Vol.20 Shoot a short film.

2023.08.01 Issue 20

Dear Bodhisattvas, good day.

The cover image of this issue was generated by Midjourney. The prompt was "color-shifted film still with multidimensional blur, invisible {being, creature} levitating in the sky, morphing with god and refracting bioluminescent distortion on overexposed grainy film --ar 3:2 --w 100 --s 175 --style raw --v 5.2".

The following is the main content, with an estimated reading time of about 7 minutes.


In mid-July, a friend called me and said that his wife was starting a business and wanted me to shoot an advertisement for her.

Since returning to China, I haven't shot many pure advertisements. On the one hand, I feel that I don't have the ability to compete with my peers, especially those from 4A companies. On the other hand, I really don't like advertisements that boast about themselves and make people tired of them.

I told my friend about my thoughts, and he was also very frank. He thought that it shouldn't be about shooting a pure advertisement, but rather about making a 60-second brand promotional film that reasonably expresses the concept and showcases the product.

Since he said so, I agreed. After he sent me the relevant materials, I started planning.


My friend's wife is a lingerie designer who started her own brand last year. After reviewing the product information, I first conducted a short interview with my friend's wife to understand her needs and the journey she has gone through since starting the business.

This interview was a background investigation. I needed to understand my client through this question-and-answer format and listen to the client's own description of their product. This is much more effective than the information provided to me.

After obtaining the information I wanted to know from the client, I asked Zeze and a few other friends to ask their female friends what they care most about when buying lingerie.

As I mentioned before, many advertisements are suspected of boasting about themselves. Only by sampling the data of the consumer group through surveys can we know if they really hit the consumers' pain points.

Fortunately, the information provided by the client matched the data from the survey, which eliminated my doubts. The advertisement I made was not deceiving consumers or "educating" and brainwashing them.


When I started the formal planning, the first thing I thought about was the environment in which to carry out the creative idea. This may be different from many of my peers.

In my opinion, no matter what type of film it is, it presents characters and events in the environment through the lens. While wild imagination is good, if it cannot be realized in the end, it can only stay in the planning stage. It's better to be straightforward than to cut corners.

After discussing with the team, I decided to shoot in our own studio in Wuhan (Starlight Community Studio). In our studio, we not only have a white eggshell studio that ranks among the top in China, but also have practical scenes and black studios, which are enough for me to fully express myself.

Once the environment was clear, the next step was brainstorming on how to be creative and present.


I don't like aimless brainstorming without focus, which wastes time. Every time I brainstorm, I ask four questions: What is it? Why? How? What will happen?

Then I brainstorm based on these four questions and start drawing a 9-square grid. For example, draw nine squares on an A4 paper, and write "What is it" in the middle square, and fill the other eight squares around "What is it".

The advantage of doing this is that team members will gradually tune in to the same frequency, so that one person won't say A while another understands it as B, and even less likely to turn B into C. It may seem that such unified thinking is not conducive to creativity, but in fact, during the creative stage, it is more efficient and does not extinguish inspiration to work towards one direction instead of indulging in random thoughts.

After we completed four 9-square grids, we started to sort them out and confirmed that the film would be structured around "observation," "thinking," "expression," and "presentation."


When Shaw Brothers Studios and TVB were very popular in Hong Kong, their artists often had to work on multiple sets in a day. Who had so much time to do homework? After arriving at the shooting location, the on-set director would tell the artists the emotions and relationships they needed to portray, as well as the focal length of the lens to be used. The artists could then start shooting directly. For example, if they were told that Artist A and Artist B were enemies now, but ten years ago they were close friends, and they were using an 85mm lens for their encounter on the street today. In the process of shooting, it was up to Artist A and Artist B to decide how to perform. Whether it was crying or laughing, being silent or fighting, there was no right or wrong in terms of the plot itself or the director's desired effect.

The same principle applied to this shoot. My friend's wife, as the only actress, was not a professional. She was nervous before the shoot. I told her not to be nervous, that it was just like changing offices, and she was still doing her daily work. Ignore the camera and just do what you would normally do when working.

During the shoot, what directors should avoid the most is saying too much "nonsense that is always right" when directing the actors. It not only doesn't have much effect on the actors, but also limits their creativity. No matter who is being filmed in front of the camera, whether they are professional actors or not, they are just doing what they would normally do in that environment. As long as it makes sense and meets the current needs of the plot, it is right.


Before the shoot, Zeze asked me if there should still be a voiceover. At that time, I didn't give a definite answer. During the shoot, other colleagues in the team also asked me if we needed voiceover in post-production, and I still didn't give a definite answer.

This is a flaw in my filmmaking. Even if I have a solid storyboard, I can't be sure what the final edited film will look like. This is also why post-production is often referred to as the second creation in foreign countries, and it is also the charm of post-production.

When Zeze put together a demo based on the "observation," "thinking," "expression," and "presentation" parts, I lit a cigarette (smoking is harmful to health!) and wrote the voiceover.

Zeze teased me for writing so fast, asking if I had prepared a script in advance. I told him that inspiration comes spontaneously.

I have always admired and disliked the style of 4A companies. They strictly adhere to standardized industrial production, shooting and editing according to the pre-drawn storyboards. This certainly maximizes customer demands and profit margins, but it sacrifices creativity.


With the client's permission, I uploaded the completed film to my Bilibili account. Feel free to watch and give feedback.

If you are interested in the product, you can purchase it through this link to visit the Songmi lingerie experience store on Taobao.


If you think the content of this issue is good, you are welcome to subscribe.

You can also find me on the Telegram channel.

Best regards.

Ownership of this post data is guaranteed by blockchain and smart contracts to the creator alone.