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Those not involved in film and television production may not be aware of the fact that, along with the director, an editor has the greatest impact on the way a story is communicated. If the director is the mother who carries this child until it is ready to face the world, the editor is the father who gives it structure and direction, keeping a watchful eye to ensure it presents itself well to the world. Editor Lou Shuai is an excellent father in these terms. His work with Han Mo Xi Yun (part of China Central Television, with nearly a billion and a half viewers-the single largest TV viewership on the planet) has repeatedly placed his work on some of the most widely viewed and well-received programs on television. Chinese culture has a long history of reverence for art and many of the documentaries which Shuai has edited are focused on this, as with the series Yong Cheng Mo Xiang. Yong Cheng Mo Xiang is a series documentary about 14 top high reputation artist in Ningbo, Zhejiang. Ning bo is a very historical city, through the Chinese history. This documentary focus on how Ningbo’s culture influences those artists’ creativity.

Young Cheng Mo Xiang is a documentary about artists, not what US audiences might describe as riveting and yet this series averages the same viewership as NBC’s iconic The Tonight Show (airing since 1954). There’s no doubt that this is the resulting marriage of the culture’s appreciation for artists as well as the excellence of the artists like Lou Shuai who manifest this compelling program. Shuai and director Lou Heng combed through the library of interviews obtained with the different artists in search of a theme to structure them. The title itself indicates the main idea. Within the title Yong Cheng Mo Xiang: “Yong Cheng” means Ningbo city (a more traditional way to refer to Ningbo), “Mo” means ink (these calligraphy artists use ink), and “Xiang” means the sense of smell. The title refers to the sense of smell from ink in Ningbo City and the connection that these fourteen different artists have to it.

Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province is a city known for its influences from Westerners and this has seeped into the surroundings and the voice of artists who reside there. Traditional and modern Chinese culture coalesce here. To communicate this duality, Shuai mixed footage of the city, it’s architecture, and surrounding to illustrate how the city could embrace these ideas which find a home in the artist’s paintings. Voice overs accompany drone footage of the newest and oldest parts of the city. The editor used color correction to make the presentation of these locations congruent with the palette and tone of the artists. One of Lou’s trademarks is his implementation of sounds and music in his work. For this production he describes, “I believe that sound is a wonderful layer in editing. Once I began editing this series, I knew exactly what type of music I wanted to use. In the Zhejiang area (Ningbo belongs to the Zhejiang province), we have a lot guzheng (a traditional Chinese instrument) music or stringed instrument music. This was the perfect match for those working on the traditional Chinese art. For those artists working on the Western influenced art, I used scores that contained Chinese elements but were obviously of a more modern style. I will often use slow rhythm music pieces for drone shots or wide shots to help audience to “walk” into the documentary with my editing. When the sequences go to close shots, I introduce background music that has a faster pace and rhythm. For example, if there is a calligrapher in the frame who works on cursive script (a type of calligraphy), I will use quite high pacing traditional Chinese music to present the concentrating and the rhythm of he is writing a cursive.”

Han Mo Xi Yun (CCTV program) was so impressed by Lou’s editing on Yong Cheng Mo Xiang that they immediately offered him the editor’s position on a thirty-four episode series titled Thousand Years Chasing: Princess Wencheng. As China’s largest network, CCTV is the most prominent by far of any television entity in China. With each program he works on, editor Lou Shuai ascends to greater respect and opportunities in his field; an artist himself who has told the story of many artists with his talent. Lou recalls a poignant moment stating, “When I was editing the interviews with Mr. Jing Tingyao, there was a moment when he started crying. I realized not only how much he cared but what a physical challenge it was for someone of his age to create this huge scale painting. It resonated with me and I wanted more than ever to communicate the passion that drives an artist.”

Author: Kelly King
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