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AU$ 2,069 pledged of AU$ 25,000 goal
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By Nathan Yun
AU$ 2,069 pledged of AU$ 25,000 goal
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About

What is it?

Kite Zhang’s Kites is a feature documentary about a unique Chinese art form, Mechanical Kites, created by kite maker Zhang Tianwei. After two months of filming and a long period of editing, I'm close to a completion of this journey endeavors to save this art form from the edge of extinction.

"The Crane"
"The Crane"
"How Mechanical Kites work"
"How Mechanical Kites work"

The Story...

Zhang has invented Mechanical Kites by combining his expertise knowledge in Chinese traditional kite making and modern mechanical knowledge. Zhang’s Mechanical Kites have been certified as a national intangible heritage and Zhang has been known as a national treasure artist. However, this national treasure of China is on the edge of extinction. Zhang is 77 years old today, but no one is willing to spend some effort and carry on this art form with him. The last wish of this old man is to find someone who can inherit this unique art form.

Zhang is a very wise and interesting character. With his landlord family background, he has lived through a very complicated time in China. In the 1960s kites and kite-flying were banned in China, but Zhang remained very passionate about his kites. After retiring from his mechanical engineering job in the 90s, he stayed at home and devoted the rest of his life to the creation of kinetic kites. Zhang has been making Mechanical Kites for almost thirty years and all of these kites work on wind power, which Zhang insists should be the only power for kites, because the Chinese word for ‘kite’ includes the character for ‘wind’. Some of these Mechanical Kites have been purchased by foreign collectors, most of them are kept in the local Intangible Heritage Museum.

"The Bronze Chariot & Horses"
"The Bronze Chariot & Horses"

Zhang's most famous kite work “Bronze Chariot and Horse” has been known as the most complicated kite in China. The piece has over 2000 joints and used 920 bamboo sticks in total. Most of the materials he uses are recycled, including plastics, paper, aluminum cans and reused wood from pencils. The tail part of this kite is 48 meters long, and consists of 192 terracotta warriors.

"Bronze Chariot & Horse in the sky"
"Bronze Chariot & Horse in the sky"
"The 'tail' of Bronze Chariot & Horses"
"The 'tail' of Bronze Chariot & Horses"

In this documentary, I interviewed Zhang, his friends, his family and some young Chinese college students. I asked their opinions about Zhang’s Mechanical Kites and it was fascinating to find out that people from different age groups and different social backgrounds have such different ideas about intangible heritage. Through this documentary, I wish to raise attention to the value and importance of protecting intangible heritage and traditional culture.

"Zhang and his Centipede Kite"
"Zhang and his Centipede Kite"
"Zhang and his kites"
"Zhang and his kites"

The Back Story...  

Through my travels in China, I have noticed that many cultural traditions, art forms and values are fading away in this country. I felt the need to create a documentary, which would raise attention to people, not only in China, but all around the world, about the importance of inheriting intangible heritage. Due to my very low budget, I planned the documentary to be centered on one artist with an art form that might disappear in a few more years. I want to understand what artists are going through in modern Chinese society and the reasons that might be causing the loss of the art forms. I have visited numerous museums and interviewed several artists and intangible heritage workers before I met Zhang. Zhang was fully open to my interviews and documentary idea, he feels an urgent need to find a proper apprentice who is willing to carry on his work. We met and started the shootings in 2013 July.

"Zhang and his wife"
"Zhang and his wife"
"Zhang in his studio"
"Zhang in his studio"

In regards to funding, so far I have paid for all the expenses incurred for my research work and filming in China with personal savings and some support from my family. During the second half of the shootings, Zhang has been very generous and let me live in his kite making studio. He also invited me to his family meals where I got to hang out with his family. I felt very warmly welcomed by his family and had a better chance to film his daily life. After a long period of rough editing the film is finally coming to shape. I returned to China in May 2014, to re-film some missing footage which was lost due to damage to my hard-drive. This film is now coming to the final post-production stage and I’ve found it difficult to continue the project on my own. I have reached out for help from my friends, but as yet, this has not been enough. I am also planning on a third shooting trip to China for this project. I would like to get a few more shots done, which I believe will really lift the quality of the whole film.

