In 2012, as Editor-in-Chief of the content operating center of V.SOHU.COM, Shang Na created the internet drama, Diors Man. In 2014, she produced the internet drama Fleet of Time, and the internet variety shows Secretly Greatly, all of which proved influential in the industry. Later on, Shang Na produced the movie A Hero or Not, an upgraded version of Diors Man, which was a box office hit, raking in RMB 1.16 billion. After the completion of A Hero or Not, Shang Na produced the TV drama. She is Pretty, the internet dramas Solaso Bistro and I are Not Bullied By Girls and the movie Twenty.
The movie A Hero or Not earned RMB 1.16 billion at the box office. What made it so successful?
In the current market, a successful movie should feature a sense of blockbuster and meet the real expectations of audiences. With the enhancement of aesthetics in Chinese cinema, Chinese audiences have growing expectations of the quality of the films they watch. When we produced A Hero or Not, the most important thing was to create a sense of comedy blockbuster. The thought of blockbuster and high expectations are not equal, so a successful movie should strike a balance between its position and promotion for best market effect. I believe that it’s poor content quality rather than program length that can deter an audience. We will not follow the market blindly. We always seek to take the lead and reshape it.
You achieved remarkable success in your time at Sohu, why did you leave?
I left Sohu because I saw a market opportunity. Before the Chinese internet film and television industry began in 2014, the video industry competed for traffic by purchasing copyright and expanding coverage of various content. The copyright competition led to exorbitant prices offered by producers and great reluctance from internet video platforms. Those online video platforms had been investing heavily and had differing opinions on the success of such investment. In my opinion, the model adopted by Diors Man and A Hero or Not can generate strong intellectual property through the platform of Sohu and enlarge their value in the film industry and the traditional market. I think establishing Sohu Pictures to support the platform is a great concept. I devoted considerable effort to this undertaking, but there was no way to implement it, so I left in December 2014.
In 2016, you returned to your role as Vice President of Lajin Entertainment Network and CEO of Lajin Pictures. Was the internet variety show The Birth of Star your first work there following your return?
In 2016, independently-produced internet variety shows had a break-out moment. Lajin Entertainment Network better positioned itself against its competitors in the entertainment industry. The Birth of Star was a pioneer in presenting such content. We are not a TV show production company, and we don’t have our production team. We have an overall strategy: to build a network platform integrating movies, TV, reality shows and actors. The Birth of Star was our first major undertaking in this area. We knew we had to choose the right people, get to know them through the program and enhance their market value. I don’t expect the program to be a blockbuster, but we needed it to become a recognizable brand. The brand aspect of the project was related to the strategic layout of Lajin because there were to be film and TV projects later. Through idol cultivation shows like The Birth of Star, we choose industry players with great potential and sign contracts with them. Then, we introduce these players to the company’s film and TV projects, and the growing influence of individuals will bring about new projects.
With international recognition, you are the only judge from Chinese Mainland participating in the semi-final round of the International Emmy Awards. What is so unique about judging these awards?
I was astonished and honored to have received the invitation to judge the International Emmy Awards semifinals. I feel so lucky to be able to participate in the judging of these top international television industry awards, and I was also curious about the operating mode of this kind of global judgment and how the judges maintain independence and impartiality. When watching these programs, I found that the production level of TV dramas are nearing those of the United States, and the overall quality of TV dramas has dramatically improved. More and more countries are inclined to produce contemporary themes that reflect strong social values and social topics, which is consistent with the principles we have always adhered to. At the event, I met many industry professionals and exchanged opinions on the film and television industry. I also introduced the current development of the Chinese TV drama market. This was a rare opportunity for us to get to know each other.
Photo with the International Emmy Awards judges
Since 2015, some Chinese film and television companies have been cooperating with Japanese television broadcasters to work on TV show remakes. Some indications making Chinese versions of favorite Japanese TV shows has become a trend. What’s your opinion of the remake of Japanese TV dramas?
In the years since China’s reform and opening up, many Chinese social phenomena have coincided with those of Japan, especially in China’s first and second-tier cities. When we obtained the adaptation rights of Monday no Aru Restaurant (A Restaurant with Many Problems) and Saikô no Rikon (The Best Divorce), we didn’t notice that both of them were written by Yuzi Sakamoto (a famous Japanese screenwriter who wrote Tokyo Love Story). Our reasoning behind acquiring the rights was mere that the social commonality of the two dramas matches the typical phenomena of contemporary Chinese society. The originals are excellent and were highly praised in both Japan and China. Therefore, we did not hesitate to enter negotiations for the adaptation rights. In the process of negotiation, we found that the Japanese people are very concerned about the copyright of their work, and are especially cautious about the copyright of high-quality works. For example, some comic book authors do not sell remake rights, because they fear to destroy the originals through poor performance from actors. Also, they have very high demands when it comes to choosing partners. It’s not a matter of simply purchasing copyrights. In the negotiation process, they wanted to know our company’s production strength and the general direction of production. Meanwhile, they wanted to know the standard of our previous works. We provided a very detailed adaptation plan, analyzed the Chinese market, and demonstrated the strength of our past works. After many rounds of negotiation, we were granted the adaptation rights. The Chinese version of Monday no Aru Restaurant (“Solaso Bistro”) was lead-acted by Jiao Junyan, who forms a female “vengeance alliance” with the six other actresses. From the broadcast of its first episode on March 23 on V.QQ.COM to the broadcast of the last episode, it gained more than 150 million natural hits, more than 100,000 bullet screen comments per episode and a Douban rating above 6.0. From controversy, in the beginning, because it’s a remake of Japanese drama, with its growing reputation following its initial broadcast, this is no doubt indicative of an upswing for remakes. Saikô no Rikon (The Best Divorce) will be our next remake, set to be shot in 2018. The project is currently in the preparatory stages.
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