Thanks to Toony Wu and the talented team at Jelly Monster in Beijing for hosting an iAVRrc salon yesterday afternoon, featuring my presentation on “The Art of Indirection”, and a few words from Nokia’s Jill Smolin on the creative potential of the OZO virtual reality camera.
Thanks to Asa Butcher, Senior Editor at gbtimes, for his article on the inception and development of BAN JIN BA LIANG, Disney’s first Chinese TV co-production.
(A seven-year odyssey comes to fruition as Disney’s first original Chinese TV co-production.)
This week, I’m taking a break from virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality to talk about actual reality: Chinese stone lions are alive!
A “seven-year itch” was finally scratched as I watched the premiere of Ban Jin Ba Liang (半斤八兩 in Mandarin, which loosely translates to “tweedledum and tweedledee”) January 16th, 2016 on China’s Dragon TV channel. In 2009, Wen Feng, Yi Yan and I had the crazy idea to make a buddy comedy about Chinese stone lions. Initial development was bootstrapped by our Beijing-based content company Magic Dumpling Entertainment under the working title Stone Cold Lion, featuring our hearty heroes Chip and Nick.
My career in the arts and entertainment has taken me to a number of unexpected places, from The Walt Disney Company to China. In my 25+ years in the business, I’ve worked as an artist, animator, technician, teacher, consultant, entrepreneur, producer and executive. People make various assumptions about my educational background when they meet me, but everyone is uniformly surprised to learn that I graduated with a degree in painting.
The Cleveland Institute of Art’s Painting major taught me to conceptualize, visualize and apply myself in freeform creative situations where I had to rely upon my own instincts and inquiry to move forward. The skills I developed are as quantifiable as those from any design program, and have put me in good stead to handle uncertain situations where I not only need to come up with good solutions but also must determine the real issue. We are increasingly faced with such scenarios in our contemporary, multi-faceted, visually-oriented careers.
The following is a transcript of my presentation on VR storytelling principles, “The Art of Indirection”, delivered on December 1st at the 7th International Conference & Exhibition on Visual Entertainment in Beijing.
I’m here to talk about the development portion of the entertainment workflow, specifically related to virtual reality. My own background focused upon production during the first half of my career, the 12 years I spent with Walt Disney Feature Animation. After moving to China in 2008, I shifted my focus to development. This development work began in traditional areas of film and television – which I have taught here at the Beijing Film Academy – and shifted to virtual reality over the past year.
Virtual reality requires a different way of thinking. I believe you’ve heard this already. There have been great comments made today on this point, not restricted to virtual reality, but related to any new means of storytelling. When Demetri Portelli talked about shooting at 120 frames per second in 4k, he said something obvious, but also easily overlooked: the director needs to think differently about how to direct; the actors need to think differently about how to act; everybody involved in the production chain needs to review their assumptions, to adapt and expand upon what’s possible in the new media environment. This applies to VR as well. It’s easy to bring your preconceptions and old ways of working into play. In this respect – and I’m not the first person to make this observation – the current state of virtual reality is very much like the early days of… (full post on AWN)
Thanks to my friends & colleagues – within Disney and across the international arts & entertainment community – for the kind posts, emails and phone calls following the announcement that I am moving on from my role as VP & Head of Creative for Local Content at The Walt Disney Company Greater China.
I’ve received various questions, all of which essentially boil down to: “What’s next?”
First stop: decompression tank. I’ve enjoyed my deep dive with Disney in China over the past three years, but it’s a breath of fresh air to surface again. My infant daughter Claire Skye has brought new joy to my life, and I’m basking in the time that I am now able to spend with her. Cliche as it may sound, there really is nothing more important.
I look forward to resuming my independent endeavors in due course, and appreciate those who have already contacted me on this front. My career has been an oscillation between studio and indie pursuits, and it’s once again time to lose the reins and run free. China is not the place to be harnessed to a stagecoach.
On that note, I will continue my adventures in China, where I have lived & worked for the past 7 years. The energy and opportunity that drew me here in 2008 have increased exponentially, and great things are on the horizon.
My base of operations will change from Beijing to Shanghai this September. I would say that I’ll miss my northern friends & colleagues, if not for the fact that we’ll continue to see each other more than ever. There’s much to do together.
Your man in China,
I’m moving on from my role as Disney’s VP & Head of Creative, Local Content, Greater China.
I’ve enjoyed an eclectic career in art & animation that has taken me around the world in various roles as artist, animator, technician, teacher, consultant, entrepreneur, producer and executive.
Unexpected twists & turns have been characteristic of my path. I never thought that I would work for Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1995, and I never imagined that my departure from Burbank in 2007 – and my subsequent indie efforts in Beijing – would lead me back to Disney here in China.
In late 2012, I had the opportunity to found Disney’s Greater China Local Content team. Over the course of 2013 and 2014, we assembled a world-class Chinese content development team in Beijing, introduced Disney creative processes & standards, spoke at Chinese media conferences, engaged in community outreach with Chinese schools & institutions, consulted on local productions, developed 10 original & adapted local animation & live-action properties, created 4 high-performing pilots, and produced 3 popular local broadcast series.
I’m incredibly proud of the Greater China Local Content team for accomplishing the above with exemplary spirit and drive, and for delivering on the strategic & creative challenge of access and affinity in China: producing approved quality content that speaks to the hearts of China’s audiences.
Creativity has never been a job for me, but a passion. That passion has taken me on many adventures, and once again leads me back into the field.
I’ll see you out there.