Audiences Are Mysterious Crowds, Keep Own Style
— An Interview with Herman Yau, the Director of Shock Wave

The gangster action film “Shock Wave” based on a real bomb case, produced and starred by Andy Lau and directed by Herman Yau, will be on in China mainland on April 28. This film of which the investment is up to 180 million yuan is starred by celebrities including Andy Lau, Wu Jiang, and Jia Song. The climax of the film rests with an explosive ordnance disposal (or EOD) action happened in the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom of Hong Kong To shoot this film, the crew set up a duplicate of Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom on a scale of 1 to 1, which is remarkable.

In order to approach bomb EOD experts, the actors Andy Lau and Ron Ng made sufficient preparation. They met with EOD experts, listened to all kinds of bomb cases shared by the experts, and learned about basic knowledge and skills about bomb, and the process to handle bombs and also how to drive EOD vehicles. In the film, Andy Lau will also wear a bomb suit of 70 pounds. When talking about his understanding of the role—an EOD expert, Andy Lau stated that: “The meaning of my life is to save the lives of others”, which reveals the sublime professional duty of EOD experts and policemen and spiritual kernel of this film.

The film is directed by the experienced Hong Kong director, Herman Yau. He has directed about 70 films of different genres, including thriller, inspiration, comedy, and gangster. He is featured by diversified styles and uniqueness. In the interview, Herman shared with us the originality of this film and confessed his idea that “audiences are mysterious crowds”, which means, it is hard to deliberately cater the audiences and the very point is to maintain your own style of creation.


CFM: The majority of your former works are of relatively low costs. However, this film, “Shock Wave”, has large investment. What makes this film attractive to you?

Herman Yau: Investment is, actually, not a major thing I need to consider for making a film. The key is what I want to film. Maybe it is because we have Andy Lau in this film, which makes the public think that this is a big investment. Actually, the investment of “IP Man Final Fight” I directed before was also high. The setting of Hong Kong in the 1950s in that film cost us 1 billion yuan. Luckily, this setting is used as a film studio after the shooting. It prolongs its service life. Unlike that one, this simulation of Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom set up for this film “Shock Wave” will be broken down after the shooting.

Moreover, how big an investment may be called big? The standard for defining that is also a problem. Of course, we have invested a lot in “Shock Wave” and certainly spent a lot of money in it. However, my original intention is not about making a grand invested film, but about that I want to make this film.


CFM: When filming and producing “Shock Wave”, how did you allocate inputs of different links?

Herman Yau: For how to use the investment, firstly, the setting of the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom must be set up. Besides, we need cars running in the “Tunnel”. We bought hundreds of cars for this film. There are also action and blasting scenes, which are indispensable elements in this film. It’s like we eating. The staple food – rice needs to be ensured firstly. So, for usage of the fund, I must firstly guarantee the input of these important aspects.


CFM: Gangster films are always strong points for Hong Kong filmmakers. Do you think there is any innovation in “Shock Wave”?

Herman Yau: I think that one of the innovation points in this film is the profession, EOD experts. We don’t actually have any Chinese films which really explored this theme, EOD. In this film, every detail in bomb disposal by Andy Lau is real, because we have made enormous, profound and meticulous researches on it. How on earth bombs are look like? How to dispose them? We’ve consulted many experts and also read intensively about these problems. This theme was hardly touched on in previous Hong Kong films, even rarely mentioned in Chinese films. At least, it is so as far as I know about films.

Besides, this film takes Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom as the main setting. This is no precedent in former films. Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom is one of the landmarks of Hong Kong. It is known to not only local Hong Kong people, or Chinese, but also the whole world. It is a symbol of Hong Kong. Therefore, audiences will feel different about this film.


CFM: As you’ve note, the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom in the film was set up on a scale of 1 to 1 and was scheduled to be exploded during the shooting. What is the most difficult thing for you encountered in the process of shooting?

