Following on from the post on Looking China 2014, our Senior Lecturer Marcella Forster reports on the filmmaking project she undertook in Dalian with LSFM’s four graduating student-producers: During Looking China 2014 we were each asked to sum up our experience in one word. I chose “illuminating”. For me, the scheme shed light on Chinese culture in general and the Dalian way of life in particular. Our young translators and the Chinese filmmakers introduced us to local eateries, locations and people we would not have been able to access as tourists, and for this reason I would recommend the scheme to anyone interested in modern China.
We left Heathrow airport in London with little idea of what to expect in Dalian, other than what we had read on the internet and heard from other travellers. We anticipated good seafood, we hoped the weather would be fine and we wished for a warm welcome. Our hopes were answered, and our wishes were surpassed. A sea of people in lime-green shirts, waving Looking China 2014 banners and cheering, greeted us as we exited Dalian airport over an hour behind schedule (a typhoon had been threatening the city.) We were whisked away to our accommodation in the postgraduate dormitory of Liaoning Normal University and then taken out for a carousel of dishes at the university’s cultural centre, including some excellent kung pao chicken. We were offered forks but opted for chopsticks. The next morning, wearing our own lime-green Looking China 2014 polo shirts, we attended the launch ceremony at the west campus of the university and had a chance to look at some impressive student work in fashion, animation and art. UK students were then allocated a Chinese producer and a translator and got to work on their projects.
As an aid to location research, we were taken on a day’s bus tour of Dalian, visiting the major sites and the Russian and Japanese areas of the city. This gave the UK students some idea of areas to explore in more detail with their Chinese partners the following day. By now we felt a little more confident in the city and so we braved an outing to Mr Pizza without our translators. We got off the bus at the wrong stop but managed to find our way back to our accommodation.
The students had five days to shoot their films. Some brought their own equipment, others borrowed cameras from the university. I recommend checking what is available at your host university before you go and suggest bringing a laptop on which to edit.
Going on the shoots with the students was the highlight of my stay in Dalian.
It was a great opportunity to explore the city and meet interesting people with the aid of translators. The University of Lincoln School of Film & Media students shot in a tai ji boxing club and a traditional tearoom, among other places. The Cardiff students’ shoots included Dalian football club, the beach and local restaurants.
Rough cuts were screened the day before the final cut was due and feedback was given to the students by a team of academics. Originally the schedule allowed five days for editing, subtitling and rendering. The deadline was brought forward by a day, but the students adapted extremely well and managed to get the work done on time. There was then a further stage of academic feedback on the final cut, which allowed a day for modifications. The audience at the final screening included representatives from the British Council in Beijing. We then had a final meal and said our farewells. We left early the next day for Dalian airport, looking forward to sharing our experiences with our friends and families.
Everyone was a winner on this scheme. Chinese students got a rare opportunity to practise their English with native speakers and to learn about UK culture. The UK students gained a memorable experience of filmmaking in a country where they could not speak the language. Their flexibility, ingenuity and creativity were tested on a daily basis. They did very well on all scores.
What I gained personally is a better understanding of the culture, education and expectations of Chinese students who come to study at the University of Lincoln; I will now be able to support them more effectively.
But perhaps the most valuable aspect of this experience was the discussions we had. As the filmmaking process progressed and we got to know each other a little better, we found ourselves asking: What is culture? How do we represent it? What impression are we giving our audience with our films? Through these discussions, we discovered the similarities and differences in our cultures and our philosophies, and we learned new ways of seeing the world.