"Zhang's grandson flying his Dragon Kite"
"Zhang's grandson flying his Dragon Kite"
"Zhang's apprentice fixing his Scorpion Kite"
"Zhang's apprentice fixing his Scorpion Kite"

The Post Production

The major difficulties I’m facing in post-production are, firstly, in the final editing, color-grading, and Foley sound. Also, the film is in Chinese and that makes it very challenging for detailed fine tuning. Zhang often uses a local folk language mixed with non-standard Mandarin, which makes it hard for me to understand the actual meaning of his words, and as well, he often uses professional terms while describing his work. This brings us to the second major difficulty. I am looking for a professional translator who can communicate with me while I’m editing, and also translate the final film. As an Australian born Chinese, my proficiency in Mandarin is far from enough to translate this work. While many friends have been helping me out, the final translation still needs a professional. The third difficulty is with the musical score. In order to keep the Chinese taste of this film, I am looking for scores played with a very ancient Chinese instrument, the Guchin. The art of Guchin is also a traditional Chinese cultural heritage, which is on the edge of extinction. Very few people in China can play this ancient instrument today and even fewer musicians can play it with expertise. I believe music tells a story in a different kind way. Therefore, I see the music component as crucial in completing the film.

"Post-production"
"Post-production"
"Zhang assembling his Scorpion Kite"
"Zhang assembling his Scorpion Kite"

The Response

I started the shooting of this film with very poor equipment; one DSLR camera, one 35mm lens and one iPhone4 for sound recording. A local friend heard about this project and tried to help me, offering free meals and some camera lenses and tripods to borrow. It was also great that the head of Xi’an Intangible Heritage Office accepted to be interviewed for this project, and his views on the governmental position on cultural heritage fading away have provided balance to the film. A teaser of this film has been out for over a year, and has prompted many encouraging emails from people who have lots of childhood memories of kites, people who are very interested in Chinese folk culture, and they are all looking forward to this film. Many people have shown interest in the content of this film. I have also received a message from a UK professor seeking permission to screen this documentary in their university when it's released. 

I am very grateful to have many Chinese friends helping me through my journey, who care about protecting their intangible heritage. With great expectation comes great responsibility. I am no longer struggling as the sole producer/director with just one DSLR and one camera lens; the project has now begun to really take shape, with many other people on board. I now want to polish this film and make it as good as I can. I'm here asking for your help to make it shine. If I am able to reach the goal, I will be able to pay for another filming trip in China. There are still many shots that I would like to take and add in the film in order to make it better. With your help, I can finish this film by the end of this year (2015), and hopefully Zhang can find an excellent apprentice who is willing to study with him after watching this film.

"The Crab"
"The Crab"
"Zhang introducing 'Peng Zi" (Messenger), a unique Chinese kite flying tool."
"Zhang introducing 'Peng Zi" (Messenger), a unique Chinese kite flying tool."

The Rewards

$10 – A sincere thank you for helping.

$25 - An HD viewing of the film.

$35 - Above + A long Q&A session about travelling in China. (I know all the tricks!)

$45 - Above + A Postcard with photos of Zhang’s Kite.

$65 – Above + A Poster.

$95 - Above + A DVD copy of the film.

$185 - Above + A high quality t-shirt with Chinese calligraphy.

"T-shirts sponsored by T-REX Melbourne"
"T-shirts sponsored by T-REX Melbourne"

$595 - Above + An intangible heritage souvenir from China. (Personally picked)

$2,500 - Above + Your name in the credits. (As Special thanks to)

$6,000 – Above + I would introduce you to Zhang and a private guide through Xi’an.

$7,500 – Above + “Backer Producer” credit in the film.

"Budget"
"Budget"

Note: In my previous filming trips, I went kite flying with Zhang several times. However, Xi'an is a city with very gentle wind, which is very hard for Zhang's kites to fly. His kites usually need at least level 3 wind power. I am planning on a kite flying trip with Zhang and his grandson to Weifang, a very famous kite city in China, where the annual Weifang International Kite Flying Competition is hosted. I would be able to get much better footage of his kites in the sky if we're able to make the trip.

