Hello, I'm Kenneth Bi. I'm a writer/director in Hong Kong. We receive emails from all over the world asking us about the Hong Kong film industry, including what it's like having Jackie Chan as an executive producer on our film, Rice Rhapsody. Therefore we decided to start this blog on making films in Hong Kong. Please feel free to make comments and ask me questions!
READY-MADE ART DIRECTION
Like the setting of Ridley Scott's futuristic epic Blade Runner, Hong Kong is already a place where one needs to do basically no art direction to shoot on the street. The streets of Hong Kong are brimming with life: neon lights, steam from food stalls, colorful fruit stands, makeshift newsstands, weather-worn buildings juxtaposing with world-class high rises, and lively people. This kind of real life happenings is almost impossible to recreate on a set. What's better than the real thing?
When I made my digital video film A Small Miracle, I placed the actors against the backdrop of real life situations. We couldn’t afford to hire extras, so we filmed certain scenes with telephoto lenses while hiding in a corner, using wireless microphones. The result was just like real life. It was one way to let the actors act natural because they were not performing for the camera, but rather interacting with people on the street. It's hard to overact in public...
I even had a bunch of young people playing gangsters with cleavers in their hands chase the lead character down a busy street, while lots of housewives were buying grocery for dinner. All I had to do was let the shop owners on that street know that we were just shooting a film, "Don't call the police, those are not real gangsters!" And we got the shot.
In general, the Hong Kong government would not allow filmmakers here to block off a street for filming. As a result Hong Kong filmmakers have been forced to adopt a guerilla filmmaking style where we just show up and shoot. This type of filming style has provided Hong Kong films with a lot of visual energy and a great texture of the life of Hong Kong.
When Hong Kong was making three hundred films a year in the eighties, there would be occasions where three sets of crews from different films will arrive at the same location wanting to use it. Then it was first come first served...
There have been so many films shot on the streets of Hong Kong that the public rarely stops to watch the film shoot any more. The most they'd do is ask who's in the film and then move on. They might stay a little longer if it was Jackie Chan because chances they’ll get to see him perform a new stunt.
Speaking of Jackie Chan, who’s obviously the most famous actor/star to have emerged from Hong Kong, but there are many more excellent actors here. I will talk about my favorites and my experience working with some of them next time.