Cui Siwei, a well-known Chinese screenwriter, participated in films such as CRAZY STONE, CRAZY RACER and NO MAN’S LAND, which achieved both box office and public praise. SAVAGE, a film written and directed by Cui Siwei, has been selected for the New Currents Program at the upcoming Busan International Film Festival in 2018.
The film is produced by Helichenguang International Culture Media (Beijing) Co., Ltd., supervised by Terence Chang, starring Cheung Chan, Ni Ni, Liao Fan, Huang Jue and Liu Hua. The film tells the story of a battle between a righteous policeman and a greedy robber, and is doomed to have a tangled and unexpected truth. The film will have its world premiere at the 23rd Busan International Film Festival. Cui Siwei is interviewed about the filming process of Savage by the Chinese Film Market.
Cui Siwei, born in 1975. After college, he worked as a civil servant for five years. In 2001, he enrolled into Beijing Film Academy’s Department of Photography to study film production. Since graduating, he has been mainly involved in film development and screenwriting. Projects he has worked on include: (Movies) “Mongolian Ping Pong,” “Crazy Stone,” “Crazy Racer,” “No Man’s Land,” “Love in Cosmo,” “Bleeding Steel,” “Piano Trojan,” “The Island,” (TV Series) “Hengshan Hospital,” among others. He is the writer and director of the 2018 film “Savage.”
CFM: It is said that you have written the script of SAVAGE for five years, and it was shot in the winter of 2016. Could you introduce the filming process of SAVAGE?
CSW: Over the past five years, I have written different versions of story from various angles, such as commercial film, literary film, and visual effects and so on. However, this script, which was shot, is almost the first edition. The manuscript was completed three years before shooting, without major changes. Each revision comes from some variation in my own understanding of the story, and I enjoy all of them. It’s interesting, but I adopt the simplest version finally. The biggest modification to this version is near the end of final filming. To keep things on track, some changes have been made to the plot climax because of the lack of time and bad weather. In this modification, Cheung Chan, Liao Fan, Ni Ni, Huang Jue, Liu Hua, photographer Du Jie, and associate screenwriter Huo Xin, participated in the revision and gave me good advice. Everyone was in a passion to create, and also personally on the scene, so this process was very excited and efficient. I think it’s real filmmaking, and it’s very rewarding.
CFM: It was reported that the film was shot in an extremely cold environment of -30℃. What difficulties did this environment bring to filming? Why did you choose such a shooting environment?
CSW: Indeed, the whole film was shot in the extremely cold region, and many scenes were near the peak of Changbai Mountain, with an altitude of nearly 3000 meters. But if you ask most people in this crew, they don’t feel much difficulty from the cold and waist-high snow, but all happy in retrospect. I think the main reason is that we want to make a different movie seriously. The whole crew was working really hard. So far, the memories about work are good.
SAVAGE is about human nature in extreme setting and extreme environment. Here is also a good presentation of the film’s setting.
The most difficult thing about this environment was time. The winter days in Changbai Mountain are very short. The shooting only can start around 9:00 in the morning. Generally, there was no proper light for filming before 4:00 in the afternoon. It brought us a lot of trouble. Effective filming time was too short for us. We were rushing for time every day, and rushing for time became a daily battle. The other key point was weather, and the film needed much more cloudy days. But only about one fifth of the entire filming period was weather-friendly. So we had to prepare several other filming plans every day. In order to offset the weather conditions, we had to hide in a deep mountain for a long time to shoot. There was very limited space and scheduling, and it’s difficult to get in.
CFM: Is SAVAGE your first feature film as a director? Why do you choose such a theme of police and bandits? What characteristics do you think a good story should have?
CSW: It should be my first feature film. I have been involved in the production of a feature film before. I like the story tension brought by police and bandits and the human experience under extreme conditions.
I think a good story, especially a good movie story, should have a unique context, real emotions, and care for the real world.
CFM: The film gathers full lineup of Cheung Chan, Ni Ni, Liao Fan, Li Guangjie, Huang Jue and Liu Hua. What factors do you consider when choosing an actor? How do you feel working with these actors?
CSW: The actor still has to fit the role mentally. Besides, actors have to be professional.
I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with so many excellent actors. I have learned a lot from them, including respect for films, strict requirements for ourselves, excellence in work, and tolerance and support for cooperators. The time I spent with them made me believe that all success was not coincidence. Their career success really comes from their dedication and their sincerity to themselves and their partners.
CFM: You are a veteran screenwriter who has produced many successful works. How did this experience has influence your work as a director? What do you think is different about your personal style and working style from other directors?
CSW: As a scriptwriter, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be a director. These are two different jobs. A screenwriter needs to be systematic and professional at the creative level, which is relatively simple; while a director needs more abilities, such as teamwork, quick judgment, key trade-offs, communication skills and so on. The ability of a screenwriter to help a director is obvious. Instead, being a director gives me a chance to observe and improve my screenwriting.
Unfortunately, I have only seen Director Ning Hao’s work. During the filming of CRAZY STONE, I worked as a scriptwriter with the crew all the time to be responsible for stills and documentaries. At that time, I didn’t know how to observe how a director works. However, Ning Hao’s state at that time made me understand that a director has to undertake a lot of work, and it is crucial to make unremitting efforts to achieve what you want. This is the responsibility and spirit of being a director. I think serious directors are pretty much the same at this point.