It's now become one of my hobbies to look through Trip Advisor every so often when planning a trip or trying to find something new to do in Shanghai. A couple of months ago I saw a place called "Shanghai Chedun Film Park," which is in the southwestern suburbs. It's currently ranked #47 (out of 479 attractions in Shanghai), but things are apt to change on a daily basis. Unbelievably, as it stands now, the subway/metro is ranked #1. To think, I get the pleasure of using the #1 attraction twice a day, five days a week! It's quick and convenient, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it an "attraction."
Anyway, the film park is spread out over 433,000 square meters and apparently construction there is still ongoing. Their website (www.shfilmpark.com) says that 48,000 square meters has been constructed, with another 81,890 square meters to come. The numbers boggle my mind a bit, but actually it didn't seem too big and was easy to walk around, although admittedly I didn't visit every corner of the park.
I asked my friend Anna if she would like to go with me, and she said it sounded interesting. Yesterday, she was kind enough to serve as both driver and model, as you'll soon see. The ticket price showing online was 50 yuan (less than $8) but when I got to the ticket window, the price was 80 yuan (about $12.50). I hadn't brought a lot of money with me, but I had enough to get the tickets. If my Chinese was better, I would have pointed out that their website needs to be updated.
Since much of the appeal of the film park is that it shows Shanghai from the first half of the 20th century, I had asked Anna to wear a 旗袍 (qipao), the traditional Chinese dress at the time. I'm so excited about the pictures you'll see with her. She's beautiful in all of them and never once refused to be in a picture. She may have spoiled me - I think I'm better at taking pictures of people than buildings or landscapes, but I'm always shy about asking people if I can get a picture. Having my own model definitely made the day easier and much more enjoyable!
Since the park is essentially several different movie sets in one place, we came across two film crews in different areas of the park. The first one was filming at one of the European houses, the second on one of the downtown streets. Anna and I asked (okay, Anna asked) what the name of the movie being filmed was, and actually it was two different movies. I don't know what either is about, but I'm excited to see both of them when they come out (in a year or so?) because I can watch them and say "I saw that part being filmed!" Those of you in China, be on the lookout for 血之歌 (Xue Zhi Ge) and 风华佳人 (Feng Hua Jia Ren). Loosely translated, the titles are "Song of Blood" and "Elegant Beauty."
One of the first buildings in the park is a large warehouse...full of old, classic cars, trucks and trams (and one 1990's Toyota minivan). I had taken about two or three pictures here when every photographer's nightmare happened - I filled up my SD card. I had several with me, but it was the same story every time I checked - every card was FULL! We went to the information desk and asked but they said they had no cards (or film) for sale. I had decided a while back that with the falling prices of SD cards, I'd just never erase them and instead buy new ones when I needed them (I'm a bit paranoid about losing pictures if a computer crashes so it's good to have a backup or two). In the end, I found one partially-used card and then erased another one with pictures from Cambodia. Actually, one card was enough since I didn't even need to use the one I erased. I guess I should have kept it in my pocket in case I needed it, but not erase it until that time. I've said it in a previous blog but I'll say it again, "live and learn!"
One of the things I love most about Shanghai is what I call its "schizophrenia" - it has an awesome mixture of old and new that coexist side by side. The SH Film Park was full of picture opportunities where I could show some more of this schizophrenia, for example here, with the beautiful woman in a delicate qi pao standing on the army truck. The ultimate example of the schizophrenia was in the park itself. At least one strip of buildings definitely has two personalities - one side is a foreign hospital and faces the lawn with all of the other foreign buildings, while the other side is the shops and buildings on the fake Nanjing Road
A scene from 血之歌 (Song of Blood) being filmed
Anna on Nanjing Road with lots of male actors/extras lining the street behind her. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that these people work at the park as full-time extras. I saw a short interview on the English channel one day with one such extra. He said that he's had to face the reality that not everyone in movies gets to be rich or famous, but that he still has to make a living
In the 石库门 (Shikumen), traditional Chinese housing
Some older Chinese people take their birds out when meeting friends - these cages were empty since they're part of a movie set. I suppose they put birds in them when they need to film at this spot
A typical scene in the small lanes of the Shikumen
Outside a teahouse with an advertisement for tiger balm on the back wall
Watching a scene from 风华佳人 (Elegant Beauty)
One of the actors (portraying a Japanese man) getting his makeup touched up after riding up and down the road in a hot car
Anna with her Chinese Zodiac sign, the ox
Anna with her sign and me with mine, the tiger
We saw a prop gun sitting unattended, so we grabbed it for another "schizophrenic" shot. Don't worry, we put it right back after I got the picture
I was amazed by the detail at the park - not only was the architecture accurate to the time, so were the posters and advertisements placed on the walls
A copy of the 外白渡桥 (Waibaidu Bridge). The real one crosses over Suzhou Creek close to where it empties into the Huangpu River, right next to Shanghai's famous Bund waterfront (wow, that's a mouthful - hope you understand!)
Anna's reflection in a very large puddle
A couple of shots on the bridge. Anna was a real trouper, by the way. She said that standing in this position on the bridge hurt her feet, but she still stayed long enough so I could take a picture
A good picture to show this is NOT the real Shanghai - the streets are deserted
This is the traditional character for "iron" (铁)
In addition to making movies, having wedding photos taken at the park is big business
The paint here shows that the person living inside owes money. It also shows that the person who wants the money isn't the most literate (在 and 债 aren't quite homonyms, but they're close (zai and zhai))
The characters here show that this place makes and/or sells soy sauce (read from right to left, 酱园, "jiang yuan"
The person in the car didn't seem to want to cooperate with me - he kept moving his foot in and out of the car, but I finally got a picture of his foot just peeking out of the car, close to where I wanted it
One last set of "schizophrenic shots - the beautiful woman behind barbed wire
In my opinion, the film park definitely deserves to be higher than #47 on Trip Advisor's list. I guess that means I should go online and add some of my comments to help boost its profile.
I hope you enjoyed these pictures. I had a lot of fun taking them and I've already told Anna personally, but I should add here that the pictures wouldn't be half as good as they are if Anna hadn't agreed to be my model for the day. Actually, I've just looked through them again and I have to say, Anna is great at posing! I would ask Anna to go stand in front of a building or on the bridge and so on, but she would decide how to turn her body or her head and I think the result looks great (if you asked me to be in a picture, I'd probably have the same posture every time). So if you're in Shanghai and want to take a short trip to the past, head out to the film park with your camera, get a friend to go with you and start snapping!