstabbing stuff, some jealousy but it's more like a
garage band feel rather than in LA where everyone hates each
The low production values, unintentionally humorous performances
and absence of a coherent narrative place Megwoman firmly in the
domain of student films, though it may find a loyal audience among
cult and b-grade aficionados. But in order to reach this audience,
Lies has a few hurdles yet to overcome.
"We are kind of like stuck a little bit in the middle here in
terms of getting a permit for getting it shown. We may have to
market the movie here in China as a music video or something like
that," he said.
Not content with showcasing the talents of local up-and-coming
rock n' rollers, the understated Lies also spoke of his grand
scheme to ignite an independent film industry to rise beside
China's underground music scene. And the name for this bold vision:
"I'm the only filmmaker in the world who doesn't want to go to
Hollywood, I'm going to build Chinawood and Chinawood is going to
be an industry in Asia which is going to be able to support itself
with directors and filmmakers and musicians and artists who have a
vision for this country and the world.
(China Daily June 9, 2007)