Author-turned-director talks shop, controversy

2013-06-28 03:52:52 GMT2013-06-28 11:52:52(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SHANGHAI, June 28 (Xinhua) -- It has been an exciting month for controversial writer Guo Jingming, who celebrated his 30th birthday earlier this month and premiered his first film, an adaptation of his hit novel, on Thursday.

"Tiny Times" was inspired by Guo's young adult novel of the same name that sold over 24 million copies. It is a coming-of-age story about a tight-knit circle of four friends, "who come from different family backgrounds, different environments, with different characters and faces," Guo told Xinhua.

"Some of them are rich, some poor, some ordinary, some weird, which means they are a sampling of our generation," said Guo, a bottle blonde who is outfitted -- like most of his generation -- in distressed jeans and a white shirt.

In fact, the movie is partly a reflection of Guo's life. By combining elements of his own life with the lives of others, he hoped to convey the heart and soul of China's teens and young adults to audiences.


The novel "Tiny Times" has been called a "guide to luxury goods," due to its vivid descriptions of expensive things and high-end brands, and controversy has swirled about whether the materialistic content is appropriate for impressionable young readers.

Guo said he is "unperturbed" by this controversy. "It is normal for people to pursue a better life and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it."

"The movie is slightly different from the novel. The novel is more direct. Descriptions of money and luxuries are more bare, and triggered more arguments," said Guo, the founder and CEO of Shanghai's World Cultural Development Co., Ltd., a publishing company focused on producing young adult novels and magazines.

"The novel touches upon compromises and struggles in a materialistic world, conveying to the reader a sense of helplessness," he said.

However, he said he believes that movies are a "dream machine," so he played down the sense of the harshness of reality while strengthening the concept of the "power of dreams," specifically, the type of "dreaming and spirit that belongs to youth."

He said he felt the movie should "hit the softest spot in people's hearts," which meant he would need to demonstrate "the confrontation against materials" and "the confrontation against loneliness."

The young man who topped the Chinese Writers Rich List in 2007, 2008 and 2011, is from "an ordinary family from a small city in Sichuan Province."

When he first arrived at Shanghai University in 2002 as a "student with nothing," the visual arts engineering major found it difficult to pay tuition and buy equipment like a computer and a camera.

To fit in with people in the metropolis, Guo said he was "forced" to earn money through writing, though his first wide recognition came in 2001, when he won the New Concept Competition, a national writing contest.

If he only relied on his parents, he said, he felt he would never be able to live a better life.

"The confusion about materials is the special figure of our generation, because our parents' generation had no concept of materials. On the contrary, we are surrounded by materials from birth and grow up with all kinds of materials," he said, using the word "materials" as a kind of catch-all for luxury goods and the other "things" a consumerist culture pushes people to acquire.

"Rich kids can buy the new game machine and rich girls can dress in beautiful dresses every day, why can't I?' This generation faces a disparity in materials and is always struggling," he said.


While "Tiny Times," the novel, emphasizes the roles luxury goods and consumerism play in the lives of Chinese people born in the 1980s and 1990s, the film adaptation focuses on friendship.

"Love is not available to everyone, but friendship is. In our high schools and universities, we all have several sworn followers around," he explained.

He said he believes that the "one child" generation was been born into loneliness. "We feel confused, bewildered and lonely. It is exactly this strong loneliness that triggered the power of friendship," said Guo.

Guo, himself, has stirred controversy and grappled with unfavorable public opinion as a writer, but he always had loyal friends who were there for him.

In addition to the controversy surrounding his personal materialistic tendencies and the themes of money worship that dominate his work, Guo was also involved in lawsuit. He was accused of plagiarizing his 2003 novel "Never-flowers in Never-dream" from a novel written by Zhuang Yu.

Zhuang sued Guo in 2004. Zhuang won the lawsuit and Guo was forced to pay for Zhuang's economic losses and apologize to Zhuang.

Even amid the lawsuit and public humiliation, he had friends to turn to.

The words to the theme song for "Tiny Times" were written by Guo and his friend and colleague Zhao Jiarong, who used "Luoluo" as a pen name.

Luoluo said that when Guo asked her to write the words to the song, she didn't hesitate.

For Luoluo and Guo, the friendly helping hand works both ways. When Luoluo got stuck in the process of writing her own novel, Guo stayed up with her all night and helped her out with the plotlines. Luoluo now is chief editor of one of the company's magazines, as well as one of its best-selling writers.

"I enjoy helping others succeed, because I believe a person's value also lies in helping," Guo said.


"Friends said they felt it was difficult to categorize the movie after they saw it. As a new director, I'm so proud of that. The difference is exactly what I want to bring to audience," he said.

After a decade of toiling in the writing and publishing world, Guo trained his interests on the film industry.

"I adopted some different narrative techniques and picture structures, which cannot be seen in previous movies," he said, adding that audiences will feel a sense of freshness and be unable to compare it to any film they've seen before.

He said he loves "technologies," so he made some difficult shots in the movie, like a four-minute full-length shot.

"I am a rule-breaker in every industry," he said. This time he entered the movie industry and caused a stir before the movie even hit theaters, which took him back ten years, when he was facing controversy as a new writer.

He said he shook off all the restraints so he could do what he wanted as an "unprofessional" director, completely unfettered.

Though he isn't anticipating anything approaching box office glory, he is confident that the movie will generate a lot of buzz among audiences, who he believes will think it is "special."

"The point is whether it can be unique in audience's hearts and whether it can be memorized. If they think it's too ordinary, it is a failure to me."

For the writer, publisher and director, his next big move is not a specific pursuit, except to simply improve his life.

Guo said he might become a designer next, and he is also interested in science fiction.

"I do not want my life stop in some state where I simply enjoy. I want to experience more, see more," he said.

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