China's Sherry Du brings storytelling into producing

July 1, 2018

Growing up in North China, Xiangrong (Sherry) Du always loved film. However, the more she learned about filmmaking, the more she noticed that something was missing in the Chinese entertainment industry. Producers, she noted, were simply businessmen in her country, thinking solely of each production as a budget to solve rather than a story. Du was inspired to change this and bring a more American approach to filmmaking to her country. She knew from then on that she wanted to be a producer.

 

Now, Du is a celebrated producer, having worked on a variety of successful films and commercials, and she always makes sure to pay attention to the story. This year, her film Eyes on You made its way to the Oniros Film Awards 2018, and last year, her film Front Door went on to receive critical acclaim at several international film festivals, winning numerous awards. 

 

Du’s 2017 film August followed a similar pattern. The film follows Andrei, a 9-year-old boy who has just moved to L.A. with his mother, Kelly. Kelly doesn't have time take care of Andrei since she needs to earn money for their future. Coincidentally, Andrei meets an old man named August who plays the violin on the street. Gradually, they grow in each other's hearts. August becomes Andrei's friend and teaches him to play the violin, and Andrei helps August to not be in pain.

 

“This film is about a boy who loves music and how he becomes a musician, even in nearly impossible circumstances. It really shows that if you like something, just do it. In the story, Andrei notices August while he plays on the street. He likes him a lot and wants to learn how to play violin. August lost his family, so he likes this little stranger. We can see how they need each other. It really is beautiful,” said Du.

 

August saw great success at many film festivals. Du herself attended the San Diego International Kids Film Festival 2017 where the film won the award for Best Musical Film. Several investors from China attended and were immensely impressed with Du’s work. From there, the film also won Best Short Film at Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival and Best Trailer at Festigious International Film Festival 2017.

 

“I can’t tell you how satisfying it felt that the film did so well. Everyone worked so well together. Teamwork is so important,” said Du.

 

Du knew the most essential aspect for the film to succeed was finding a young actor that could play nine-year old Andrei. Minor actors can often cause problems on set, due to a lack of experience and a short attention span, but Du cast the perfect boy, Joaquin Huizar. His mother and Huizar were constantly professional, and his performance made the film. In one scene in particular, he had to cry on the spot. Not only did he achieve this is in audition, but also on the first take. Du still feels fortunate to have found such a talented young actor to help carry the story.

 

Du also helped with location scouting and getting permits. Two main locations in the film are a house and a cemetery. However, finding a cemetery to shoot in was incredibly difficult. Eventually, Du came up with the idea of shooting in a park and using “movie magic” to transform the space into a cemetery. It went off without a hitch, and the Director, Crystal Ren, felt eternally grateful for her producer.

 

“Sherry helped me a lot. She is a responsible producer,” said Ren. 

 

One day while shooting outside, Du recalls it being one of the hottest days of the year. They were going through water on set extremely fast. Du was trying to think of how to relax her cast and crew in such working conditions when it came to her. Part of the production design required an ice cream truck. Rather than using a prop, Du approached an ice cream seller on the street and asked if he would come to their shoot and be used in the film. Needless to say, the ice cream cooled down the set.

 

“Don’t be afraid to ask strangers. If you just talk to them, they normally like to help,” she concluded.

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