Production design is an indispensable aspect of any film or television show. To be a production designer is to connect with the story, the director and the audience, taking the words from the script and visualizing the environment that it all happens in, transforming them to pictures on the screen. It is a tremendous talent, and China’s Yuanyuan Xu knows this well. Whenever she reads a book or a story, she can instantly visualize it in her mind. She enjoys using her imagination every day in her work, and that is what makes her such an in-demand production designer in her home of China and around the world.
Throughout her career, Xu has shown time and time again just why she is such a force to be reckoned with in her industry. Films like Gum Gum, Stain, Man on Heels, and Dead Not Dead, Dead have gone on to worldwide critical acclaim, with Xu receiving awards for her extraordinary abilities as a production designer.
“I am quite an imaginative person and I set no bounds for my imagination ever since I was little. When I was young, I could only think about it. But now, I can combine my thoughts with the script and design the world in real life. That’s something pretty cool. I feel very happy as a production designer as I make new things every second. No matter how hard the process is, I feel it is worthwhile and meaningful seeing the wonderful results. The sense of achievement and happiness is much stronger when I see them on the screen and the audiences are brought into the story through them,” said Xu.
Xu’s first award-winning experience came with the film La Pieta. The story follows mid-aged female celebrity Crystal, who acts with a young director Kronos in his drama show. She falls in love with him, however, after they have sex on stage, she finds out Kronos is her son she abandoned.
“I was deeply attracted to the script my first time reading it. It is about revenge and designed in a heavy drama style. After communicating with the director, I understood what he wanted to show through the film. It needed a stage for the actors, as he wanted a designed play in the film. I have to say, the design of a play in a film is very interesting. It is also a big challenge for a production designer. I love challenges and trying new things,” said Xu.
La Pieta took home six awards with three other nominations last year, and Xu could not be prouder. She was awarded Best Production Design at the International Independent Film Awards and the Asia and America International Film Festival. Being honored in such a way is always pleasing for Xu, but she was happy that her team also won awards, validating their long days and tireless efforts to make the film a masterpiece.
Art plays a vital role in La Pieta. It is not only an artistic genre of film, but art also conveys the emotions the director wanted to express. Therefore, every prop and detail were carefully selected and designed by Xu. There were strong oil painting colors used to highlight the atmosphere of the whole film.
“When we were working on this film, though I enjoyed it, I also felt nervous, because this film is a heavy drama style and the actors are very professional, I really wanted to make them shine with my work. We were often brought into the movies and felt what the actors felt, so we were as nervous as them. In other words, this is a great movie,” said Xu.
La Pieta can not be missed, as it is an artistic and captivating film. With all the artistry behind each and every shot, Xu says the most important part of the film is the story, and she was happy to do what she could to help tell something so important and timely.
“I personally like this story very much. Although this story is about revenge, what I pay more attention to is actually the child's growth and mental health problems. The quality of a family's environment determines the future of a child and this is a social issue, which deserves great attention. This is not only an issue worth attention and discussion in a country, but also around the globe,” Xu concluded.