SHP+ continues on the issue of minor representation of female filmmakers in China. Women’s Perspectives is a series of articles where we interview women filmmakers to give exposure to their name and their work, but also talk about their dreams, challenges and realities of being a woman in the industry.
Getting up close with the in-demand production designer Zorana樱子 became one of the most unexpected interviews for SHP+. In her home, surrounded by Buddhist statues, with a gentle sound of chanting in the background, our conversation often detoured from the realm of professional into personal. Spirituality and a rock singing past seem to be inseparable from her career story, as much as sheer hard work. Zorana has been on the top of China’s production designers list for more than a decade, creating the style and looks for numerous commercial films from Mercedes, Haagen Dazs, Xianyu to Huawei, Midea, and Woolmark. But a career in production design wasn’t something she pursued from the start.
“I didn’t find production design. Production design found me”,— Zorana jokes. To the people outside of the advertising world, she is more known as a “gothic” rock singer. Until 2016, for 22 years, she’s been the lead singer-songwriter of 秋天虫子（Autumn Insect) band. “Because I was in a band, I was cast in a small role in a famous feature film 《北京乐与路》(Beijing Rocks). The director Zhang Wanting was very kind to me, and knowing that I studied Art, suggested I could try being a production designer”, Zorana continues. She studied Art in university, but had no production design mentor or formal training in that field, so Zorana learned the ropes of craft by watching “thousands” of movies and doing the job.
“我并没有想要做艺术指导，是艺术指导找到了我，”—— 樱子笑着说。对于广告界外的人来说，作为一名哥特式摇滚歌手的她更有知名度。22年里她一直是“秋天虫子”乐队的主唱兼词曲作者，直到2016年。樱子继续分享道：“得益于我的乐队经历，我曾在一部著名的故事片里《北京乐与路》里扮演一个小角色。导演张婉婷对我很好，当知道我学的是艺术后，她建议我可以试着当一名艺术指导。” 虽然她在大学学艺术，但樱子并没有艺术指导领域的导师，也没有接受过这方面的正式训练，因此自学成才的她，通过观看成千上万部电影，脚踏实地工作，掌握了这门艺术的诀窍。
Zorana’s band albums
Before moving into advertising in 2006, Zorana worked on 5 feature films. With that experience, the dreams of big screen which so many advertising professionals harbor, are now off her list. She agrees that longer, heavier work like feature film gives more credit. Especially in China— if you’re in movie, your work is considered much more serious and visually powerful. It’s also incomparably more demanding. “A career in the film industry is too big of a commitment. You don’t have a life at all. Yes, your passion “fuels you”, but in the end, there’s no life. I’m a passionate person as well, I care about the script. I can think into the story, create a whole universe around it. But I’m not sure I can do it again soon. Maybe after several years ”, Zorana admits. Making a living with commercial films, on the other hand, also allowed her to put everything into her music. Though, in retrospect, juggling multiple creative roles couldn’t have been less demanding than working on feature films. Perhaps, it was also Zorana’s way to renounce a conventional, boring life.
在2006年进入广告行业之前，樱子曾参与制作过5部电影。通常，有了这样的经历，大部分广告行业的专业人士的梦想都是能登上大银幕，但这个梦想却不在她的名单上。樱子认为像电影这样更长、工作内容更繁重的工作的确更值得赞扬。尤其是在中国，如果你在拍电影，你的作品就会被认为更加严肃，看上去也更厉害。当然，对从业者来说，摄制电影的工作量和压力也明显更大。樱子坦言：“在电影行业工作需要承担相当大的责任。你根本就没有自己的生活。当然，你对行业的热情可以让你 ‘用爱发电’，但时间久了，自己的生活就会被完全牺牲。我也是个充满热情的人，我关心剧本，我操心剧情，我会为它们量身定制一个宇宙。但我觉得自己可能没办法很快地再全情投入地来一次。可能过两年会考虑吧。” 另一方面，靠广告谋生也让她可以全情投入到音乐中去。不过想想看，在不同的创意领域同时扮演多个角色，工作量和压力或许跟拍电影不分上下。也许，这就是樱子挣脱传统、脱离无聊生活的方式吧。
“Boring” appears a lot in her vocabulary. Uninspired storyboards— boring, obsession about how to create more fame, more money— boring. Doing one thing at a time— boring. “We know everything’s not permanent, though we behave as if it was. For most of the people around, money, fame are the most important things. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if every minute of life is just for money, what’s the point?”, Zorana asks.
Admittedly, after more than a decade in the industry, Zorana’s more selective with the work she does and people she collaborates with. Even though what attracts her to a project, what she considers exciting— is hard to put in words. She attempts to explain: “It’s about the depth of the project, a kind of touch, a vibe that makes me feel like I want to do it. I have to see it, to feel the thing in front of me”. Pinpointing the qualities she avoids in professional interactions, on the contrary, is easy. Despite how great the end result is, Zorana avoids working with directors who have an overblown ego, and “tormented characters” who are too emotional to handle an efficient, pleasant work process.
Surprisingly, several times Zorana mentions that she herself “used to have a bad temper”. It’s very hard to imagine this image of her, not only by just talking to her but especially considering she has such a positive reputation as well. Though in her career she didn’t face the same challenges as female directors and cinematographers often do, Zorana admits at the beginning, people often judged her by her young looks, giving little credit. But she always insisted on what she wanted to achieve. Perhaps, that so-called “bad temper” is what a strong personality is often perceived for, when it comes to women.
When we ask about competition, Zorana readily admits there’s a lot of good production designers. But she’s made a name for herself by working hard. “Everybody knows my motto in advertising: 皆大欢喜。For me it means trying to make everyone happy— the agency, the production house, the director, the client, and my team. It’s difficult and exhausting. But you know, there’s a type of production designer, who always wants to make the director happy. It often means going over budget, which, of course, not something neither a production house, nor a client would like. I think, money is not the key issue to make good works. If you put enough thought, you can make good work even with small budgets”.
Other work shot by Zorana and featured previously by SHP+：