China in Hollywood

Beijing, 20th of October


I'm now working as part of a translation team for a Chinese film company, that are making a new special effects facility in Beijing; the first project being an English language movie about mei3 ren2 yu2, mermaids, no less! The film is set to be an underwater 'Lord of the Rings' style adventure with a Hollywood cast and a French director. The director has already been enjoying life in Beijing for the last three months and the cast has yet to be signed up.

Chris at SigraaphSo three days after the start of the Olympics I was on a plane to Los Angeles to attend 'Siggraph 2008' the annual te2 xiao4, special effects, zhan3 lan3 hui4, exhibition. I went with some of the Chinese CGI team, the Chinese zhi4 pian4 ren2, producer, and the director. Our purpose was mainly to generate interest. Being the only 'native' English speaker in the team my responsibility was to talk to the attendees and answer their questions.

More dollars than sense

DIYAs we prepared to set-up at the exhibition hall, the realities of the differences in costs between China and the US became all too apparent. The exhibition wanted to charge us $2000 to set up the stand, and another 1000$ to rent one table and four chairs - for just three days. To my Chinese colleagues this seemed extortionate as it amounted to over 20,000rmb. For that money in Beijing you could rent a couple of luxury apartments for a month!

DIYSo the producer decided to take drastic action, and we drove to a nearby B+Q to buy tables, chairs, some wood and tools to build the stand ourselves! Waiting outside the store were lots of guys from Central America, mostly Mexico, offering their services as builders and electricians. With none of us being professional builders, the decision was made to hire one and we took him back with us to the exhibition hall to start work on the zhan3 wei4, stand. We got some strange looks from the other exhibitors as we worked through till 1am helping the Mexican guy erect our exhibition display stand. And it worked out beautifully, costing a princely sum of $200 in total (including $100 for the Mexican guy). We had saved nearly 3000$, which was deeply satisfying for everyone - and still managed to have an attractive display for the exhibition.

Chris at SigraaphIn attendance at Siggraph were giants such as LucasFilm and Pixar, and I found myself speaking to Hollywood bigwigs and special effects guys as interest in Beijing was at a real high. The success of the Olympics was making everybody sit up and take notice. What was amazing for me is that we had gone all the way to LA, the glamorous home of movie stars and Hollywood - and they were all talking about Beijing!

The place to be

Beijing streetI returned to Beijing in time for the end of the Olympics and was faced again with how much it had changed. Lots of the street food vendors and street sellers were banned for the games duration and many of the 'fake' DVD shops had closed, making the city seem like a quiet and slightly sterile place. However, there are some noteworthy changes. The new subway system is in place, with newer trains meaning coverage of the city is much better than before and tickets are cheaper than ever - its only 2yuan to travel anywhere in the city. The downside is that there are still airport like an1 quan2 jian3 cha2, security checks, on the subways and people are required to have their bags scanned. The visa situation is still very strict, and as I write this I am preparing for yet another trip to Hong Kong (sigh).

olympic flowersRent is slowly dropping again, and many people are happy that the Olympic mania is now over. However, 2008 has been a somewhat turbulent one for people living and working here and I asked the opinions of my new colleagues about their thoughts about Beijing, post-Olympic games. One of my new colleagues a translator, Zhang Hong, had this to say: "I am very proud of the Olympic games. Everybody is watching the growth of China, and China is in the spotlight of the world. I am proud China can hold such a splendid game. We are showing the world China has a very promising prospect. I also think the Chinese government should enhance their natural disaster watchdog that many casualties can be avoided."

colleague Li Hua.jpgI asked my other colleague Li Hua, who is an actress and the movie director's PA, what she thought the next big thing here would be for Beijing? She said: "The next thing is that the government needs to think about Chinese people more than Chinese economics. Keep the city clean and don't let pollution come back like before. I don't like the life after the Olympic Games in Beijing now because traffic and pollution is getting worse again."

Editor's note: Chris is writing Chinese words in 'Pinyin', Latin script, using numbers that indicate the tone of the word. Find out more with our course Real Chinese.

Sent by: Chris


Severah 2009-05-22

Hi Chris, You are such an inspiration to all of us. I moved to Shanghai last year to teach English but it didn't work out and I got pretty homesick with no friends there. I'm so glad you stuck it out these last years, you're brave and truely made me want to come back to China! By the way, the entry where you mentioned marriage and Chinese girls and foreign guys made me laugh. Are we to assume that you too have a Chinese girlfriend? :)

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Francisco Saldana 2008-11-01

I do not think this is a big deal but most of Mexico is in North America in terms of fauna, plants and geologically speaking. Technically Central America begins at the Tehuantepec Isthmus which is the narrowest point in Mexico. I have to say that Chris and his companions were quick studies in using Mexican labor in the U.S.

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