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A real-life Black Mirror story about searching for fame, fortune and human connection online. Winner of 2018 SXSW Grand Jury Award.
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274 backers pledged $20,933 to help bring this project to life.

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$20,933

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[New Incentive: any pledge at $20 or above will get a free ticket to a theatrical screening near you; $50 or above will get you two tickets! Details of our US theatrical release here.]

"Tragic and terrifying in equal measure, Hao Wu's look at China’s live-streaming culture offers a dark window into our collective future."  (IndieWire)

"Yes, Black Mirror is already here."  (Ars Technica)

In a digital universe where live streamers earn as much as $200K a month, can virtual relationships replace real-life human connection?  PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE tells the stories of two such online stars who've risen from isolation to fame and fortune in China. The film takes us on a vérité journey through their live streaming showrooms, which have become virtual gathering places for hundreds of millions - from the super rich who lavish performers with digital gifts, to poor migrant workers who worship them. The characters are brought together in a series of bizarre online idol competitions, where they discover that happiness in their virtual world may be as elusive as in the real one.

  • Grand Jury Winner – Documentary Feature, SXSW
  • Grand Jury Winner – International Documentary, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
  • Best Cinematography, CAAMFest
  • Best International Director, Doc Edge
  • Nomination, Best Writing, IDA Documentary Awards 

NOW WE NEED YOUR HELP TO BRING THIS FILM TO THE WORLD! 

Still photo of livestreamer Big Li screaming into his mic
Still photo of livestreamer Big Li screaming into his mic

 Why This Film?  

For anyone who's bewildered by young people's obsession with Youtube or Instagram celebrities in the west, the evolution of online culture in Asia, especially in China, may shock them even more. There, for various social and technological reasons, youths arguably are much more dependent on - some would say addicted to - the internet, despite heavy government censorship. 

Live streaming was not invented in China. It has been around in the U.S. for years, but has not taken off at mainstream scale yet. As with many previous new forms of social media in the west, live streaming has found eager and rapid adoption in China like nowhere else. Now 422 million people in China are watching live streaming, and the industry is expected to expand to $15.9 billion by 2020. Hundreds of live streaming apps are fighting for live streamers and viewers in this hyper-competitive market. 

The goal of this film, however, is not to introduce to viewers the bizarre spectacle of live streaming in China, but to provide a cautionary tale of what the future could become, for all of us, if we remain careless with our dependency on technology. Live streaming has developed a complicated virtual universe in China, a universe encompassing idol worshipping, conspicuous consumption, status seeking, and layers upon layers of profit making – basically a digital replica of our real life with a whole spectrum of human desires. The AV Club describes it as "a microcosm of the bizarre fantasy economy and complex, parasitic interdependencies of late capitalism as a whole."

Do we want to step into a future like that, especially when that future is already happening in China right now? Like a good Black Mirror episode, I hope this film will make viewers think about this question, after watching.    

Still photo of a typical fan avidly watching live streaming
Still photo of a typical fan avidly watching live streaming

Why We Need Your help?

We are planning to start a limited theatrical release in the US on November 30th, then we will make the film available for purchase/rent on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play in late-December. 

We are running on a tight budget to get the word out for our release. Below is a rough breakdown of the distribution costs:

  • Online advertising: $13k
  • PR: $12k
  • Theater booking and prints: $12k
  • Director travel: $2k
  • Digital aggregator fee (to get the film on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon): $2k

We have secured $21k of the $41k total budget, and we need your help in raising another $20k in order to launch our release on November 30th!!!

Image from the film
Image from the film

About This Campaign 

  • Why Kickstarter? 

As an independent filmmaking team, we were fortunate to have secured production funding and finished the film. (Hooray!) We were even more fortunate to have received industry recognition in the forms of festival awards. (Hooray! Hooray!) But as any independent filmmaker would tell you, finishing the film is just half of the battle. The other half is to get the film in front of viewers. YOU. 

After much deliberation, we decided not to give our film away to some traditional distributor, who may or may not work as hard as we do to find an audience for the film. We firmly believe that YOU are out there, online, and YOU will appreciate what we have done, both aesthetically and thematically. That's why we are distributing this film ourselves, so we can establish and grow a direct relationship with YOU. 

And that's why we are also here on Kickstarter, because Kickstarter is about more than the money. It is a great platform to build and engage a community of curious, bright and understanding people who care. YOU will be our close witnesses and our valuable partners, and we will be reaching out to YOU with ideas and updates. 

  • How can you help? 

We have 21 days to meet our $20,000 goal and raise funds that will bring PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE to  theaters and online. If we don’t meet it, none of the contributions will be processed and we won't get anything. It’s an all or nothing deal, so please lend your support: 

• Pledge! Any amount, no matter how small, helps to fund the theatrical release of PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE and allow the film to reach its full potential! 

• Regardless of whether you are able to pledge, please share our project with your social networks. Your tweets, posts, emails and conversations about PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE can help raise consciousness about the film and the topics it explores. Thank you for using your voice to spread the word! 

-like us on Facebook 

-follow us on Instagram

-share this Kickstarter campaign 

Image from the film
Image from the film

Rewards

China's live streaming world has its own intricate hierarchy based on a fan's spending level. As you spend more, you acquire aristocratic titles and the associated virtual perks (icons and digital vehicles, etc.) for you to build status in the community.

