Not Much was filmed in Beijing during the summer of 2003. Filming during the aftermath of the SARS epidemic, was an additional hurdle for the first time filmmakers. This photo gallery shows you what it’s like making a movie on a shoe string budget in China.
An up and coming Beijing businessman begins a fated love affair with a singer working in his jealous business partner’s club.
Zhang, an up and coming Beijing businessman, discovers that his traditional values don’t match his position in modern society. When he starts redefining his life, an ever-widening rift opens between the people closest to him. Believing that changing the people around him will lead to happiness, he cuts himself off from his wife and business partner. After meeting Xiao Mei, a singer working in his partner’s nightclub, Zhang begins a love affair that fills the recently created void. His wife, who barely speaks to him anymore, is afraid of what will happen if he leaves her for good. She seeks help from Zhang’s former business partner who also has another line of work – running a prostitution ring. He is secretly jealous of Zhang’s success and resents him for keeping his hands clean by breaking off business ties. Seeing that Zhang is really in love with Xiao Mei, he orchestrates an ominous plan that will ruin her life and hit back at Zhang’s self-righteousness. When Zhang sees Xiao Mei degraded and in trouble he abandons her when she needs him most. Once he realizes his mistake it may already be too late.
Original Title: Mei Shen Me
English Title: Not Much
Total Running Time: 58:00 minutes
Director: Paul Hackett
Producer: Kyla Morris
Cinematography: Rick Curnutt
Composer: J.P. Zhang
Editor: Rick Curnutt
Original Format: DV
Screening Format: DVCAM, Mini-DV, DVD
Based on the story “Xiao Mei” by Kyla Morris
Screenplay by Kyla Morris and Paul Hackett
Directed by Paul Hackett
Produced by Kyla Morris
An Chi – Zhang Hao
Sun Qian – Xiao Mei
Zhang Chunhua – Big Boss
Han Ying – Ling Lan
Tuo Yi – Bar Boss
Andie Guo – Li Jiaqu
Hu Tong Hai
Wang Yi Min
Wang Chun Long
Paul Hackett – Director
Kyla Morris – Assistant Director
Kyla Morris – Producer
Rick Curnutt – Cinematographer
Ding Mu – Production Manager
Rick Curnutt – Editor
Wang Jun – Lighting Director
Lou Ye – Lighting Assistant
Sun Yang – Sound Recording
J.P. Zhang – Sound Editing
Kan Xu Zhe – Wardrobe
Wang Xin – Makeup
Li Hongyu – Production Assistant
Zhang Jianshi – Production Assistant
Liu Jin Rui – Production Assistant
J.P. Zhang – Composer
Li Shuo Feng – Musician
J.P. Zhang – Musician
Qin Ji Ye – Musician
Ding Mu – Musician
Wen Tao – Female Vocalist
Zhang Jian Yong – Still Photographer
Chen Junxia – Script Translator
Shi Yan – Script Translator
Dong Kun – Script Translator
Kan Xuzhi – Script Translator
Shooting for Not Much took place in Beijing during the summer of 2003 and post production lasted through the end of the year. Actual filming took 11 days and was shot on DV using the Sony PD-150 digital camera. This is quite possibly one of the lowest budget DV movies of of its size made in Beijing. The total cost of production including actors, crew, location and post production was around USD$4200.
Auditioning actors in Beijing during the summer of 2003 was unusually difficult as the city was recovering from the outbreak of SARS. To prevent further spread of the disease, most productions had been called off until the fall. In spite of the fact that most actors were out of work for the summer many were reluctant to work at all. Schools and universities were quarantined, limiting the search for student actors to waiting at school gates for people who looked like acting majors to come out. Surprisingly, this approach netted the film’s lead actress.
Zhang Hao , the film’s lead role, is played by An Chi, star of film and TV in mainland China. Playing opposite him is Sun Qian, graduate of Beijing Broadcasting Institute. They are joined by stage actor Zhang Chunhua who plays Zhang’s nemesis.
