Constructing a good story

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When Lan Xiaoxi, a seasoned scriptwriter from Nanjing, the capital city of East China's Jiangsu province, was approached to adapt a novel into the TV series All the Way to the Sun, she felt as though she had been transported back to the golden era of China's thriving real estate market.

The 36-episode series, which began showing on China Central Television's channel 8 and streaming on Youku in mid-August, is adapted from the 2018 best-selling novel Da Cheng Xiao Shi (A Small Home in a Metropolis), which chronicles the remarkable growth of the property industry in Beijing from 2007 to 2017.

Lan, a former journalist with experience covering diverse topics, from real estate to food, conducted interviews with more than 100 women between the ages of 20 and 35. Through these conversations, she explored their perspectives on love, their aspirations for a better life, and their pursuit of successful careers, seeking inspiration for the female protagonists in the script.

Set one year before Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, the TV series revisits the period when the Chinese capital was brimming with energy, drawing in a multitude of ambitious recent college graduates yearning to make their mark.

Set against the backdrop of this dynamic era, the tale delves into the intertwined lives of Li Mujia and Tian Rong, two close friends who have just graduated from a second-tier college. While Li's ambitious nature propels her to secure an internship at a prestigious law firm, despite her modest educational background, Tian, who is more introverted, faces challenges in finding employment and endures the pain of a breakup with her arrogant boyfriend.

Nevertheless, the booming real estate market ushers in unforeseen developments in their lives. Tian, with her keen understanding of the market, convinces her parents to support her in purchasing three apartments in the eastern part of Beijing. She relies on prudent savings from her salary and rental income to meet the mortgage payments.

Li unexpectedly crosses paths with the magnate of a commercial real estate empire, catching his attention and earning her the opportunity to work as the lawyer on a high-profile case. Through her diligence and determination, she emerges as an exceptional lawyer, and later switches jobs to join a start-up in order to pursue a bigger dream.

"We have been working on the script since 2019. Since the story is set more than 10 years ago, we have conducted extensive research to ensure its authenticity," says Lan.

Their job is like documenting the history of Beijing's real estate market. Delving into a lot of news reports and documentaries, and conducting research at some property agencies, Lan and her fellow creators produced a stack of paperwork, meticulously recording the annual property prices in different areas of Beijing, as well as noting the significant news events that would influence the market.

"The plot spans 10 years, a period of tremendous change in Beijing. Countless buildings rose up and the city was rapidly expanding. The country and its capital, in this special way, become intertwined with the youth of the two main characters. I believe this connection will deeply resonate with many post-1980s viewers," says Lan.

Aside from the property sector, the scriptwriter also went to a top law firm to closely observe the daily routines of lawyers and interns, obtaining a lot of firsthand information that makes the details in the show richer.

However, what impressed her the most was not the established lawyers winning a difficult lawsuit or solving a challenging problem, but seeing the busy scenes of young interns at the law firm.

"Their desks were filled with ringing phones, the printers continuously spitting out documents," recalls Lan.

Despite the often-discussed stress of urban life driving many young people to leave the hustle and bustle behind, there are still plenty of individuals striving for their dreams and contributing to the prosperity of big cities, she says.

The drama also features depictions of some real-life real estate tycoons. However, due to the difficulties of reaching and interviewing people of such high stature, Lan and her creative team had to find alternative sources, turning to biographical books of magnates like Pan Shiyi, cofounder of SOHO China, and Wang Shi, founder of China Vanke Co, for insights and inspiration.

Through the process of polishing the tale, the scriptwriter has gained a profound understanding of Chinese people's connection to property, which is deeply rooted in their culture and history.

Through interviews with many people who have made Beijing their home, despite some of them not having hukou (permanent residence registration), the scriptwriter says that she has found owning an apartment provides a sense of security, giving them the impetus to strive.

According to statistics from the China Television Artists Association and the Beijing Municipal Radio and Television Bureau, the drama, which concluded its first run earlier this month, surpassed all other TV dramas during its broadcast time and has accumulated 2.7 billion clicks on all related topics on major social platforms like Sina Weibo.

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