April 20, 2023 | Total Issue 3211
Lone heroes and heroes in troubled times, righteous and sons and daughters, hearts to the light and in darkness.
The brain-burning game of "Infernal" has lasted for a full thirty-six episodes, but the suspense has not diminished in the slightest. In terms of plot, "Infernal" has a certain degree of interactivity with previous popular spy war dramas, and there is no shortage of stimulating plots such as lurking, camouflage, reversal, capture, connector, and transmitting intelligence.
But it is not satisfied with this, and pushes the narrative and characters to the complex and extreme in a risky gesture.
"Lurking" has the office politics and family order of "husband and wife" that the audience likes to see, "Before Dawn" has its happy workplace ecology, "Dark Calculation" has the ultimate sadistic human emotions, and "Infernal" returns to the purity of spy warfare, using high-density games to write through the power tactics of the spy war world and the dangers of spy warfare work.
At the market level, this is undoubtedly a dangerous road, but the emergence of "Infernal" means that without taking the flow of life, it can also reach the audience's heart with a high-density narrative.
There are data to back it up. At the end of the broadcast, "Infernal" ranked first on satellite TV in the ratings statistics of China Audiovisual Big Data last week, and in the latest daily list statistics, it topped on April 14, April 15 and April 16 respectively. On the list of Kuyun, "Infernal" is a regular on the list. For a TV series that requires a lot of mental effort to follow, it is unusual to win such influence and loyalty among traditional audiences.
Another surprising fact is that one of the screenwriters of "Infernal" and director Qi Dao is an actor from a professional background, in the field of film, he has been rushing to the set of literary films for a long time, and in commercial dramas, he is a familiar actor with audience recognition. Ben is a pure professional actor, how did he embark on the road of screenwriting and director? Why did his first work have the ambition to break through the program and innovate the theme?
Film and television monologue had a three-hour face-to-face conversation with Qidao, listening to him talk about the arduous and tortuous creative road.
The following is a self-report of Qidao.
Ten years long, I think it is a "shortcut"
The idea of creating "Infernal" was born at the intersection of three emotions, intentional anger, confusion about what to do, and... Helplessness in the bottleneck period.
About ten years ago, American dramas and British dramas became popular in China, and holding foreign dramas and stepping on domestic dramas became a kind of public opinion correct, I often see a saying on the news: dramas made in a certain country can dump dozens of streets of domestic dramas.
At that time, I was young, and I was a film and television worker, I didn't like such a statement, and the situation opened up by so many excellent creators was rashly denied by such a sentence, and I felt very uncomfortable.
But the production environment I am in is often confusing, everywhere is busy making money, a drama with five episodes of the script can be started, while filming and writing, this film after the filming of the next part as usual, such a vicious circle, how can a good work be born?
Kido is on set
From the actor's point of view, although I have been constantly acting and can meet some good roles, but overall it has reached a bottleneck period, and it is not easy to find suitable and favorite roles.
The three emotions are mixed together, and it is very depressing. At that time, there was a popular saying called "you can do it", I thought to myself, as if I could really try it.
As soon as this thought comes up, it can never be taken back. Spy war dramas are my first choice for targeting, because I am usually a spy war fan, and I have a certain involvement in relevant historical materials and film and television dramas, so it is relatively easy to start. But I kept it simple.
In 2012, the domestic classic spy war dramas "Dark Calculation", "Lurking" and "Before Dawn" have come out, and their creation methods and character relationships are quite proficient, and it is difficult to break through in this direction. From my point of view, if I can't think of something new, there is no need to start this project.
The process of finding inspiration was painful, until one day, when I was flipping through the materials, my eyes unconsciously rested on Xiong Xianghui's story, and a light suddenly came in my head. A person who has been lurking inside the enemy for more than ten years, can complete the task and retreat with his whole body and return smoothly, this legend like a folk book actually happened decades ago. Every time I read it, I have a feeling that I am not real.
I found an idea: to take the plot and character relationships to the extreme, and to dance everywhere in places that the audience didn't expect.
When I'm not filming, I often wander around the community, constantly pondering stories and characters, like the "wind and rain" combination of land wind and flower rain, and names like Shem Guan and Muxi Crane that are not common in life but have more charm, were all set at that time. Now that I think about it, almost only the name remained until the end, and most of the storylines that came up with at that time were self-negated and then overturned.
