Eric.

Notes and Such

foxadhd:

Beyonce thanks God for award at VMAs

THE CHINESE ‘AVATAR’ IS A PRODUCTION THAT WENT TO HELL

Transformers: Age of Extinction has made more money in China than it has in America, heralding a new age when any Hollywood film that hopes to successfully cross into international markets must feature something Chinese… image

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albeit tangentially so….

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But the success of recent American blockbusters in China raises an interesting question about China’s domestic film industry: will the Asian world power remain just a distributor and consumer of hits from America, or could it produce international hits of its own? Could the world’s second largest film market use its abundance of capital and labor to release Transformers/Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter-caliber big-budget spectacles, and cement China as a new Hollywood? 

One wealthy Chinese man certainly thought so. This is the story of how he wrote and produced Empires of the Deep, the most expensive Chinese film ever, and what was once hyped as the Chinese Avatar. The resulting film was sadly a Chinese Avatar in the same way that a shoe is a Chinese cheeseburger. Here is a story of a movie production that failed, in every possible way it could fail.

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In 2006, Jon Jiang (above), a real estate mogul and one of China’s wealthiest men, decided that he was going to write, fund and produce a movie franchise that rivaled the Hollywood films dominating box offices worldwide. Despite having no experience whatsoever in filmmaking, Jiang was certain that his Empires of the Deep—an English-language underwater action-adventure, and the first script Jiang had ever written—would become a multi-picture, global movie phenomenon that would spawn action figures and theme parks. Jiang was absolutely sure that his idea would make “500 million yuan in China, and 700-800 million USD worldwide.” Unlike most people who conceive of a movie idea they are sure will be a hit, Jiang would actually put up the money to test his confidence. Big mistake. In the proceeding years he watched slowly, as his dreams of box office gold turned into unreality…

 imageSoon after, Jiang conceived of and undersea, mermaid-filled, action-romance titled Empires of the Deep. Interests became piqued across China. The Chinese press stayed abreast of all developments in Jiang’s quest to turn the country into a filmmaking powerhouse. The first question on everyone’s mind was which master director would Jiang name to direct his film? Zhang Yimou? Chen Kaige? But Jiang dismissed both directors, saying, “They are not qualified to make my films. The films they make are of no value to me.” 

Given his high bar for quality, which filmmaker did Jiang deem talented enough to be trusted with Empires’ budgetwhich had been ballooning from $50 million USD in 2006 to $100 million USD in 2009? Strangely, Jiang hired the director of Hollywood’s infamous mega-flop Catwoman, a VFX artist known only as “Pitof.” Famed critic Roger Ebert so hated Catwoman that he gave the movie just one star, then said Pitof “was probably issued two names at birth, and would be wise to use the other one on his next project.” But Pitof not that wise, and neither was Jiang, it seemed, for hiring him.

Further indication that Jiang may not have been entirely up to the task of making China’s Avatar was that even Pitof quit the project soon after he was hired, citing the difficulties of getting his directorial input through to Jiang. Jiang then replaced Pitof with an little-known director named Jonathan Lawrence, and by late 2009, Empires of the Deep, whose budget had now climbed to $130 million—the highest ever for a Chinese movie—finally began to film.  All eyes were now trained even closer on Jiang, as a movie of Empires’ massive scale could not afford to flop. 

Starting in early 2010, after some shooting had been completed, Jiang began promoting his movie incessantly to boost its good will. He organized a huge press conference for the movie in Beijing, featuring dancers wearing ocean-themed costumes. The conference also featured the movie’s star Olga Kurylenko doing the requisite speaking of a few lines of broken Mandarin, to a Chinese audience’s patronizing laughter:

Jiang then began touting that his film was in fact a U.S. – China co-production, with its one hundred and thirty-million dollar price tag partly footed by an LA–based film company called E-Imagine Studios. Next, a few stills from the set were released that displayed elaborate props and costumes. Some concept art was shown as well, which made the movie seem like it could be cool…