Herman Yau: Since the scenes and scales of this film are grand, especially in terms of action design, many plots happened at the same time while at different places. Thus we should consider a step ahead when arranging them. Or else, the schedule will be out of order. Therefore, I considered things a lot every day. What to shoot for the day? Which cars are used in this scene? Problems like these. If I fail to manage them well, then we need to change our schedules, and reset various scenes and props. It spends a lot of time.


CFM: You were a very prolific director in the 1990s. Have you changed in terms of creation frequency and style?

Herman Yau: I haven’t noticed any change in creation frequency. Only on the 2017 FILMMARK, I have five films having their debut, including “Shock Wave”, “Be with You” and also an animation. Some of these films don’t have any large scale of promotional activities. The quantity is not small, indeed. My creation style has, more or less, matured slighting, I think. After all, I grew older and saw more in the years.


CFM: As a Hong Kong director, do you think there is any change in the taste of current Hong Kong audiences?

Herman Yau: I was asked about this question a lot. Although I gave them answers, I have never really get down to this question. If I want to know what changes the audience have had, behind that attempt, it means we want to know what the audiences really need. As for so called “to capture the audiences”, who can really understand the audiences? Audiences are mysterious crowds. How can you understand them? What makes a film a blockbuster is, more or less, a sort of luck. It is impossible for filmmakers to be 100% certain that a film will sell well when they are still creating them. I don’t believe they can do it.

I won’t alter my creation in light of these so called “audience taste”. What kind of film the audiences will like to see? Why do audiences buy tickets? I don’t think I can really get the answer?


CFM: How do you think of the creation environment for Hong Kong films? Can you share with us your opinions?

Herman Yau: Actually, I don’t see any major changes as for creation environment compared with before. If you mean that mainland market has censorship problem, I should say that this problem always exists. It existed as early as I start my career in filmmaking. It existed even as early as in the 1930s. Now, mainland China is a huge market, just like Taiwan in the past. Taiwan also had various limitations before. To get the best of creation under limitations, this is a problem for every era.


CFM: Today, a lot of audiences may feel that the “Hong Kong Flavour” of films made in Hong Kong is fading away. How do you think about this problem?

Herman Yau: I don’t feel that it is fading away. But, if it is, it is mainly reflected in the reducing of quantity of films. In the 1980s, there were more than 300 films every year. And now, it is about 50 films. It truly reduces in terms of quantity. However, if we talk about “Hong Kong Elements”, firstly, we don’t necessarily need to use geographical region to divide creation styles. What kind of people the director is? What kind of film it should be? Not all of them can be conceived.

If I am about to make a film and I want to make mainland audience understand and accept, how can I know the result at the very beginning of creation? I’ve always heard opinions this and that. People will discuss like “This one is good. Audiences will like it.” I feel that these are all lies. How can you possibly know that? Did anyone know that “Lost in Thailand” would turn out to be a bestseller when it was shot? To imagine what the audiences and market will like in the stage of creation, I don’t think it is quite feasible.


CFM: Can you briefly introduce your creation plans in future?

Herman Yau: If all goes well, I will participate in some of the projects of Universe Entertainment. Gangster films again. Additionally, Andy Lau’s company is preparing for a literary film. No action scenes. However, it is not sure that which one will progress faster. We should consider schedules of the actors.

I certainly hope that I have a certain style in film making. However, it is not something I can deliberately devise. Films are made for audience for appreciation. If they think I have a kind of style, I will certainly be happy of that; however, if not, that’s fine with me.


CFM: Can you talk about your opinions about Chinese movie market?

Herman Yau: I think most of the people today think they know what the market is like. China is a big market. Many people may talk about it as if they hit the nail on the head, as if they know what mainland audiences want. But, China is so spacious and different regions may vary greatly. Just like reading scripts. If a play is written by a Beijing playwright, it will be difficult for Hong Kong crew to understand. However, Han Han’s works, for instance, are southern-style Chinese. It is not that difficult for us. We have different dialects and different wording and expressions for people of different regions in China. Even singly considering from the aspect of geographical region, it is not a responsible way to say that it is able to understand audiences of the entire China.

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