‘One Night Surprise’

By Liao Danlin Source:Global Times Published: 2013-7-23 18:13:01

Director Eva Jin joins the lead cast members of <em>One Night Surprise</em> for a photo call. Photo: Courtesy of Draw and Shoot Films

Director Eva Jin joins the lead cast members of One Night Surprise for a photo call. Photo: Courtesy of Draw and Shoot Films

A woman is pregnant. But who is the father? A new romantic comedy set for release on August 9 throws out the question. One Night Surprise stars Fan Bingbing as the woman in a predicament, with Jiang Jinfu, Hong Kong actor Aarif Lee and American actor Daniel Henney as the possible fathers.

Four years after Sophie's Revenge, a story about a cartoonist played by Zhang Ziyi trying to win back her boyfriend who falls in love with an actress played by Fan, writer-director Eva Jin (Jin Yimeng) has made her second rom-com more "sexy."

"I want to show women in their most out-of-control situations," Jin told the Global Times.

In One Night Surprise, protagonist Michelle is a creative director at an advertisement company who has high career ambitions.

The process of searching for a father for her baby, as expected, is actually a process of finding what she has not yet realized about herself.

"Whatever a man can give us, we can also get ourselves," Michelle says to her friend in the film.

Jin finds that society sets a different standard for women than for men, asking women to win a place in their career while also making marriage a leading criterion to judge success.

Thus, Jin intended to present women's toughness and how they handle the dramatic situation.

"Single mothers are a social phenomenon… I want to create a character that they can identify with," said Jin. 

A cartoonist who studied opera

Just like the fictional Michelle and Sophie, Jin has always led an active and optimistic life.

"Without dreams, what do we live for?" she said.

Not many people know that Jin has published three comic books and few people know that she studied Italian opera as an undergraduate and was once a singer.

According to Jin, when she was learning acting for opera, she liked coaching other actors and filming music videos.

After making her decision to become a filmmaker, she went to Florida State University in the US to study film production and won a number of prizes including the Emmy College Award for her graduation work The 17th Man.

Later she was invited to direct the small budget project Sailfish (2008). Finished in 28 days, the art film was not distributed in cinemas. The experience made Jin understand that without stars or a professional method of distribution, it is hard for a film to receive wide recognition in the market.

Her life changing opportunity was when Zhang Ziyi came across her script of Sophie's Revenge through Warner Brothers China.

Now the renewed goal is to be a director who has her own style and brand. To tell the story clearly, in an interesting way and with a personal style is her three-step principle.

"My style is to have strong colors, full of imagination and filled with surprises," said Jin.

Script is the key

Hollywood is not a nice place, everybody knows. Jin said that it would probably take another 20 years for Chinese filmmakers to earn a significant place there.

Most of her classmates also went to Hollywood but many became assistant directors or production designers. Her way to survive is to create original ideas.

"My teacher once said that if you want to become a director in Hollywood there is no other way but to write a good script," said Jin.

After Sophie's Revenge, Jin traveled to Los Angeles to pitch film ideas to production companies and film studios: There she got a development deal with Paramount Pictures. She is also developing a television project with Will Smith's company, which got approved by 20th Century Fox.   

The two projects also helped her to become a member of the Writers Guild of America.

A good script also plays a crucial role when it comes to attracting an A-list cast. "If one star loves your script, he or she will bring a number of stars."

Realizing a dream

The name Jin Yimeng is not yet familiar to many audiences. Nevertheless, as more young people hold Hollywood dreams, Jin's example is inspirational. 

"My principle is to use the Hollywood way to tell Chinese stories. Hollywood has over a century of history. They have experience and technologies that can be used to tell a Chinese story," said Jin.

The cast and crew of Sophie's Revenge and One Night Surprise were both international.

Director of photography for One Night Surprise Michael Bonvillain, for example, is famous for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Wanderlust.

The background of her films could be set in any big city in the world, combining visual elements similar to a pop Korean television drama as well as a typical three-arc storyline.

What is as important as the talent is the ability to understand the context.

For Jin, the film industry in China offers more opportunities for women than many of the more developed industries because the line between art film and commercial film is not entirely clear here.

"The percentage of women that not only are actively involved in filmmaking but also have been noticed and accepted is high. I don't know if it will be the same five years from now but it is a great time now," said Jin.

Film critic Mu Weier wrote a review for Sophie's Revenge in which he indicated that it is one of the few modern urban romantic comedies in the market. 

That film made Jin the first female director earning over 100 million yuan at the box office. Yet the score she gave to herself was only 70 percent. She believes the film proved that the Chinese public needs entertainment more than ever and comedy is the best genre so far to satisfy that need.

Like many directors, Jin is focusing on the Chinese market and will be spending most of her time here.

"But I won't give up English scripts and co-productions," she said, adding that co-productions should focus on the Chinese side, inviting a few American actors to China instead of the other way around. "Otherwise, it would be their film with us only touching the edge."

Posted in: Film

blog comments powered by Disqus