Actor Satoshi Tsumabuki (left) & Producer Min Dai (right)
One of the most challenging aspects of working as a film producer are the multitude of departments and the varying personalities that come with them-- not to mention all of the budgeting, fundraising, location scouting and overall organization of the production that comes along with it. Regardless of whether it’s a film, television series, commercial or any other form of visual media project for that matter, it takes a unique and dedicated person with a diverse skill set to lead a large-scale production to success; and Chinese producer Min Dai is one industry pro who embodies these qualities and more.
“I feel like being a producer is like being a parent. You have to make sure the director, the cast and everybody on set is taken care of,” admits Dai, who began her career in Beijing, China. “Sometime you also have to be involved in the creative parts, such as selecting and developing scripts, and coordinating with the directing, editing and marketing sides of the production.”
Film Poster for "History Day"
In the U.S. Dai recently wrapped production on the film “History Day,” which was directed by Victor Martin and written by his brother Fabian. Starring award-winning actor Carl Gilliard from the four-time Oscar Award winning film “Inception” with globally renowned star Leonardo DiCaprio, and Bobby Soto who appears on ABC’s new series “For the People,” which premiered in March, “History Day” revolves largely around Gilliard’s character Vernon Taylor, a Vietnam War vet who feels as though his service to the country is taken for granted by modern youth. All of this changes however when he is invited by a local teacher to tell his story during History Day.
Set to be released within the next few months, “History Day” is one of several projects that Dai has produced with the Martins and Mano A Mano Productions over the last few years.
Writer and director Victor Martin says, "As the producer, Min Dai’s role was integral and undeniably critical to the overall success of the films we collaborated on. Min is an exceptionally talented filmmaker with a highly unique and daring vision, and I certainly believe that she was the perfect producer to bring our stories to life.”
In 2016 she produced the film “400 Miles” written by Fabian and Maria Martin, and directed by multi-award winning director Felix Martiz, who earned the Festival Award from the Puerto Rico International Film Festival and the Mexico International Film Festival’s Silver Palm Award, as well as many others, for his film “Santiago.”
Starring Rolando Molina, who’s film and TV credits number in the hundreds and include the two-time Primetime Emmy Award winning series “Justified,” Young Artist Award nominee Eddy Martin who played Thad on the four-time Golden Globe Award winning series “Glee” and Romina Peniche from the action thriller film “Road to Juarez,” “400 Miles” follows a young homesexual man who, cast away by his father early on, returns home to make peace with the man he vowed never to see again.
“We worked together a dozen times over finalizing the scripts, and reconsidering the characters and scenarios. To preserve the authenticity of the film, we filmed the traveling part of the film taking the exact same route driving from Los Angeles to the hometown of the real character in Tucson, Arizona and finished the rest of the scenes there,” explains Dai about working with Felix Martiz, and Fabian and Maria Martin.
A testament to Dai’s ability to choose powerful films to produce and bring them to fruition, "400 Miles" was hugely successful on the film festival circuit being chosen as an Official Selection of 14 film festivals across North America where it took home the Best LGBTQ Film Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, the Film Heals Award from the Manhattan Film Festival, the Special Award of Commendation from the Canada Shorts Film Festival, as well as earned a Best Drama Award nomination from the Official Latino Shorts Film Festival,
“I think we are living in a fast paced time all around the world and both projects are extremely relevant dealing with the clashes between generations,” explains Day about one of the reasons she chose to produce the films “History Day” and “400 Miles.”
“‘History Day’ talked about the clashes of values between the elders and the young, it is extremely important to open a dialogue like that because people need to hear opinions from each other. I think in many places in the world people are misinformed and biased on a lot of issues, so working with stories that talk about communication and how to make things better is always interesting to me.”
Dai first began working with the Martin brothers back in 2013 when she produced and edited their award-winning film “Eggman,” which took home the Best Comedy Award from the Pasadena International Film Festival, the Best Short Award from te Vina de oro Fresno International Film Festival and was chosen as an Official Selection of the LA Film Fest.
“History Day” star Carl Gilliard says, "What I like about Min being a producer is that she's a filmmaker first. That's the gift of really great producers in Hollywood. Min has the ability to give the others a level of comfort."
Just as “History Day” was not the first (and it probably won’t be the last) time that Dai worked with the Martins, it wasn’t the first time she worked with Gilliard either. In 2014 Dai directed Gilliard in her film “Meeting Gary,” which she wrote, produced and directed, and earned numerous accolades for.
The film was chosen as an Official Selection of the Arizona International Film Festival, the Texas Black Film Festival and the NYLA Film Festival among many others, as well as earned Dai numerous nominations, such as the Best Film Award at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
Just as Gilliard notes, the fact that Dai’s skills extend beyond just producing, with her work including several prominent projects as a director, writer and editor, she has a unique capacity to understand what the various departments on her sets are going through and what they need to create a successful collaboration.
“Min Dai has always tried to distinguish herself. Creatively, owing to her diverse background and wide range of skills and experiences she has developed a unique voice,” explains Victor Martin. “I find Min Dai to be a serious and very impressive filmmaker… The majority of the projects she produced have achieved great success and received critical acclaim around the world.”
In China she played an integral role as the producer of “The Four” teaser directed by award winner Willie Ying, the director behind the hit Chinese action feature film “The Final Blade” released earlier this year. “The Four” was a promo for the “X-Fire” team led by Li Yuchun aka Chris Lee (“Monster Hunt 2,” “See You Tomorrow,” “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”), which competed on China’s hit reality TV singing competition “Burning Youth“ to select China’s next superstar singing group. Gaining astonishing attention from audiences across the country, the video aired on Zhejiang TV and team X-Fire became the season winner that same night.
“Within six days we had to shoot, finish the edit and deliver before the airing of the show. Chinese Lunar New Year is the most important day of Chinese culture and it was an unspoken pressure that everything had to work out perfectly,” recalls Dai. “I worked as the lead producer, organized the crew and found the location overnight in a shooting base near Beijing and transported over 100 people to the shooting site the next day.”
Dai had her work cut out for her in not only ensuring the fluidity of the filming and the production’s ability to meet the swift deadline, but even more importantly, it was up to her to maintain the safety of both the talent and her crew, which was no easy task considering that they shot two consecutive night shoots outdoors in -20 degrees C.
She admits, “It was extremely difficult since on set there was no heating services, all of the scenes were outside. We had to make sure everybody was given enough heating pads, always made sure there were hot drinks and hot meals on the set and enough coats and comforters for everybody so no one was hypothermic. I mean it was a really intense shoot.”
Aside from her attention to the largest to the most minute details on set and those over the course of her productions, another area that has led Dai to reach such a high level of success in the film industry internationally is her experience working in both the U.S. and China where film and television crews function quite differently. This has provided her with the capacity to understand and create a bridge between the two cultures and its film crews, which has been key in a number of productions to date, especially the recent box office hit “Detective Chinatown 2” where Dai managed the film’s shoots on location in New York.
About working with producer Min Dai, National Board of Review, Hong Kong Film and Golden Horse Award winning actress Bai Ling (“Maximum Impact,” “Beyond the Game”) from “Detective Chinatown 2” says, “She impressed me with her level of charm, wisdom, and amazing emotional intelligence. She was a wonderful producer to work with.”