The reason is simple, not amazing enough, no surprises. Later, I thought of a way not to do an episode outline, and start writing again from the first episode, I don't know what happened in the second episode, if the author doesn't know, what I wrote should be a surprise.
This is very risky and grinding, because the bite of spy war dramas is very strong, and not writing an outline means facing countless pushes and repeats, and ordinary people can't do it.
I was lucky that three years later, in 2015, I met a young screenwriter named Lu Gang. On the one hand, we become each other's mirrors, communicating and colliding in the bitter creative process, making the horizon more open; On the other hand, when I went out filming and couldn't create, he continued to push forward so that the project would not be put on hold.
We set a standard in the process of cooperation: don't waste the scene, don't waste the lines. From the plot to the suspense setting, from character shaping to plot reversal, delete over and over again, change it over and over again, no matter how bad it is, we still have to overturn and rewrite this "killer app".
Qi Dao as Shen Xiao
In this way, writing and changing all the way, starting in 2012 until the final draft at four o'clock in the morning on New Year's Day 2020, the script creation took a total of more than seven years. In the past seven years, I have gone from my thirties to forties, Lu Gang has become the father of his children from an unmarried boy, and the drama market has changed dramatically, but I think "Infernal" is not outdated.
There are indeed moments in the middle when I can't go on, and I once wanted to give up, but I found that I couldn't find the way I came, I invested too much, I had no choice, I could only walk forward, success or failure, leave it to luck.
With seven years of writing the script, three years of shooting, production and distribution, "Infernal" has gone for ten years, and some people say that the time cost is too high and not worth it, but I think this is a "shortcut", concentrate on using clumsy methods to smash a drama, and the result will not be too bad.
Put the work in front
In the crew of "Infernal", there is a special guest who has been with the group for more than 20 days, has not filmed, but has always been my backbone and gave unspeakable support on the spot.
He is Mr. Chen Daoming.
In fact, "Infernal" and his fate began during the filming preparation period. At that time, due to the influence of the market environment, if there were no appealing actors to join, the project could not be discussed, Mr. Chen had read the script of "Infernal", and he recommended Jin Dong to us.
To be honest, is Jin Dong lacking in acting? There is no shortage at all, when we found him, he had 16 scripts on his desk, many dramas were waiting for him, some waited for years, and some even set up the scene, just waiting for his schedule. There is no other way but sincerity.
Kung Fu pays off, and "Infernal" ushered in a luxurious lineup: Jin Dong, Wang Likun, Wang Zhiwen, Zhang Zhijian, Si Ni... It's fine to invite one or two of these people alone, but it is very difficult to get them together at the same time. Teacher Chen played a huge role in this, so I said, without Teacher Chen, there would be no "Infernal".
I anticipated the complicated situation I would face while shooting, so I insisted on putting the work forward and breaking it up and preparing for it.
First of all, the script is no longer changed. Some people say that I am both a director and a screenwriter, is it stress-free to change the script on the spot? Not at all. There was such a thing before filming, because I moved a line, I changed the scene for seven episodes. Since then, I have never worked on the script again.
Director Kong Sheng once said, "Let's not change the script easily, because the screenwriter wrote it after at least a few months of thinking, can you guarantee that what you come up with in a few minutes on the spot can surpass the screenwriter?" ”
I deeply believe that especially for spy war dramas, it takes a considerable amount of time to deliberate, and it is far from enough to rely on the flash of inspiration on the spot. And on a production level, I can't waste my precious time on endless script discussions to be responsible to investors.
Second, all departments should have a clear understanding of their own work. We had a pre-shooting rehearsal, how did we shoot each scene? Why is it filmed like this? What is the drama feature? What items do I need? How are props arranged? How do actors enter and exit the painting? Maybe the scene will make temporary adjustments according to the state of the actors, but do the basic work well, no matter what happens, we have a guarantee plan, and the scene will not be chaotic.
Third, the actors and scenes are all set in advance. When we were preparing in Beijing, we had all the actors set. How accurate is it? Even if the role only has one line, I have to know who will play it then. The scenery is the same, when to shoot which scene, what scene is exactly where, all know in the chest.
