Screenwriters 'not as important' as they should be

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 24, 2015
Adjust font size:

A seminar on the screenwriting sector of China's film industry was held during the 5th Beijing International Film Festival to discuss the awkward status quo and probable future of the field.

Shu Huan, a screenwriter for China's top-grossing blockbuster, "Lost in Thailand." [File photo]


Shu Huan, a screenwriter for China's top-grossing blockbuster, "Lost in Thailand;" Zhang Ji, who wrote the script for Peter Chan's "Dearest;" Chen Shu, a screenwriter who worked on the script for "Brotherhood of Blades;" and Dong Runnian, who wrote the script for the comedy "Breakup Buddies," and other screenwriters and film executives attended the first seminar of its kind on April 19. All complained that writers receive little respect and few benefits in China's film circle.

"Officials and common people have always complained that Chinese screenwriters cannot tell good stories," Shu Huan said, but he claimed that the real problem is that "the Chinese film industry doesn't pay much attention to screenplays."

Shu mentioned that although every company says it needs good stories, "They don't really think so. One boss of a big movie company once said to me, ‘The screenplay writers are least important.' When I attend studios' discussions, they always love to discuss what commercial promotions they can implant in their movies, but when talking about stories, only a few really care."

Zhang Ji admitted that although several investors and directors that he is in touch with do pay attention to stories, screenwriters in China don't get as much respect as they deserve. "But writers also must reflect on themselves. If we don't write something good enough for the industry, that is a problem. Respect cannot be given -- it must be earned," he explained. Zhang added that he would never work with any directors and investors who don't respect screenwriters.

"If they don't respect screenwriters, the project will definitely be a big disaster," he said.

Another topic of discussion was adaptation. Chen Shu said that more and more of the projects she is approached with are adaptations of novels for which film studios have bought the rights. "Adaptation is a future trend, but it is difficult. I feel like adaptation is like being a stepmother: if the adaptation goes wrong, the screenwriter will take all the blame because the fan base for the original is there," she said.

She noted that the reason why so many studios have bought the copyrights for novels and even some very bad quality Internet fiction is that some screenplay writers have even less originality and imagination than Internet fiction writers. "Most script writers are commissioned to recreate, and they have to please every party. This is an invisible restriction on their imagination and original creativity."

Zhang Ji added that he hates the recently hot concept of film remakes. "When a project is worthy of a remake, we can remake a classic film. But don't let it become a trend in the film industry," he said.

As for how to get Chinese-made films to "go to the world," Dong Runnian was not worried. "We have a big film market. As a screenwriter, I don't feel like we must make films that will sell well in foreign markets. "

He still thinks there is a gap between Oriental and Western cultures. "We don't have to make a story understandable to other races; we just really need to tell good stories about Chinese core values and humanity."

Shu Huan agreed, saying, "Normal American audiences don't watch subtitled films. Those Americans who love watching subtitled foreign films are in the high, elite class, and they love Chinese art house movies. Chinese entertainment comedies like 'Lost in Thailand' can't even make it into American theaters."

Shu added, "Last year, China's total box office income was 29.63 billion yuan (US$4.78 billion). This year, the box office income may approach 100 million yuan a day. If we can just manage to make good films for the Chinese market and get good results and rewards there, that's really enough."

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from