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January 20, 2010

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Making movies in Shanghai

THE Shanghai Independent Film Association brings together expat and Chinese film makers, actors, writers and creative types to make new movies. Nancy Zhang interviews founder Richard Trombly.

After a hiatus of half a year, the Shanghai Independent Film Association is back in the swing for 2010, and the first event is the screening of a martial arts film by local Shanghainese film makers in early February.

The club, founded two years ago, aims to bring professional and amateur film makers, actors and creative types together to build ideas for new films.

Shanghai Daily talks to founder Richard Trombly, a former journalist, about local film making, and the stories Shanghai inspires.

Q: How did the club start?

A: I studied film and theater in college but then went into journalism as it seemed a more realistic career. By the time I came to Shanghai two years ago, I had been in journalism for 20 years and felt I'd had enough.

I got involved with a local expat group making short films, and just met more people doing film. The great thing about any expat community is that it's charged with energy, with people who had the drive to leave home. You get to meet the most interesting minds. I love people who have the energy to just go and do something, so I wanted to support local film makers.

Q: What's its mission?

A: To get people together and talk about what they're doing, find people who can maybe work together, and encourage the cross-pollination of ideas. The film community is very integrated, so we have a range of members, not just directors but also actors, cameramen and others.

Our events include screenings of films by members or local independent film makers, film shootings, and also drinks and other social get-togethers. Each time up to 50 people will come, and each time it's different people.

Q: What kind of film ideas have emerged?

A: We're currently working on a script called "Father John," which I co-wrote with another member. He was working for the US Embassy when he came up with the idea and he found people at the club who could help him realize the idea.

It's a spy story set in Shanghai and it's about the complex web of relationships and intrigues here that lie underneath the bright skyline, taking the main character through the labyrinth of Shanghai longtang (alleyway). We are now seeking funding.

I also shot several films in the past about the immense social changes taking place here. For example, my film "Waiting" was about a single-dad family from western China and how this juxtaposed with the very conservative idea of family in China. Modern forces are causing a breakdown in the family, so it was sociologically very interesting.

Another film, "Noah's Harvest," was about how cripplingly shy young Chinese adults, even well into their 20s, can be when it comes to relationships.

Q: Does Shanghai inspire film makers?

A: I'm so inspired by the stories here. It's a city of dreams. I think it's the only city name that has been made into a verb! Some independent film makers are drawn here by the stories they think can be found here, others come for other purposes and are later inspired by the stories here to make films.

In terms of the local film scene, there are also genuinely new things being done here and new ideas coming out from Asia. Local film makers can benefit from the contact with a variety of ideas and international people. When I first came, Shanghai was such a business city, but art is becoming more and more important.

Q: What are your hopes for this year?

A: We want to support more local Shanghainese film makers and get them more involved to exchange ideas. At the moment the club is 60 percent expat.

The next event, for example, is screening of a martial arts film made by local film makers. It's not really smooth or professional and not high budget at all, but we just want to help them meet more people who may come to the screening, and make some useful connections.

Film screening

Date: February 6, 6-9pm

Venue: Shanghai Loft, 739 Dingxi Rd

Tickets: 70 yuan (includes dinner and drinks)

Call 1381-8837-641 or e-mail to for more information about the film association.


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