Putting the work forward and detailing is my working method as a new director. The preparation is detailed to this extent, and there may be changes when shooting, and if you don't do it, it may be more hectic.
Innovation starts with breaking conventions
"Infernal" is indeed going through an adventure. The script is like this, and the image is still like this.
The fundamental reason is that my newborn calf is not afraid of tigers, I don't have the mindset of a professional screenwriter and director, and I am always used to looking at things from a different angle, and I want to break the conventions of this genre.
First of all, the actors are almost starred in makeup. You can wear makeup, but the makeup must match the era, match the identity of the character. But this is only the first layer, on top of that, I also want to bring freshness to the audience in terms of styling. For example, Muxi He, many people say that he is actually Dai Kasa, but is Dai Kasa this almost bald image?
Secondly, in the past, we watched the anti-Japanese theme, the yellow army of the Japanese devils ran all over the street, and the audience may have seen physical discomfort, so I thought about this drama at the beginning, to try to dilute the visual symbols of the Japanese military uniform, the general is wearing the ghost military uniform, this is enough, the information is given. As for the aggressive nature of Japan's war against China, it is dramatally enough to fully express it.
For example, in such an era, lovers cannot stay together, fathers and sons cannot recognize each other, brothers cannot drink together, and the damage of this war to people is three-dimensional, and there is no need to emphasize it with symbols.
Third, in past spy war dramas, cruel and bloody torture scenes were indispensable, and "Infernal" maintained restraint. I think the contest between mature agents lies in mind and intelligence.
Fourth, the camera no longer focuses on the quality of agents beyond ordinary people's imagination, but focuses on the tactics of both enemies and us.
What does "Infernal" show? When other countries want to make China grovel, then China will definitely let it see the pride of wisdom and heritage, and what makes people think about it again and again is a group of persistent people and a noble cause.
In addition, in terms of overall film tone, we are closer to the German drama "Babylon Berlin", which is slightly blue and dark, which has both the style of the Republic of China period and the coldness and coldness of spy war work.
Looking at the problem from another angle, I want to bring the audience a new audiovisual experience in the field of spy war dramas. Returning to the original face of spy warfare, I want to do an experiment through "Infernal": when those conventional auxiliary elements are removed, relying on the strong plot of high purity and the core of home and country feelings, can spy war dramas also conquer the audience?
The concealed narrative of "Infernal"
Generally speaking, in spy war dramas, setting a protagonist as an agent with multiple identities is already very interesting, but this is not the case in "Infernal", and the identities of several of its main characters are complex.
Like Lu Feng, at first working for the military commander as a subordinate of the flash official, and later entered No. 76, he was disheartened by the Kuomintang after being designed by the flash officer, and had an intersection with the Chinese Communist Party, but then he suddenly became a person on the list of "Star Plan", and the character went erratic.
Hua Xiangyu and Sheguan are the same, jumping between several identities such as military agents, Japanese spies, and Qing dynasty widows, and I think the important thing is not the complexity of the identity, but the process of setting up and unbuttoning, which is very interesting.
Everyone is the epitome of a force, and everyone's choice and transformation are the abbreviation of the force behind it. People are not always simple binary opposites, and when you realize this, you won't watch "Infernal" as a regular spy war drama.
Spy war dramas usually have two narrative methods, one is called concealing the people in the play and not hiding from the audience, and the other is that both the people in the play and the audience are concealed, and "Infernal" is obviously the latter.
I wanted to take this narrative to the extreme, and one of the criteria was that by the last episode, there was still suspense. How does Lu Feng strengthen his faith? What is the true purpose of the flash officer? Can Shen Xiao get out safely? How does Hua Xiangyu complete self-reconciliation? Can Blue Ice find its final destination? The mystery of each person can always hook the audience.
For a forty-episode spy war drama, it is not easy to do this, but fortunately, the direction is right, the ratings of "Infernal" have remained firm, and they have not been discouraged until the end. As a newcomer screenwriter and director's test of the waters, I have to say that this drama is not perfect, film and television creation is like this, I hold the water and run forward, there are always leaks in the process, and in the end, how much is left in my hand determines the quality of the play.
Ten years to sharpen a sword, in order to bring some new atmosphere to spy war dramas, so that this already extremely mature category takes a small step forward. If the audience sees and accepts this exploration, then I will be worth the trip.