Local and Imported Talent
Not Much was filmed using all Chinese cast and crew with only a few exceptions. The only non-Chinese people involved in the production are writer/producer Kyla Morris from England, director Paul Hackett from Canada, and cinematographer/editor Rick Curnutt from the United States. These three foreigners met when their paths crossed living and working in Beijing.
On Making Not Much
There can be something preposterous and pretentious about writing a director’s statement. Making a film is an organic process. It is also a collaborative effort where no one can foresee the outcome with any kind of accuracy. Yet, in presenting and introducing our films, we make a great deal of final, unalterable, and declarative statements. It is as if we forget that making a film is a process, wherein the journey is far greater than the destination.
During the various stages of production, the director, if sufficiently invested, grows along with the work. When the process ends and the film is complete, the director emerges from a cocoon to see the finished work for the first time. In spite of spending upwards of a year working on something, the director is as likely to be surprised with the results as anyone else.
That is to say, any statements we make at the outset a film, will almost certainly be much different from the things we end up writing at the end. Every time we view a film we see something different. Watching films at different times in our lives has different effects on us. We don’t see things the way they are, but rather, the way we are. While we continue to grow and change, our films lay open to new interpretations and the statements we once made about remain fixed.
In discussing Not Much , now that it is complete, I see a nice dénouement. It is a film about priorities that ultimately leads to an irreversible change in an individual’s life. In any life, people’s priorities change. I see in my protagonist a man coming to grips with his changing priorities. In myself, I see the same things as I emerge from the journey of making this film a different person. When my original intentions for this film began to shift, it was because I was finding that newly discovered values and priorities were taking charge of me. Rather than making a film that presents what I already know, it is a journey of self-discovery that I have taken with the audience in search of reconciliation with new priorities. It makes it no less interesting that it is all done through drama.
A traveller returning home after reaching a far off land, is sure to feel different about his quest than he did on the day he first set off. Likewise, a director who emerges from an intense filmmaking experience will be a different person than he was going into it. Though it is a collaborative effort, the filmmaking process can be a deeply personal journey for the director and the actors.
This is all very personal. Of course, every frame of film that makes it on screen is personal. I am extremely grateful to all the actors, crew and supporters that saw this film through to the end.
Beijing, China – October 2004
Paul Hackett – Director
Born in England and raised in Canada, Paul Hackett studied literature and film studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. In 1998 he directed the student film The Gary Busey Story. After graduating with honours in 1998, he moved to China and began writing and travelling extensively throughout Asia. In 1999 he visited China’s remote northwest region and worked on the documentary film Xinjiang is Good . In 2003 he directed Not Much, his first feature film.
1998 THE GARY BUSEY STORY (student film)
1999 XINJIANG IS GOOD (documentary crew)
2004 MEI SHEN ME (NOT MUCH)
Rick Curnutt – Cinematographer, Editor
Rick Curnutt joined Trench Independent Film Group Beijing in 1999, and has worked as both a cinematographer and editor in China over the past five years. He participated in director Ju An Qi’s two experimental documentaries: There’s A Strong Wind in Beijing (post-production assistant) and Quilts (editor). He has also directed, shot, and edited three digital films: Pop! (1999), Xinjiang is Good (2002), and Choose One (2004). In 2003 he joined director Paul Hackett as cinematographer and editor for Not Much.
J.P. Zhang – Composer
J.P. Zhang has been involved in the Beijing underground music scene since the early nineties. In 1994 he started the rock band “Mo He” and continued to perform with the band until their break-up in 1997. In 1998 he began a solo career and played in clubs around Beijing. In 2002 he opened a recording studio outside the city. In 2003 he started a new band called “Magic Box” and presently performs and records in Beijing. In Not Much he not only appears on stage performing, but is also credited with sound editing and composing the original music for the film.