Over a year of closed borders in China continues to mean a lot of work for locally-based filmmakers. But with it, comes along a new generation of Chinese filmmakers, who are becoming more in demand. The market is so hungry for new talent now that it gives some of these new directors an opportunity to skyrocket their careers. We talked to one of these young directors, Adam Liu, whose works cannot go unnoticed, as well as his story.
A Beijinger Adam Liu thinks Shanghai’s pace is too fast and especially in the advertising world, which is still relatively new to him. Having shot a feature film before, his career as a commercial director really only took off last year, when he moved to Shanghai due to a lot of demand. Learning quickly, however, paid off – in a short period of time, Adam has shot notable commercials for brands like Adidas, Nike, Alipay, Under Armour, BMW, Minsheng Bank and IKEA. “Last year, I didn’t shoot that much, only a dozen or so spots”, he shrugs off, “I want to shoot feature films in the future, but it doesn’t mean I’ll abandon advertising. I just want to shoot interesting, meaningful commercials. I’m not too much into traditional advertising, the era has changed. And in recent years, especially, we see a lot of ads with relevant topics, that have social importance in addition to advertising attributes. In fact, from the content and image expression alone, some of the ads I’ve seen are the same as the movies. For a creator, at least for me it’s all about having something to say, to share your views. In the end, it is still about the idialistic attempt- what will you have influence on, what will you change”, Adam shares.
Client 客户：工商银行 中国银联 央视网
Adam’s very strategic about his career in the advertising industry, which in his words, gives him an opportunity to meet different DoPs, editors and other professionals, as well as the ability to shoot various genres in a short time. For instance, until he met his trusted editor Song Yang, Adam often did the editing himself. Not surprising, given he’s graduated from Communication University of China Nanjing with a Director/Editor major. When we ask about why he became a director, Adam instinctively turns to a joking reply, that his grades were bad, and that’s why he ended up studying filmmaking. “No, really, why did I become a director?”, Adam asks. He continues after a long pause: “Maybe I’ve watched too many movies as a kid. When I was little, there was a lot of pirate DVDs sold downstairs from a bicycle street vendor. I used to buy big piles of mostly Hong Kong movies, and watched them all the time”.
Everything from his movie references, to his favorite directors and his insistent repetition that an idea must have a deeper meaning in advertising makes it abundantly clear that Adam is a film-oriented director. He explains he’s good at “commercial” filmmaking, which could be interpreted as mainstream and successful. He gives the example of “Forest Gump” to highlight this point. In Adam’s view, this classic movie is very commercial, but at the same time it is packed with deeper meaning, which gives people something more. In other words, shooting ads that are just ads, with nothing behind it and no impact on the audience is boring to him.
He can’t name his favorite director, but he admires works of Christopher Nolan and An Li. Though it doesn’t mean, Adam’s aspiring to shoot like them. “It’s not about a genre. Each of their movies is like a vessel to express ideas, provoke feelings and emotions. It can be a sci-fi or not, what matters is what these directors express”, the director shares. An Li’s name comes up once again, when we discuss the topic of Chinese style of advertising.
For Adam, advertising and feature films are intertwined, and he explains the lack of distinctively Chinese style in ads by the rarity of feature films telling a Chinese story. He regrettably notes: “Before, Chinese film culture was very strong, very distinctive. An Li’s “Eat Drink Man Woman” is one of the examples of a ‘completely Chinese film’. The past 20 years was not just the time of change, it’s a rapid change. A lot of cultural elements have disappeared. Films, same as advertising are lacking specifically Chinese elements. Sometimes even foreigners are shooting more characteristically Chinese spots, That’s bizarre!”. In Adam’s view, a Chinese story is not necessarily something traditional, or old. It could be a reflection of what matters today and what’s happening now in China. To further illustrate his point, Adam gives an example of Iranian movie “A Separation”— in his view, that story could only happen in Iran, and that makes it unique. The director believes, there are a lot of untold Chinese stories. And he would like to try his hand at expressing those, both in feature films and commercials.
Director 导演：刘亚当 Adam
Coming back to his advertising career, Adam says one thing he wants to say to his past and future collaborators is “I’m sorry”. To him the result, a good commercial film matters over anything else. Adam elaborates: “I’m very considerate about the creativity. Advertising first and foremost is an idea, the story. I respect that a lot, as it’s other people’s work and I don’t interfere with that. But how to realize that idea, how to bring it to life with filmmaking— that I’m quite clear and determined about. Maybe, I don’t always express it well to other people, but in the end everything I insist on is for the result”.
Client 客户：BMW 宝马
Production 制作公司：MOD 上海茂田文化传媒有限公司
Director 导演：刘亚当 Adam
See more of director Adam Liu’s work below