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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WENDI MURDOCH: Behind the Scenes of 'Snowflower'!

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Florence Low Sloan / thedailybeast.com / Aug 1, 2011 8:46 PM EDT.


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Producer Florence Sloan works on a scene with the film's star, Li Bing Bing., Courtesy of Florence Sloan.


Hollywood newbies Wendi Murdoch and Florence Sloan flew to China to produce Snowflower and the Secret Fan, now in theatres. From casting drama to cold showers, Sloan on what she learned.

The plane touched down into Shanghai Pudong airport. My assistant, Xian, and I disembarked. We were met by official-looking men who whisked us through immigration and baggage and into a waiting car. Wow! I thought. This is great, this is new China! We arrived at the Peninsula Hotel, which is the best hotel in the city. I looked out of my suite to the perpetually gray skies of Shanghai and thought, This is amazing. Everything will turn out well.

I had signed on to produce my first feature film, Snowflower and the Secret Fan, after falling in love with the book by Lisa See. My partner, Wendi Murdoch (also a first-time producer) and I had been working on this since 2007. Wendi and I are close friends and during one of our regular meetings, we started talking about See’s book that we had read independently of each other. We both loved the book and connected over its compelling story, which centers around the universal theme of the bonds of friendship. We knew it should be made into a movie.

Now, we were finally in Shanghai since that fateful meeting 4 years ago. We had already faced changes in the script which led to three screenwriters, and had convinced the talented Wayne Wang to come onboard to direct. We went through a rigorous casting process, dealt with endless paperwork, and had to navigate the challenges of shooting in China, which meant wrangling permits and scouring locations.

I love movies, read voraciously, and was passionate about the Snowflower book—but I was about to learn in the weeks I spent in Shanghai that this ‘knowledge’ is not an entrĂ©e into movie producing. There are no shortcuts.

Battling jet lag, I met up with Wendi, who had flown in from New York. We went to meetings with Wayne Wang and Jessinta, our line producer. After listening to all the problems we faced, I thought, “Hmm—maybe this producing thing isn’t as simple as it looks.” After a few days spent in the luxury cocoon of the Peninsula Hotel, we were told that we have to go to Hengdian, the movie capital of Shanghai and the largest film studio in the world. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive when we were told to bring our own bedsheets, towels, pillows. We loaded up the car and drove for 4 hours, battling intense traffic into Hengdian which is in Zhejiang province. When we arrived, we passed a full-scale replica of the Forbidden City, a Qin dynasty palace and various other amazing sets.

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