In the world of People's Republic of Desire, we would like to similarly reward our backers with digital perks and titles: 

  • FAN: an ardent backer. $1 pledge minimum.
  • BARON: a VIP backer. $20 pledge minimum. (At BARON level and above, you will get a digital copy of the film when it is available for sales online, plus exclusive extra scenes for Kickstarter backers. We will also list you with your "aristocratic title" on our website.) 
  • VISCOUNT: a VIP backer. $50 pledge minimum. (At VISCOUNT level and above, we will invite you to one of a series of communal online screenings and have a discussion with the director afterwards.) 
  • DUKE: a patron backer. $100 pledge minimum. (At DUKE level and above, you will receive a personal, handwritten thank-you note from the director. We will also customize a digital icon with your name in it so you can show off on social media!)
  • KING: a big patron backer. $500 pledge minimum. (At KING level and above, you can organize a screening of the film, any time, anywhere, and the director will Skype in for a post-screening Q&A.)
  • BIG BOSS: the big wizard controlling how the game is played. $1000 pledge minimum. (As a BIG BOSS, the master manipulator behind the scene, we will customize your image into the end portion of the film. Just take a selfie video and we will replace the following segment of the film with YOU, the star in our online universe!)

About The Filmmakers 

Hao Wu (Director | Producer | Cinematographer | Editor)

Technology executive-turned-filmmaker Hao Wu takes a raw and human approach to story-telling in an era when culture evolves online. Wu previously held management roles at Alibaba, TripAdvisor and Excite@Home. A self-taught filmmaker, his documentary films have received support from Ford Foundation JustFilms, ITVS, Sundance, Tribeca and international broadcasters. 

Director Hao Wu films Shen Man dining with a friend
Director Hao Wu films Shen Man dining with a friend

Jean Tsien (Executive Producer)

Jean Tsien has been working in documentary for 35 years as an editor, producer, and consultant. Her notable editing credits include Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing and Miss Sharon Jones! Tsien consulted on many award-winning films such as: Hooligan Sparrow, Dancing in Jaffa, Risk and Crime + Punishment. She executive produced Plastic China and The Oslo Diaries. Tsien has served as an editing advisor at the Sundance Institute Edit and Story Lab since 2010, CNEX Chinese Documentary Forum, and Dare to Dream Asia. Tsien is a member of American Cinema Editors and the Documentary branch of the Academy.

Eric Jordan (Graphic Design, Animation and Visual Effects)

Eric Jordan is an award-winning digital artist working in multiple mediums, with an 18+ year background in creative direction, graphic design, motion graphics, interactivity, user interface design, user experience design, 3D design/animation, brand/identity, and sound design. Recognized by .Net Magazine as one of the world’s top 20 international designers, Jordan has overseen the creative direction and execution of over 700 projects for some of the world’s top brands and Fortune 500 companies. Jordan has won multiple industry awards, including FWA’s “Most Influential Flash Site of the Decade”, and has been featured in numerous design-related books and magazines around the world. 

Michael Tuller (Original Score)

Serving as Trent Reznor’s programmer and sound designer, Tuller cut his teeth in film with the Academy Award winning score for David Fincher’s The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as well as with the band Nine Inch Nails. He serves as an additional composer for Mac Quayle on the Emmy Award winning music for Mr. Robot. Tuller also composes the score for the YouTube Red/Studio 71’s series Lifeline. His music has appeared in a long list of theatrical releases, indie films, documentaries and television programs. Besides composing, Tuller has worked with groundbreaking musical artists like Depeche Mode, Eminem, Kid Rock, Marilyn Manson, Madonna, and Duran Duran.

Risks and challenges

The timeline of online distribution is still to be determined. We are aiming for a December digital release. But QC and internal process at the digital aggregator may delay our launch.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1 or more About US$ 1.00

    Fan

    :: Special shout-out on social media

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    21 backers
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 20 or more About US$ 20

    "Baron"

    :: Digital copy of PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE
    :: Exclusive extra scenes for Kickstarter backers
    :: Website acknowledgement

    PLUS all the rewards above, including:
    :: Special shout-out on social media

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    129 backers
    $
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    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    "Viscount"

    :: Invitation to online screening and discussion with director Hao Wu

    PLUS all the rewards above, including:
    :: Digital copy of PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE
    :: Exclusive extra scenes for Kickstarter backers
    :: Website acknowledgement
    :: Special shout-out on social media

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    38 backers
    $
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    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    "Duke"

    :: Customized digital icon with your name
    :: Personal thank-you note from the director

    PLUS all the rewards above, including:
    :: Invitation to online screening and discussion with director Hao Wu
    :: Website acknowledgement
    :: Digital copy of PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE
    :: Exclusive extra scenes for Kickstarter backers
    :: Special shout-out on social media

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    41 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 500 or more About US$ 500

    "King"

    :: Organize a screening with your friends and director Hao Wu will Skype in for a one-hour Q&A session afterwards

    PLUS all the rewards above, including:
    :: Customized digital icon with your name
    :: Personal thank-you note from the director
    :: Invitation to online screening and discussion with director Hao Wu
    :: Website acknowledgement
    :: Digital copy of PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE
    :: Exclusive extra scenes for Kickstarter backers
    :: Special shout-out on social media

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    7 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1,000 or more About US$ 1,000

    "Big Boss"

    :: Record a selfie video and we will build your image into the end credit portion of the film!

    PLUS all the rewards above, including:
    :: Organize a screening with your friends and director Hao Wu will Skype in for a one-hour Q&A session afterwards
    :: Customized digital icon with your name
    :: Personal thank-you note from the director
    :: Invitation to online screening and discussion with director Hao Wu
    :: Website acknowledgement
    :: Digital copy of PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE
    :: Exclusive extra scenes for Kickstarter backers
    :: Special shout-out on social media

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    4 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (22 days)