Posts in Behind the Scenes

Chasing The Six

Work continues on The Six, the new feature documentary from LPDocs, directed by Arthur Jones. The film traces the lives of the Chinese passengers on Titanic, six of whom survived before disappearing completely from the history books as anti-Chinese sentiment stirred up prejudicial immigration laws for the first half of the twentieth century. Arthur follows historian and frequent collaborator Steven Schwankert (The Poseidon Project) as he travels the globe to uncover the lost stories of Lee Bing, Fang Lang, Chang Chip, Ah Lam, Chung Foo and Ling Hee, and finally give them their place in history.

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It has been a year since Arthur and Steven traced the son of one survivor to Wisconsin, USA. Further clues led them to a remote village in Guangzhou, China. Meanwhile, at our base in Shanghai, the research team have been trawling through old archives in search of clues about The Six, and have been asking tough questions about the immigration policies which made life so difficult for Chinese migrants to Europe and North America as recently as 60 years ago.
Research of this nature is littered with obstacles. Chinese genealogy is notoriously difficult, particularly in English language documents such as shipping records, where names are often inconsistently transcribed. But there are a surprising amount of documents which have survived in archives around the world. The most exciting recent development has been the discovery of a new batch of records which tell us exactly what happened to the six upon arrival in New York aboard the rescue ship Carpathia. After months of speculation about the immediate aftermath of the accident, we are now able to verify why they were aboard Titanic, and where they were headed for the next few years.

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We find threads of the six in USA, Canada and UK, all countries which offered their own Chinese Exclusions Acts. Perhaps the most pernicious of the bunch was UK, where post-war anti-immigrant sentiment saw thousands of settled Chinese men forcibly deported. For many, this meant leaving behind British wives and children, most of whom never knew what had happened to their husbands and fathers (you can read more about the impact of these deportations on Liverpool families from Yvonne Foley at the Half and Half Project)

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Researcher Matthew Baren took a trip to London’s Limehouse earlier this month to visit various listed addresses of one survivor. Like Liverpool, London’s dockland areas became a home for the first Chinese migrant workers in UK, with Limehouse becoming the countries first Chinatown and the basis of pulp hysteria Fu Manchu. Much of the docklands area has been repurposed for housing and the Canary Wharf financial district, and today’s Limehouse retains little of what stood 100 years ago. Gone are the boarding houses which were home to Chinese seamen. But the streets on which the six and so many others lived are still there.
The next stop on our journey in making The Six is Bangkok, where Arthur and producer Julia Cheng will follow up their success at GZDoc in 2015 with a trip to documentary industry event Asian Side of the Doc. Be sure to check out our updated trailer for the film, available on our online channels.

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A Lapsed History of Time

A quiet few weeks at LP Films? Far from it…just nothing we can talk about right now (keep your eyes on our blog, wechat and Facebook though). There’s plenty of running around, with multiple crews running on some days. We’ve seen the team on shoots down in Guangdong and more recently Macau, where we soaked up some good fortune under the warm glow of the casinos. Meanwhile, back at the office our pre-production team has been working tirelessly on new creative content for clients, whilst the post-production team has been polishing off some stellar commercial shoots. And all this to the sound of pop sensation Selina Gomez, who is a recent favorite of at least one British staff member…

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…but which Brit?

Today we’re getting ready to rig one of our infamous Black Boxes…which just happen to be yellow. This is one of the many systems we’ve developed over the years to help us shoot timelapse footage. We’re getting it ready today for a 4 day shoot, but we’ve previously used it for one which lasted several months.

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Black Box modeled by Nate Wang

Timelapse is the familiar process speeding up time on film. Traditionally, film is shot at 24 frames per second, which mimics human vision. Time lapse film runs much slower – maybe one frame per second, one per minute or one per hour. When played back at 24 frames per second, it can condense days, weeks or even years into a matter of minutes. The process is believed to have first appeared in cinema in 1987 in Georges Méliès Carrefour de l’Opéra (one of his many ‘lost films’) Since then, it has become common in everything from film (like Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi trilogy) to nature documentary (like BBC’s Planet Earth) to commercials.

Head of Post-Production Nate Wang loves the timelapsed opening sequence of Lost In Hong Kong 港囧 (Xu Zheng, 2015), which he describes as, “a beautifully ambitious collision of day and night told through great editing.” Creative Planner Matthew Baren loves the motion timelapse in Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) which captures its drug-addicted lead character frantically cleaning her apartment and utterly lost, whilst cinematographer Andrej Iliev prefers the simplicity of a flower blooming at the end of Adaptation. (Spike Jonze, 2002)

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end scene from Adaptation. (2002)

How do we use it here at LP Films? We’ve built a reputation for delivering high-quality timelapse sequences. We are able to handle a variety of technical requirements, through capture, processing and delivery. But we also believe in finding the best solution creatively. For some shoots, this means rigging fixed systems like the Black Box, which is designed to endure all kinds of weather for long periods without compromising the shot. We’ve also worked with shorter motion timelapses, with a crew moving the camera slowly over a short distance.

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We are also fans of hyperlapse. Similar to motion timelapse, this involves moving the camera whilst the timelapse is taking place, but over a much longer distance. We first used this technique back in 2007 as part of our legacy documentary for Special Olympics. The shot traveled around Shanghai Stadium and took four hours to complete. Whilst stabilisation was initially an issue, the final result was spectacular. We’ve since used hyperlapse on a number of projects, including our Shanghai Expo 2010 film.

Check out our portfolio, or take a look at our hyperlapse trailer for a taste of what we’ve shot.

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