There is nothing like sitting back and watching a good fantasy film. Think back to some of the classics – The Neverending Story, Labyrinth etc. They are the films that stay with you long after the credits have rolled, simply because they are full of amazing imagery and take the audience on a journey that they will never forget. Now a new film is being released that will certainly also join that list of great fantasy films – A Writer’s Odyssey and this week we sat down to chat to the critically acclaimed director of the film – Yang Lu.
“After reading the novel I decided to turn this into a film because this is a story about whether a man will stick to his faith when life goes hard and he has to decide to stick with it no matter how hard everything gets or even when the world says no,” says Lu as we begin to talk about why he decided to take on this project. “I was deeply moved by the story because it was also about a father finding his missing daughter. As a father myself I found myself deeply connected and I was moved by the emotions behind the story.”
There is little doubt that Lu was the right person to direct A Writer’s Odyssey, not only because of his personal connection to the screenplay but because he had a vision like no other. “I wanted to turn the story into an incredible fantasy film as well,” he says with a smile. “I thought with all these Chinese elements fuelling the story I thought it was going to be an incredible experience to direct this film.”
As a director Lu himself found himself going on a journey though when it came to casting the film because they started with a blank slate. “When we were writing the script we actually had no idea who we would cast in the film,” he admits openly. “Part of that was because the lead character has to play two roles – one in reality and one in the novel world. This is not a common hero story that we are used to having this is about a middle aged male whose life went hard and had to start a journey to find his daughter in order to become a hero himself.”
“So the audience really needs to believe in this character,” says Lu continuing. “Even though he is a middle aged male who is an ordinary person the audience needs to believe in him and that he has the quality to become a hero. So as the director and also the writer of the film I needed to believe in him as well so we tried to find someone that is that kind of character and has that quality. I think we were very like to find actors that could fit the qualities of the characters as well as play two very different roles in the film, that way the audience would not only believe in the character but also find themselves emotionally connected to the character and the story.”
Despite the contrary belief that is often taught in film schools Lu says as a director you don’t really have more freedom with a fantasy film than you do a standard drama or romance. “Actually to be honest it is harder,” he says. “You have to put so much effort into the process because you are building a new world. You cannot rely on the mere reality or the real world so you have to build a whole new world from scratch so that means that we have to put a lot of effort into the issues that might happen with creating a new world as well.”
“That is not merely just to impress the audience,” he says continuing. “This is because we have to have these details ourselves. Then we have to share those details with the other filmmakers and the cast and we have to convince ourselves with how the new world is going to be so that often means that there is a lot more work during the filmmaking process.”
All of that hard work has paid off with the result being an exceptional fantasy film and Lu finishes the interview with this message for audiences out there. “We hope that we are able to take you on an adventure,” he says. “This is a story of Chinese characters and Chinese elements and we hope that it can bring Chinese and Asian thinking patterns to the audience right around the world. This is a story about a teenager and a father who have to challenge themselves and they have to challenge their own faith and challenge themselves and we hope to bring this story to an international audience and we hope that they are affected and inspired by this incredible Chinese story.”
A Writer’s Odyssey opens in cinemas on the 12th Feb.