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Yuanyuan Xu goes into the mind of a child for award-winning production design

Yuanyuan Xu was 10 years old when she discovered her love for the arts. At the time, it was a hobby, her favorite pastime when she wasn’t in school. She never imagined that she could pursue her passion as a career. However, as a teenager, she saw the film Raise the Red Lantern, directed by Zhang Yimou, and she began to wonder about the impact she could have on the film industry, using her innate artistic talents to create whole new worlds. She remembers being taken away by the production design, thinking about it days after first watching the film. That was when she decided that she was meant to be a production designer and has never looked back.

Now, Xu is a celebrated production designer, both in China and abroad. She took home awards for her work in the films La Pieta, Stain, Man on Heels, and most recently Dead Not Dead, Dead. She is known for her distinctive eye and her ability to encapsulate the key elements of a story through the production design, and she loves every day she is on set living her dream.

“I want to tell stories with the director through pictures and show them on the screen. What makes a movie touching is not only the plot, but also the pictures to show the story, which is a very indispensable part of production design,” said Xu.

Another project on Xu’s decorated resume is Gum Gum, the touching and heartbreaking story of a young boy who just lost his mom in a car accident. Now living with his grandmother, he tries to run away to find his mother, not understanding where she has gone.

The film was written and directed by Ace Yue, who was inspired by a moment in her childhood when she contemplated the death of her parents. Xu found her story interesting and appealing to create a production design that would highlight the perspective of a child.

“I think the most difficult thing about this film is showing the inner minds of the children. From an adult’s perspective, a child’s psychology and what they think, what they desire and what they want to express, seems very straightforward and simple. I think the director being willing to present his own story in the form of a movie requires great courage. Being willing to be a voice for the children is very important,” said Xu.

Xu’s largest task when working on Gum Gum was to create the child’s room. She does not often work with child actors, so she used the star of the film as her inspiration, getting in the mindset of a five-year-old. She wanted to convey the touching aspects of the script, displaying the child’s innocence and purity through her work. She went deep into her memory, trying to recall moments of her childhood that could also serve as inspiration when it came to the production design. She interviewed many children asking what they like and how they think in certain situations. She became friends with them, learning their preferences and behaviors. She felt that this research allowed her to truly understand a child’s mind and worked hard to display that in the set.

“This is a very joyful project, which is rare in many studios. I really enjoyed the process of shooting this film. I felt like going back to my childhood with the children. While working, we also had fun. I was quite touched and inspired,” said Xu.

Xu’s extensive research and efforts paid off in full. Gum Gum premiered May 9th, 2018 at the Asian International Film Festival and went on to an extraordinary film festival run for the rest of the year, taking home several awards, including The Best Production Designer Award Winner at the Asian American International Film Festival.

“When I first learned that I won an award for my work on this film, I was very touched. I felt that my art style of adopting the mindset of a child was accepted by everyone and was very happy for that. I also felt very happy for the director since this is a great recognition and affirmation,” said Xu. “In this film, I am confident to say what we showed is perfect, especially after all the efforts and hard work we have put in. It is great to see what we have done.”

Be sure to check out Gum Gum to see some of Xu’s award-winning work.

Written by Annabelle Lee
April 5th, 2019

Yuanyuan Xu goes into the mind of a child for award-winning production design Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:25:00 AM Rating: 5
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