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How'd she do that?

SHANGHAI TV wants to film Somali pirates in action. Discovery Channel wants to film a typhoon raging across Taiwan. No problem. British film producer Kim Taylor is the go-to person. She makes it happen, reports Sam Riley.

For British film producer Kim Taylor, impossible is nothing as she routinely achieves the seemingly impossible in helping major global media track down China stories. She also helps Chinese media hunt down global stories.

From finding Somali pirates this year for a Shanghai Television crew to chasing typhoons off the coast of Taiwan for the Discovery Channel - no request is too difficult or far-fetched.

Taylor left a life in academia to set up her own production house in 2006, which not only makes documentaries but also helps journalists in both China and abroad nail down stories.

Her company, Kaimu Productions, helps foreign film crews with almost every conceivable thing they could need when filming in China, including finding talent, organizing all the logistics of a shoot, managing filming and translation and even providing post-production services.

Kaimu's clients are a "who's who" of media organizations, including the BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

Though she has been fascinated by China all her life, Taylor grew up in the landlocked southern African country of Zambia.

Her mother is Malaysian Chinese, her father is British, and he works in construction. The parents still live in the country's capital Lusaka and Taylor visits regularly.

"It is just beautiful with a very high quality of life, a number of expats live out there and it is a much slower pace of life," she says.

Taylor left her home in Zambia to study Chinese at Durham University, and as part of her studies she came to Beijing for her first visit to China in 1990.

"There were no cars, it was only bikes and during the winter there was only one vegetable - baicai (white cabbage)," she says.

"It was bought in by the truckload and they would leave it outside to freeze over winter and it would cover the roofs, the balconies and by March we had eaten it all. I don't think I could do it again but when you are that age it is one big adventure," she recalls.

After finishing her degree, Taylor was accepted into Cambridge where she completed a master's degree in philosophy in the history of medicine, studying both traditional Chinese and Western medicine.

She spent 10 years in academia, finishing a PhD and receiving a post-doctoral fellowship.

"It (academia) was fascinating and there was a part of me that really enjoyed the subject and researching, but the rewards are quite limited," she says.

"There are very few financial rewards and the fruits of your labors are very slow to come. It can take years to publish a book, months to publish an article and very few people may read them."

In her post-doctorial work, Taylor came to Shanghai to continue studies into traditional Chinese medicine but after research funding ran out she decided to dramatically change course.

"I thought to myself 'what I like about history is the storytelling' and getting all this written material and trying to find a coherent argument," she says.

"I love storytelling and documentary making is essentially storytelling in a visual medium, and while it is harder to convey complex ideas it is much more accessible and reaches a much greater body of people."

So, Taylor studied at New York's School of Film and Video Arts before launching Kaimu.

But her production company grew out of her role as a so-called "fixer for foreign film crews." She would organize everything from transport, accommodation and equipment to making a shoot go smoothly.

Her first big gig came with Discovery Channel's "China Atlas" program, which launched Discovery's new High Definition Channel.

Over the last three years high-profile jobs kept coming in, including helping the Discovery "Raging Planet" series in Taiwan where Taylor worked with storm chasers to film the island's fearsome typhoons.

Kaimu helped a National Geographic crew film the Mosuo matriarchal society in the remote Lugu Lake area of southern China's Yunnan Province.

She delved into the family tree of celebrity chef Rick Stein for the BBC series "Who Do You Think You Are?" Stein's great grandfather Henry Parkes had lived in Guangzhou and Foshan, both in Guangdong Province, as a Methodist missionary.

In June 2006, Taylor began filming her first documentary "Shanghai Quest" which was spun off into a local television series on International Channel Shanghai. The film about three intrepid young entrepreneurs in Shanghai went on to win the audience choice award at the Roving Eye Documentary Film Festival at Rhode Island (US state) in May 2008.

She also produced and directed 14 episodes of the ongoing weekly television series.

Her latest project, however, opens up a whole new aspect of her business, helping Chinese crews access stories around the world.

In early 2009 she gained exclusive access for a Shanghai Television crew to the French Frigate FS Floreal that was chasing Somali pirates off the coast of Africa.

The frigate captured eight pirates during a 10-day patrol, all caught on film. Taylor also coordinated Chinese filming in Djibouti, a small country on the Horn of Africa that is the base for international efforts to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and along the Somali coast.

Taylor says she is looking for experienced editors, directors or producers to join her production company. Anyone interested can contact Kaimu Productions at 5272-2121.

Kim Taylor

Nationality: British


Profession: Film producer


Description of self:

Determined, kind, reliable.

Favorite place in Shanghai:

My home.

Strangest thing seen in Shanghai:

A pane of glass being transported between someone's legs on a moped. The force exerted by the oncoming wind was exactly matched by the force applied by the pair of legs securing the pane.

Worse experience:

Almost being stranded on Chongming Island for two days due to fog that suspended ferry services. Add to that a fading mobile phone battery and no way to change contact lenses.

Motto for life:

Never say never.

Things that could improve Shanghai:

Ban cyclists from riding on the sidewalks and ringing their bells madly at pedestrians from behind, and get rid of those annoying television screens in taxis.

Advice to newcomers:

Fasten your seatbelt and prepare for the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime!


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