We recently traveled to Beijing and Shanghai to hold private screenings of SHANGHAI CALLING for specially invited guests. With all of the China expats and mainland Chinese in the audience, I felt like a biographer sharing his new book with the interview subject for the first time — excited, but nervous about how it would be received. On top of that, many of the “celebrity expats” we invited — China correspondents for The New York Times, The Economist, National Public Radio — showed up, so the theater was full of people who could sink the movie if they deemed it an inaccurate portrait of their lives.
Fortunately, the audience loved the film. After the screenings, American viewers thanked us for making a movie that could finally explain to their friends and families back home the strangeness of their daily lives in China. Chinese viewers told us how refreshing it was to see a movie about modern China, and not just another ancient martial arts epic. And both groups were surprised at how funny the movie was. I guess most expats don’t necessarily see their lives as inherently comedic.
What was unexpected for me was how many of the laughs came fractions of a second earlier than I expected. Every time we screened a work-in-progress version of the film in Los Angeles, I took careful notes about where audience laughs interfered with their ability to hear the next line of dialogue, so that I could go back and adjust the cut in the edit bay. (Comedy writers tend to be very obsessive about joke timing.) Apparently bilingual audiences catch jokes earlier than most.
I can’t describe how rewarding it felt to hear the fondness with which people spoke about the movie, and how willing these expats are to help us spread the word about it. SHANGHAI CALLING is all I’ve worked on over the past three years, and now we finally get to show the world what we’ve been working on.
After the Shanghai screening, I had the pleasure of meeting a guest who works at the U.S. Consulate, in the Diplomatic Security Service. (They’re like the Secret Service for the State Department.) As a kid I always fantasized about working in the upper echelons of law enforcement, so I was very excited to chat with him. He gave me this gift, called a “challenge coin.” On one side is the DSS seal, and on the other side is the seal for the Shanghai Embassy. They usually only give these to visiting dignitaries, but I guess they make exceptions for film directors!
Big news coming soon, stay tuned!Tags: beijing, china, diplomat, expat, journalist, screening, shanghai