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Jiang’s PR push certainly worked in generating positive buzz for the movie around the world. Even The New York Times was inspired to profile one of the set visits that Jiang started regularly giving to reporters.  The news of US investment, the promising still photos from the film, and the rumors of sequels combined to give Empires at least the sheen of a big summer event film. Jiang even brought a “3D consultant” onto the film who had actually worked on Avatar, to oversee the effects.The photos of well-constructed sets amidst swathes of green and blue screen led to great anticipation for the movie’s finished footage. Wouldn’t the colorful worlds depicted in the concept art look incredible as CGI on screen?

But a trailer was soon revealed, and it turned out the resulting movie’s CGI was indeed incredible, just like its acting—-in that they both appeared very, very fake:

Thanks to the above trailer, all the good will towards Empires of the Deep evaporated overnight. As the clip made its way to movie sites around the world, people were baffled by how the film showcased above could possibly have cost 130 million dollars. Where did all that money go?  Jiang clearly saved tons of costs by hiring mostly unknown actors… image

…not paying for a decent font designer….

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…and padding the movie’s runtime with a Windows 98 screensaver:

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After the public got a glimpse of the actual 3D special effects that Jiang so hyped up in press releases, no one considered Empires of the Deep to be a serious contender to Hollywood movies. Even Chinese moviegoers, who are generally presumed to be less discerning, were not enticed by with what they had seen. For fun, let’s contrast the press clippings from before the trailer’s release with those that came after it

                                                         Before:

If the producers pull it off — if the finished film looks like they actually spent $100 million to make it — [China] will begin to attract more real co-productions. - NY Times

After:

Though you wouldn’t guess it from the look of its trailer, Empires of the Deep cost more than $130 million {[to make] CinemaBlend                                         

Before:

Kurylenko took the role “…because of the 3D” she said. “I had seen already ‘Avatar' and I was like, oh my god, it’s amazing and something like that would be great. - IndieWire

Get ready for another “Avatar” experience in cinemas!            - ChineseFilms.cn

Announced more than two years ago as a Chinese response to Avatar - Hypable 

After:

…a movie that looks like a crappy underwater Avatar 
-Collider

Before:

Empires of the Deep features extensive visual effects that will set it on the level of a Hollywood studio production                -Press release

After:

I have never laughed so hard watching a movie trailer            -Movieweb.com commenter Jonnred

 Around the time the trailer was unveiled to great ridicule, it also came to light that Jiang’s US co-producer, E-Imagine Studios, was actually a shell company set up by Jiang himself, just so he could call his movie an “international co-production” to make it sound good.

You’d assume a guy with creativity like that could at least write a good script. It turned out he could not. Randall Frakes, Jiang’s co-writer and script translator, did not care for the Empires script, calling the real estate mogul’s ideas “at best muddled, and at worst incomprehensible to an international audience.” Frakes continued, “I did not hold out much hope of this film being accepted by the general public, either in Europe, the States or even in China.” 

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It cannot be confirmed what the plot of Empires of the Deep actually is, because it has been reported as something different with each passing year. The generic titles in the trailer don’t help either: image image

I’ve tried to piece together some semblance of a plot through gathering set photo, but with each additional photo comes only less certainty of what the hell this movie is about:

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And as if Empires of the Deep wasn’t confusing enough already, the production also never revealed what language the final film was going to be in. Olga Kurylenko recounted, “I acted at some point with a guy who only spoke Chinese to me, and I had no idea what he was saying.”. 

And while the international crew and cast Jiang assembled admired the tenacity, creativity and focus of their fellow crew members from China, many expressed their disdain for Jiang’s leadership. After Pitof, two more directors quit the film out of frustration. “The manner in which this film had been run was unlike any movie I had ever been involved in and [was] just not something I could continue to work with,” said Michael French, the third director to exit the project. Apparently, while Jiang lacked filmmaking experience, it did not stop him from insisting on control.

