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Old February 12th, 2006, 08:25 PM   #1
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Vancouver Getting Greater Exposure From Chinese Soap Operas

Chinese TV says here's looking at you, Vancouver
Lower Mainland beauty appeals to Asian soap opera fans

Wency Leung
Vancouver Sun
6 February 2006

Couch potatoes in Beijing, Shanghai and throughout the rest of China are getting greater exposure to Vancouver these days, thanks to a rise in Chinese soap operas filmed here.

While perhaps lesser known in North America, Chinese-produced television dramas set in Vancouver, such as the 2004 hit Farewell Vancouver and Love Memories, have been wildly popular in mainland China.

Their success has spurred Chinese producers to try to incorporate Vancouver into their shows, said Vancouver-based producer Shan Tam, who has provided production support for several Chinese television series, including Love Memories.

"Over the last few years, it's definitely more than before," Tam said of the number of Chinese productions filmed in Vancouver.

"People like to look at how beautiful [the Vancouver scenery] is," she said, adding that landmarks such as Stanley Park are particularly popular settings for Chinese dramas.

Tam won recent acclaim as producer of the award-winning Canadian film Eve & the Fire Horse. But over the past few years, she has also helped Chinese-based producers coordinate the shooting of television series Jade Buddha" and "One Meter Sunlight," both filmed in Vancouver and backed by private Chinese investors.

Television series that are set here are typically low budget, running on average $100,000 per episode, Tam said.

And their artistic merits are debatable.

The English-language China Daily newspaper last year described the flourishing genre of television drama as "characterized by heart-throb actors, pretty actresses, colourful settings and unrealistic affluence, rather than strong characters and emotional storylines."

However, they do provide dozens of jobs to the local film and television industry, and give a significant boost to the city's profile abroad.

The B.C. Film Commission said it is difficult to determine just how many Chinese productions are shot here, since they are usually small productions. And many crews shoot only a few episodes or portions of their projects here.

Still, "it's very good for the economy and for the promotion of Vancouver," said Simon Liu, line producer for Farewell Vancouver.

Since that series aired in China, "everyone knows Vancouver," he said.

About 10 to 15 local crew members, as well as several local part-time actors were hired for the 23 episodes of Farewell Vancouver, which cost a total of about $2 million to make, Liu said. Directors and principal actors are usually flown in, and post-production work is done in China to keep costs low.

The finished series are then sold to Chinese networks and aired throughout the country.

Besides television series, Vancouver-based casting director Lesleyanne Hilts said she has also seen a rise in casting calls for Chinese movies-of-the-week and feature films.

"There's been a lot," Hilts said. She added: "They try to hire as many Canadians as they can."

Mainland Chinese productions are picking up where Hong Kong action films left off in the 1990s, Tam said.

Back in the late '80s and early '90s, Vancouver provided the backdrop for comparatively bigger budget Hong Kong movies, perhaps most notably Rumble in the Bronx, starring Jackie Chan.

Those productions dwindled in the late '90s, during a downturn in the Hong Kong film industry.

Since then, in mainland China, which has progressively opened to global influences, a growing desire to learn more about the outside world has driven producers to seek foreign locations, Tam said.

For Chinese producers, shooting their projects abroad gives them certain bragging rights, she added.

"When they go home, they brag, 'Oh we shot in North America.' They want to stand out from the rest of their competitors," Tam said.

Vancouver, with its large Asian population, is considered one of the easiest places in North America for Chinese producers to work, she said. "It's not a huge cultural gap for them," Tam said. With an abundance of Chinese-speakers, Chinese restaurants and industry experts here, "you don't feel like an outsider."
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Old February 12th, 2006, 09:47 PM   #2
kawaii neh?
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wasn't there also a hk soap opera (or was it just toronto based canto actors i dun really remember) that was filmed in the Niagara wine growing region? i can't remember for sure since it was a few months ago...

good for vancouver for getting all those "mainland" dramas =D
happiness is a warm puppy... and a 300+metre skyscraper
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