“I want to go along in step with you to make a really awesome film,” Lu Yang said to his crew at the beginning of the project. The “Brotherhood of Blades” director spent five years dedicatedly in making the best Chinese visual effects the world has ever known.
In the two-and-a-half years devoted to post-production, Lu saw half of his previously black hair turn gray, indicating how hard it has been to make this film. The director said they had used some special effects technologies that had never been used before for any Chinese film, and he was happy to be a trailblazer exploring something from nothing.
The fantasy thriller, produced by renowned filmmaker Ning Hao and starring Lei Jiayin, Dong Zijian and Yang Mi, focuses on a novelist who is amazed to find the fictional world emerging from his pen is influencing the real world in a surprising way; meanwhile, a father who is desperate to find his missing daughter agrees to help a mysterious woman assassinate the novelist because the latter’s fiction is leading the woman’s boss to become weak and close to death.
A highlight in the film is the making of 15-meter-tall “Red-haired Ghost,” a celestial figure. Completely made by CGI technique in a process that took more than two years to complete, this ruthless figure was the most complex and difficult creation for the visual effect artists.
After being adjusted dozens of times with different versions, the character has more than 400,000 hairs on its head, as well as over 900,000 skin follicles on the body. Many foreign and domestic peers of Lu have praised this marvel.
“I can’t believe Chinese domestic production can make such impressive special effects to this level,” exclaimed Wu Jing, the actor who once visited the studio. In recent years, Wu has directed and starred in several phenomenal blockbusters such as “Wolf Warrior 2,” the highest grossing Chinese film of all time, and the highest-grossing sci-fi work “The Wandering Earth.”
Actually, the team behind “A Writer’s Odyssey,” formerly known as “Assassin in Red” based on writer Shuang Xuetao’s fiction, is from China’s top visual effects company MORE VFX, which previously provided services to “The Wandering Earth”, “Ne Zha”. “Legend of Deification,” as well as the upcoming “The Yinyang Master” and “Detective Chinatown 3” scheduled for release during the forthcoming Spring Festival.
Xu Jian, CEO and founder of MORE VFX, is visual effects supervisor of “A Writer’s Odyssey.” After he finished the script, the first words he spoke to the director were “are you crazy?”
Xu led an 800-person team to produce the visual effects over a period of 30 months. He said this was the most difficult task he had ever experienced. Before it, Xu’s most monumental work was “The Wandering Earth,” for which his team worked for nine months.
He recalled his team had encountered numerous difficulties during the post-production process, adding that, “sometimes during sleepless nights, and I just wanted to give up, but the director always encouraged me to hold on.”
Director Lu Yang said he was there to make sure every scene was presented in perfect form. “I like to inspire everyone to dig up something better,” he said.
In order to create a unique oriental world full of exquisite fantasy, the crew set up more than 20 sets in an area covering 170,000 square meters. They were not only using virtual shooting technology on a large scale for the first time, but also integrating multiple technologies such as virtual shooting, motion capture, live-action shooting, CGI and others, which has established a brand-new industrial production process precedent for Chinese domestic films.
Xu added that he believed what his team has done for “A Writer’s Odyssey” amounted to a new industrial revolution for domestic production. “After so many years into my career, this time I felt I really had turned out a visual effects blockbuster.”
According to “The Wandering Earth” director Frant Gwo, after “A Writer’s Odyssey” was made, many films have started to borrow technologies from it, including last year’s war epic “The Sacrifice,” co-helmed by Guan Hu, Gwo and Lu Yang.
Lu Yang said the visual effects in “A Writer’s Odyssey” are all made in China. But he went further to say, all audiovisual languages are tools, “what I hope most are that people can appreciate the stories and characters in the film. “
“I wanted to cry after I read the script, I’m speechless,” actor Lei Jiayin said. The actor was usually sleepless without drinking and eating on the set, in order to immerse himself into the role of the anxious and desperate father agreeing to be an assassin in exchange for finding his daughter.
Every character in the film refuses to obey fate or give up, and wants to fight for hope and belief though in despair.
Another main actor Dong Zijian, who played the novelist in the film and who lost 20 kg in weight for the film yet still remained energic, shared his belief in the value of the film, “I felt I was involved in a particularly awesome cause, I feel tireless.”
“A Writer’s Odyssey” will hit screens on Feb. 12.
Source: china.org by Zhang Rui February 3, 2021
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