The Forum on Film Creativity of the 4th Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) was held in Beijing on April 18, 2014 with five veteran filmmakers sharing their experience on film creativity, planning and screenwriting.
French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, American producer Paula Wagner, French screenwriter Pierre Bismuth, famous Taiwanese filmmaker Peggy Chiao, and Chinese screenwriter and director Xue Xiaolu attended the summit, to try to give direction to the Chinese film industry.
Xue Xiaolu, who worked on the romantic blockbuster "Finding Mr. Right," said he didn't think creativity is mysterious, or a new topic.
"There should be a strong empathic relationship between creativity and the creator. It should be a seed that can be found by the creator him/herself and can grow spontaneously," she said, adding, "Many themes have been repeatedly discussed, and it is very hard to find a story that has never been told before. Therefore, we have to innovate and re-interpret the story to make it interesting."
She also said creativity calls for complete or partial adaption, but execution is more important than creativity. "Creativity is a perceptual process of brainstorming, while execution is rational and technological; it not only respects the film itself but also requires a resolute attitude to go through a long and tortuous journey. It is required to uphold the original creativity and pursue quality cinematic production," she said.
Famous screenwriter Pierre Bismuth, who is responsible for critically applauded "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," said from the perspective of a screenwriter that he felt that a creative process must in the first place destroy an established value system.
"Creativity doesn't mean quality that doesn't represent success. In most cases, success is defined by the existing standard. From the perspective of the screenwriter, we need to cooperate with like-minded people. As such, we will be in a position to communicate more effectively," he said.
Film scholar and producer Peggy Chiao pointed out that people must try to understand the profitability of films and filmmakers should think about producers, distributors and the audience. "The producer presents his creative ideas which will via the distributor go to the audience whose reaction will then be fed back to the producer," she said, "After the parties round off the creation, they will, in light of the changes in the audience and social trends, continue to innovate with genre films and new creative ideas. "
She believed creativity is also related to the development of language and technology, and the revelation of the deep-lying complicated issues about humanity and psychology via technology and language. She encouraged young people to read extensively, read more literature and theory, come into contact with various areas of society and even browse through "trash materials" on micro-blogs. Only in this way can young people develop a keen insight and good judgment, and cut a new path, through creative ideas.
"Creativity is elusive, but very crucial. The accumulation of ample materials is the prerequisite for creativity," she said, "With such inspiration creativity can become something competitive and profitable."
Jean-Jacques Annaud, the French director, whose classics include "The Lover," said, "We cannot ascertain whether or not a film will be a success before it is shot. But it is most important to understand your own story. Can you provide a brand new perspective for your work? Creativity means offering something beyond people's expectations."
He said that all film studio bosses expect a payback, and they are also willing to take some risks if they think they are worth it. "When I directed a film in Africa, someone questioned this and said that no one cared about a film on Africa. I didn't think so because they hadn't watched a movie with an Africa theme before. Later my film won an Academy Award," he said.
"During the planning phase for the film 'Avatar,' everyone thought it was crazy. ‘Gravity' was also questioned, because films about space were not accepted in the past. ‘Life of Pi' was originally medium-sized investment project, but later more money was invested, arousing doubts among the crew members. However, we all got good returns on our investment," he said.
Therefore, he would like to encourage screenwriters to spend more time thinking about the stories, "Don't be afraid that others might think your story is boring, and don't be upset by them."
Paula Wagner, the producer who produced the "Mission Impossible" franchise, said that nowadays, many people show interest in commercial blockbusters and distribution platforms. But actually creativity holds the core of a film as the film itself is a creation.
"I often contemplate issues from different perspectives in view of the overall film market and always come to the same conclusion that the core of a film is creativity," she said. For a producer, she thought the production of a film must be based on creative ideas, whatever its form, content and technology.
She also took "Mission Impossible" as an example, which was originally a TV series. Creativity played a crucial role in turning out enchanting TV series. In this case, creativity means original production, "I want to win over the audience in a special way for this film series with something sometimes very modern, sometimes very sci-fi and very international," she said.
"Though we have different cultural backgrounds and come from different regions, we speak the same language in films – cinematic visual imagery. This language brings us back to the starting point – a good design, a good creative idea or a good character. I have worked on films in ten countries including China. My fellow team members are from five to six countries. The fusion of our work experience helps us to come up with creative ideas," she said.