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BOHAN GONG: PRODUCING A BLOCKBUSTER IN CHINA WITH SO YOUNG

There’s no denying that the Chinese film industry has become one of the most successful and important industries and markets in the world. Holding its own with Hollywood and Bollywood, the naturally curious query might be, “How does the process differ in China from these other film Meccas?” A prime source for the answer is producer Bohan Gong. He has worked in both the US and China film industries with an emphasis on collaborations. As the sharing of professionals, ideas, and audience members increase between the US and China, Gong has successfully steered his way into a reputation as a highly valuable commodity. One of his early producer credits was on the Chinese film So Young which became a phenomenon. With a worldwide gross of $117,949,644 (forty times the production budget), twelve awards, and twenty-six nominations from the Golden Horse Film Festival, Shanghai Film Critics Awards, Chinese American Film Festival, Asia-Pacific Film Festival, and numerous others, So Young declared that the age of Chinese youth drive film had arrived. With a culture whose interpretation of storyline had the capacity to be vastly different from other locations, Bohan Gong possessed the expansive knowledge of how the film’s message would be received and thus should be shaped.


Bohan has great respect for the art of filmmaking and views his role as one of great responsibility. A producer is the person who binds creative and business components, ensures completion, and presents a film to the audience. While that may sound simple, the process is much more complex and difficult than one would expect. A producer must understand both the art of filmmaking and the business aspect of making it a successful venture. It’s equal parts enabler, guardian, and promoter. Gong views film as a commodity, a most interesting and soulful one. When he does his job best is when the soul of a film touches him, as it did with the feature film So Young. As the film interpretation of a hugely successful book in China, the creators of the film had big shoes to fill in bringing the story to life on the screen. Bohan was involved from the very beginning stages and the incredible success of So Young confirms that the vision he shared with Director Wei Zhao was well founded.



So Young is a story about love, friendship, and discovering your own inner strength. The central character Zheng Wei has followed her childhood love Lin Jing to university. The dual purpose of education and ending up with the man she loves becomes derailed when Lin leaves without any explanation. Wei takes comfort in her group of friends and at one point meets the studious and tenacious Chen Xiaozheng, roommate of her friend. While at first their interaction is combative, they become endeared to each other and begin dating. Near the end of their college career, Xiaozheng who grew up poor, announces that he must end the relationship to focus on his career and own wellbeing. A once more broken hearted Wei makes her own success in life and later is faced with a choice when both men return to her as suitors seeking her affection.

As society begins to change, so does filmmaking. During early location scouting, Bohan saw the opportunity for a negative to become a positive for So Young. Director Wei Zhao is also an incredibly famous actress in China. Visits to university campuses quickly became a frenzied scene with hundreds of fans surrounding the crew. The crowds grew so quickly because Zhao’s fans were communicating via social media about the visits. The Chinese governments Network Control Policy blocks the population from abroad website such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, and others. As a replacement, Weibo is the prevalent social media platform in China and possesses essentially the same functionality as Facebook. in China, Webio is ubiquitous. The decision to use the excitement already building about So Young and promote the film via Webio seemed intuitive to Gong. Bohan took an innovative lead in using Weibo to raise awareness, promote, and market the film by using Weibo, developing a plan of using funny teasers and games were created and offered on Webio which involved So Young’s Characters, Location, Scenes, & Story Plot. His plan personalize Weibo users’ connection to the film via photo software with a one button “Photoshop” function changed users photo into a “sense of the times’ photo” and included related information and culture about So Young in the software was a huge hit. Related news, topic press articles, posters, BTS photos, and film trailers were also disseminated on the social media platform. This approach created a clamor of excitement among a fan base more than eager for the film’s release. Bohan communicates, “So Young is the first film that paid a lot of attention to using the Weibo platform to promote film publicity. We didn’t have a successful case to refer to and we were not sure that this new plan would achieve the desired effect. We started from a Weibo user experience. I’m fairly well matched to our target audience. I did a lot of research on Facebook and combined the Chinese young people’s tastes with this template to create a Weibo publicity plan. The Weibo publicity was enormously successful, well beyond our desired effect. It became one of the truly important reasons for So Young gaining commercially success.” While Gong has been a Webio user for some time and had considered using it as a film promotion vehicle, it was So Young which presented the perfect storm of demographic and content to test his theory.



By all measures, So Young was a massively successful feature film. Earning $118MM worldwide by only costing ¥20MM CNY (approximate $2.94MM USD) production budget while also garnering twenty-six nominations with twelve wins (Hong Kong Film Awards, Hundred Flower Awards, Chinese American Film Festival, Golden Horse Film Festival, and others). While appealing to the youth it also presented an important lesson about personal belief and empowerment with a sense of cultural benevolence rather than a vapid approach to relationships. Bohan is as proud of the story the film depicted as he is of its success. He professes his belief that the story is the soul of a film and he feels the need to be connected to that soul. His passion is what aids in the excellence of his work as well as what draws his peers to working with him. Qiang Zhang (lead producer) states, “Bohan is a professional film producer who possesses a unique and creative understanding of film. He can balance a film between art and commercial. Unlike a number of other producers, Bohan not only has extraordinary producing skills but also outstanding screenwriting and editing abilities. He’s always the calm in the storm and is eternally positive.”

BOHAN GONG: PRODUCING A BLOCKBUSTER IN CHINA WITH SO YOUNG Reviewed by JaamZIN on 8:26:00 AM Rating: 5
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