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At one point, mismanagement caused the shoot to be 3 whole months behind schedule. The movie’s release date was pushed from Summer 2011, to 2012, to 2013, to finally no release date, when the unanimous negative reaction to the trailer indicated that an international release would all but flounder.

The comments section of this blog post from roberthood.com features the crew and cast’s real-time cries of outrage as they trudged through the shoot. There were multiple accusations that Jiang lied to staff and ignored contracts to avoid having to pay people, and that he “force[d] the actors and crew to jeopardize their health and safety by shooting in dangerous locations and conditions.” Another extra on the film wrote a lengthy, bitter account of his poor treatment on set. He described one instance where the costume department accidentally ordered a rubber suit that was too big for him, and then tried to adjust the suit’s tightness by super-gluing it to his naked body:

“I began to experience some minor irritation. I examined the [glue] bottles they were using and, sure enough, found a large warning in bold caps: Avoid contact with skin.”

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When filming wrapped in May of 2010, one extra cheered:

“For all the trials, errors, power outages, bad food and delays, it was a real blast to be part of this production… one year from now when this movie is released the only thing any of us will remember is that we were in it. Look mom, that’s me, smile.”

But sadly, as of 2014,

“Five years after production began, there’s little reason to believe this film will ever see a big-screen release.” 

Not everyone who worked on Empires of the Deep spoke badly about their experience.. For example, when asked about her experience filming Empires, the film’s star Olga Kurylenko fondly recalled, “Oh god, I forgot about that! That was a long time ago, what’s going on?”

The film currently still has no release date. Its official website is defunct, and searches for “E-Imagine Studios” or other Jiang affiliates have returned empty. But some recent reports on the film’s status say that another Avatar visual effects artist, Chuck Comisky, has been recruited to refine the effects of the film, meaning that a) the budget has grown even past the $130 million last reported and most importantly b) Jiang is pressing on for a theatrical release in the face of adversity. He seems be unwavering from a sentiment he expressed in 2010:  ”This is a Hollywood film made by Chinese. We’ll use our resources to market it so it will succeed. It has to.

Here’s hoping that for all the turmoil toiled and expenses expended, Empires of the Deep does see the light of day and make back some of its budget, even if it won’t be the “700-800 million USD” Jiang projected. Ideally Jiang will be able to get his film in theaters before 2016, when it would have to compete with another Avatar-style action film that takes place under water :

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The Daily Show (05.12.14) #BringHomeOurGirls

(Source: roselesli, via curlycomedy)

A post for men about creepy men

realsocialskills:

I wrote a post a while back about how some people are very good at getting away with doing intentionally creepy things by passing themselves off as just ~awkward~.

Recently, I noticed a particular pattern that plays out. While creeps can be any gender, there’s a gendered pattern by which…

(Source: realsocialskills)

amyspalding:

bikinikillrecords:

Bikini Kill flyer 1991

Always reblog.

amyspalding:

bikinikillrecords:

Bikini Kill flyer 1991

Always reblog.

(via emilyheller)

“Let’s be clear about one thing: I know exactly what I’m doing. What about you?”

—   Interesting thoughts from a well-written essay by a college freshman who is paying for college with porn, to the people who have been belittling her and shaming her since she was “outed”.  (via emilyvgordon)

callchelseaperetti:

kittykoti:

CHELSEA PERETTI KILLIN IT ON TWITTER

URKEL VOICE DIDDDD IIIIIII DO THAAAAAAT

gracehelbig:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT WITH YOUR LIFE?!

"Politeness is another word for deception," 

Interview...

zaksmith:

Are there any rituals you have when you do art?

Fuck no. I don’t have time for that shit and no real artist does. Pretty is far too harsh a mistress to dick around with cutting the crusts off your peanut butter sandwiches or praying to the four winds or lighting a candle to the ghost of Frida…