Risks and challenges

Most of the risks and challenges I have faced throughout the project are centered around funding. Working as a one-man-team has really required a lot of help from others. I was very fortunate to meet many kind people. Zhang’s generosity has also helped me out so much. However, in the future, my major challenge is still funding, I need your help to carry this project to its completion. Another big challenge is getting the musical score finalized. I have reached out for help in the Guchin community and Chinese folk music community, and connected with some musicians, but we will need to meet in person before going any further. One Guchin artist, Guan, has allowed me to use one of his tracks, which can be appreciated in the teaser. I already have a few options for a translator, but the final decision depends mostly on budget. In the end, this project was never made for profit. I wish to raise attention for culture heritage and Zhang’s kites. Whether this project reaches the goal or not, I would like to thank everyone in the Kickstarter community who is willing to help.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 10 or more About $8

    THANK YOU!

    I thank you, not only on behalf of myself, but also Zhang. With your help, we are one step closer in finding an apprentice for him, and carry on his skills and art.

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    Pledge AU$ 25 or more About $19

    HD DIGITAL COPY OF THE FINAL FILM!

    You will be one of the first viewers. Once the documentary is completed, I will send you a private HD link of the film.

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    Pledge AU$ 35 or more About $26

    Q&A TRAVEL TIPS/ADVICE SESSION FOR CHINA!

    All of the above + I've traveled to China numerous times, and as an Australian born Chinese, I know so many tricks that will be very helpful if you're planning to visit China, including tips for good food, less tourist-y places, ways to save money, how to avoid frauds, etc.
    We'll arrange a long Q&A session, I'll answer all your questions and give you my best advice tailored to your plans.

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    Pledge AU$ 45 or more About $34

    A POST CARD!

    All of the above + a post card of Zhang's kinetic kite.
    I'll select a few classic kinetic kites made by Zhang and print them onto a postcard.
    Please let me know if you have a personal favorite kite of Zhang's after viewing the video and teaser, I may be able to select it for your postcard.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 65 or more About $49

    A POSTER!

    All of the above + a poster of Zhang's kinetic kites.
    I'll select a few classic kinetic kites made by Zhang and print them onto a poster.
    Please let me know if you have a personal favorite kite of Zhang's after viewing the video and teaser, I may be able to select it for your poster.

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    Pledge AU$ 95 or more About $72

    A DVD COPY!

    All of the above + a DVD copy of the final film once it's completed.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 185 or more About $140

    A COOL T-SHIRT!

    All of the above + a high quality t-shirt with Chinese calligraphy.
    Special thanks to T-REX Melbourne, the team behind these t-shirts. They are willing to sponsor free t-shirts for this project. These t-shirts are made with very high quality cotton and prints. The Chinese characters represent the old wisdom of China, which can be found in ancient Chinese philosophy manuscripts.

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    Pledge AU$ 595 or more About $450

    AN INTANGIBLE HERITAGE SOUVENIR!

    All of the above + an intangible heritage souvenir from China. I will personally pick traditional souvenirs from the Xi'an Intangible Heritage Office. These original hand-made artifacts are very hard to find in shops, most of them are not even for sale.

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    Pledge AU$ 2,500 or more About $1,891

    YOUR NAME IN THE CREDITS!

    Thank you very much for your help, you will get everything listed above, and your name will be in the credits as "Special Thanks To…...".

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 6,000 or more About $4,539

    MEET ZHANG!

    You will get everything listed above, and I will introduce you to Zhang. I will show you around the city Xi'an, and be your personal travel guide and translator. If you're lucky enough, you might be able to buy a kite or an artifact made by Zhang!
    (Zhang doesn’t usually sell his kinetic kites, any sales depend on his mood, the buyer and how much he loves that kite.)
    (Travel and accommodations not included.)

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    Pledge AU$ 7,500 or more About $5,674

    BACKER PRODUCER CREDIT!

    You will get everything listed above, and you will also become a part of my team. Your name will be listed as "Backer Producer" in the film credits. I will invite you to every event about this film in the future. You can preview the film before it's released and give me advice; and your input will be gratefully considered.
    (Travel and accommodations not included.)

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Funding period

- (35 days)