THE INTERVIEW/Lin J. Nafei, between Italy and China

Lin J.Nafei, is a young woman producer based in Beijing who has been involved in different capacities in many Chinese and international projects. She has recently founded  with Riccardo Pintus Gate99 Films, a production and service company based in Milan. We have interviewed her in Beijing via Zoom

How is the overall situation for the Audiovisual industry in China?
It has been a big shock, and it’s far from being back to normal. First of all the cinemas are still not open even though theoretically the Government allows them to open, with precautions, leaving spaces between seats etc. The costs to run theatres this way is too high and that’s why they are still closed and no movies would risk a release at this time.

Do you see any major changes in physical production and specifically in the way pre-production and scouting are done?
Not specifically in scouting. But in general you have to consider that China was already very advanced in the use of mobile devices. Pushed by big players like the mobile companies Huawei and Xiaomi there has been a lot of development of application in every field including the way business is done in the pre-production of the audiovisual sector. You cannot compare it to Italy, where people used to sit down in long meetings with a lot of participants. As for virtual locations, China is so huge that it would be impossible to digitalize even a small part of the potential locations. There is an intensive use of applications like WeChat, similar to Whatsapp, but much more powerful and rich in functions. So everybody in Chine lives now based on these new technology.

Do you see in China a movement out of real locations and more towards studio shooting?
Yes, but it is not a new thing, it’s a trend that has been there for many years. In China there are studios and sound stages almost everywhere where you can rebuild historic cities or other locations. A lot of movies and Tv series are shot in studios because it’s a more controllable situation. That’s not to say that real locations will be abandoned. Actually I think that for instance Chinese Tv series use still more “real locations” compared to US series.

Can you tell me something about safety protocols, if any, for post-COVID productions?
There are not many specific protocols for set, but it’s the whole society in Chine that has adopted new safety and health standards. I would say that many of these new standards were already somehow part of the culture in China and Japan, like wearing masks while out in the streets was already quite common even before the Covid -19 outbreak. So it comes very easy for us in this new situation

Do you think the new situation will make it more difficult for Chinese productions to shoot internationally?
Definetely, yes. It has actually been a very big shock on that side, mainly due to the fear of the local people and not only for the distance. I had a project where the Chinese producers wanted to go to Italy and they had to change it because bringing a huge group of people would arise fear, not only in relation to the country, to the destination but for the travel itself. If you bring 50 people travelling in a plane it still very risky.  But that is not the main concern. They were asking, once we get there what are the quarantine rules and if anything bad happens there we have to be blocked there and when we get back we have maybe to be quarantined here. So travelling these days becomes basically impossible. Also in China we are obeying to the rules and we do what we are asked to do which is not often the case of the Western world, and for that people are a little bit concerned.

What is your take on the future of China Audiovisual industry?
A lot depends of the developments of the international health situation. I do not believe this thing is over yet. We cannot say, this is behind us, let’s rebuild our lives and our business. As for other business the film industry has to follow the waves, trying to get on feet as soon as possible. In China shooting has started  again since last month. What is gonna change for sure is the distribution model. A lot of things will move permanently to the Internet and that will change also the way production is structured.

Nella sezione: Focus on italy