Set in 1998, King of Peking follows a traveling film projectionist who, with the advent of DVD, starts a small pirated movie business from home in order to keep custody of his son.
“I spent most of my 20s with my head down, hungrily pursuing goals that were squarely for my own self-interest. I’m now in my mid-30s and am about to be a first time dad. Coming to terms with impending fatherhood, I realized that from now on I’ll need to try and set a good example for my daughter. I need to shift my life from “what can I get away with” to whether it’s actually a good example for her. Sure, I might fail in my efforts, but at least I have to give it a go.
And so several months back I started writing this story about fatherhood, piracy, and learning to be a responsible adult. There’s a Chinese phrase, “有其父必有其子”, which means “like father, like son”. This is an exploration of how the paths we choose as adults can affect our kids, and how sometimes it’s not just the child who has to do the growing up.”
– Sam (the guy who wrote the screenplay)
Until recently, villagers in China had to rely on traveling picture shows to watch new movies. In the countryside, there were no cinemas. Projectionists would travel from town to town and screen dubbed Hollywood movies in town squares. But when video hit the market, the traveling picture shows had to either go extinct, or find a new way to survive.
Our entire film crew was raised in Beijing and many of us are parents of young kids. The capital has changed heaps since we ourselves were kids in this city, and this is a chance for us to capture some of the Beijing we remember from our youth. Hopefully one day our own kids will get to watch the film and say, "You really grew up in Beijing when it was like that?" It sounds hard to believe now, but many of us spent weekends as kids attending outdoor screenings of Hollywood movies in Chinese parks and outdoor basketball courts.
Sam has been working on the screenplay for nearly two years. Our plan is to release the film as a Wei Dianying (Internet movie) in China, then take it on the road overseas, in many ways ourselves going back to the old traveling picture show days. Here's our projected schedule*:
SEPTEMBER - DECEMBER: Post-production.
EARLY 2016: Festival submissions.
LATE 2016: Completion of all rewards to backers, including movie.
* estimates only, but we'll do our damndest!
We're a small dedicated team, but we need your help and support to make this happen. Whether it's tweets, buying a perk, or shouting out from your bedroom window, it all helps.
And while we can't predict which cities and festivals King of Peking will eventually play in, here are a couple of places our last movie played:
We all know the Berlin Wall, but there’s another wall that separates East and West. It’s called The Great Firewall of China, and it’s a cyber barrier. The Great Firewall is like the Sphinx Gate in “The NeverEnding Story”, it controls everything that passes in or out of the universe. No really, we’re not kidding. In 2015 The Great Firewall has grown even taller. Kickstarter, for example, is intermittently blocked throughout Mainland China. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which act as ladders to climb over The Great Firewall, have recently been scrambled. So we’ve had to think of a creative way to reach those in China who simply can’t access Kickstarter.
Solution? We’re taking the International Co-Production film financing model and bringing it to the crowdfunding space. We call it a “Crowd-Funding Co-Pro”. Immediately following this Western campaign we'll have a Chinese language campaign taking place behind The Great Firewall. This separate campaign, we hope, will contribute about 15% to our total budget.
Good question! Check out the trailer below!
SAM VOUTAS (Writer / Director) An Australian, Sam was raised in Beijing. His films and documentaries have screened on TV channels such as The Biography Channel, NHK (Japan), KBS (Korea), CCTV (China) and PTS (Taiwan). Red Light Revolution, an independent Chinese feature film Sam wrote and directed, was released theatrically in Canada, the U.K and Singapore. It became a viral sensation in China when it was purchased by Tudou (China’s equivalent to YouTube), racking up over 6 million views. Sam has also acted in movies such as City of Life and Death and the upcoming historical epic Lady of the Dynasty.
MELANIE ANSLEY (Producer) Half Chinese and half Canadian, Melanie grew up in China and has always had a soft spot for films about moral integrity and the resilience of the human spirit. She started her producing career in documentaries exploring Chinese social issues. She completed her MFA in Producing at the USC Peter Stark program, where she was awarded the 2014 Women in Film scholarship. She recently co-wrote Don Quixote: The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha, starring Horatio Sanz and James Franco, which premiered at the 2015 Palm Springs Film Festival.
JANE ZHENG (Producer) Jane worked in radio and television for many years before studying TV journalism at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She was an associate producer for the 2009 theatrical feature film Gasp, starring John Savage and Ge You. Jane was also the executive producer of Red Light Revolution. Jane is the founder and owner of Seesaw Entertainment, a Beijing based production house.
YIFAN WANG (Cinematographer) Though Red Light Revolution was Yifan’s debut feature film as cinematographer, his previous credits run like a who’s who of Chinese blockbusters, such as Curse of the Golden Flower by Zhang Yimou, and Children of Huangshi directed by Roger Spotiswoode. He graduated from the Beijing Film Academy with a degree in cinematography.
Risks and challenges
As this will be released as a "Wei Dianying" (Internet movie) in China, the process of clearance for screening there will be simpler than traditional made-for-cinema releases. That said, no one can predict whether current regulations will change during production.
Another challenge we face is time. Like the protagonists in the movie, we're a tiny DIY team, meaning that it can take us longer to complete, say, post production, than a larger production company. We'll work like crazy to get our perks to you ASAP, but please bear in mind that independent filmmaking is a slow process.
But the most exciting challenge is finding an area that looks like Beijing as it was in 1998. While the capital has completely transformed since that time, we're confident that in the outer areas and neighboring cities, we'll find that retro Beijing flavor as it was in the late nineties.
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