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Sometimes history and entertainment collide in a poignant moment off screen as well as on. Zoe Zai has worked with some of the most acclaimed and celebrated names in the film industry of the Western world: Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven, Pirates of the Caribbean), Ben Pugh (Batman Begins), Mark Kilian (Pitch Perfect), BAFTA winner Philip Blaubach (Jason Bourne), and three-time Academy Award-Winner Mark Larry (The Revenant). Having worked on films from household names in the US like Walt Disney Studios (The Dreaming Man) as well those of China like Bliss Media (The Shanghai Job) has allowed her to experience the massive machine that is the upper echelon of making movies. There’s something striking about Zoe using her skills as an in demand ADR recordist/ADR editor to the benefit of the production Jin Huang Cheng. To fully understand this, it is necessary to investigate something about the history of entertainment in China itself.

Jin Huang Cheng (the English translation of the title is “Into the Imperial City”) is the story of the national opera troupe that went to Beijing for the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Qing Dynasty. The trials and tribulations of these actors is what became the seminal movement of entertainment in the Peking opera that would eventually lead to the modern film industry in China; one which would embrace Zoe Zai and her role in bringing this story to cinema. There’s an obvious sentimental attachment and pride of all those involved in Jin Huang Cheng.

Zoe’s work was especially crucial in this film because the goal was to create a presentation that would be authentic to the stage based action taking place on film. Using a combination of microphones to match the perspectives captured by cinematographer Danny Chen (known for his work on the $50MM worldwide grossing Action/Drama/Romance Sky Hunter), Zoe weaved an interplay of dialogue that gave the physical sense of being onstage with these performers in a period of the distant past. The ADR sessions matched these sonic perspectives ideally to full the experience into focus. Many of the cast members in this film had a strong background in stage and opera themselves, causing them to have different techniques than those of most film actors. Zoe was in charge of finding the “sweet spots” to dial in the ADR for the actors. The ADR is incredibly indistinguishable from the other dialogue during the film, vetting the skill of this talented professional.

Every culture has their own history of entertainment. When the entertainment medium of today pays respect to its origins and predecessor, it can be challenging. Zoe Zai, Danny Chen, director Mei Hu, and all involved created Jin Huang Cheng with reverence, impeccable skill, and great talent. These artists of today have made those who planted the seeds for them appear as the icons they are. Jin Huang Cheng contains dialogue in Mandarin and Opera Dialect with English subtitles; while English speaking viewers might be confused by some of the Mandarin language spoken, the message comes through loud and clear.

Author: Kelly King

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