'Sky Fire' to set benchmark for China-made disaster films

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 20, 2019
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Producer Jennifer Dong and director Simon West appear with the cast of "Sky Fire" at a promotional event held in Shanghai during the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival, on June 16, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Meridian Entertainment]

The Chinese disaster action blockbuster "Sky Fire" could set a new benchmark in Chinese film history for the genre, its general producer told China.org.cn on Monday during the ongoing Shanghai International Film Festival.

The film is directed by Simon West, who was also behind "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and "Con Air." It stars Jason Isaacs, Wang Xueqi ("Iron Man 3"), Shawn Dou ("Wolf Totem") and Hannah Quinlivan ("Skyscraper"). The film tells the story of a group of people staying at a tropical resort when a volcanic explosion hits. 

Meridian Entertainment's CEO Jennifer Dong (Wenjie) said the movie is the first Chinese film about a volcano disaster and will fill in the gap of China's disaster film genre. At the same time, she said, it's a China-developed and -managed international product, with a crew of 551 filmmaking talents from 17 countries hired since the project started in 2015, and with dozens of scripts updated and rewritten along the way. 

Dong said that Meridian has always wanted to make a Chinese film that can truly go abroad, with global audiences able to watch without "barriers and cultural gaps."

"We did long-term research in various movie genres and finally chose the disaster film genre, because this genre is universal and will have a great many action scenes, which is easily accessible to audiences in any country or region," she said. She explained that the Chinese industry has not previously made a quality disaster movie due to lacking market capacity, technical maturity, investment and visual effects, but that China now has the conditions and ability to roll out a great film in this genre.

Chinese promotional poster for the disaster film "Sky Fire," due out later in 2019. [Image courtesy of Meridian Entertainment]

She resisted the "milestone" label, saying instead, "We see it as a Chinese blockbuster also serving as a new type of pathfinder for the industry."

According to Dong, smoke and fire were the biggest challenges they faced in shooting the film and doing the visual effects. "Our production team has done more than one year of research and development. We can proudly say that 'Sky Fire' has achieved many breakthroughs in the field of visual effects production," she said.

As for the choice of director, Dong explained that in such a massive undertaking, they could not afford to make any mistakes, so they needed to hire a mature director with rich experiences who has directed top-rated international blockbusters. Therefore, after talking with more than 20 directors from around the world, she finally chose Simon West for the job.

"The director has done a lot of research and study since he was chosen to direct 'Sky Fire'," Dong said. "He has been learning the understanding habits and cultural expressions of the Chinese audience with a humble attitude. He knew we wanted to convey messages of courage and great love in the film, and to show the world China's national spirit and cultural self-confidence. I think we did a great job in this and the world will see our efforts."

Dong promised that "Sky Fire" isn't just about the action and disaster scenes, but that the movie depicts real human emotion as well. She said she is not worried that the Chinese audiences have been spoiled by Hollywood disaster blockbusters. 

"We believe that the Chinese audiences will also have a more tolerant and encouraging attitude towards China's first high-quality visual effects-equipped disaster film, because it is rare on Chinese screens, and they can see the actors they are familiar with. I believe that viewers will find some surprises and will feel proud of the growth and progress of … our film industry."

Meridian Entertainment and Base FX shopped and promoted "Sky Fire" at Cannes in May, which raised interest there. According to Dong, the film is scheduled to hit theaters around the globe later this year.

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