MAR 21 2016

Ten Locations that You've Probably Have Never Heard of

As we head into spring here our top ten most amazing China locations from last year – We hope you enjoy the sights – and wish you a spectacular Year of the Monkey!

10. The School that Turned Chinese

What if the UK adopted the Chinese education system?  Mandarin Film worked with BBC2’s new series ‘The School That Turned Chinese’ taking five teachers over to the UK for a month to teach British students using traditional Chinese techniques.

As part of the show they sent a small production team aided by Mandarin Film to China to film the teachers and students in their usual classes and at home with their families in Hangzhou and Nanjing.

So far so run-of-the-mill for a Mandarin Film co-operation with the BBC, but what happened next has got people pretty excited…

The series is provoking real debate both in the UK and China on the relative merits of their education systems and what’s best for our kids.

In a world where everyone is chasing the ultimate viral video, this appears to be one of only a few that is both viral AND intelligent! Take a look and let us know what you think!

9. Inner Mongolian Hippy Village

Mandarin Film has been working on a new feature length documentary about dance in China, written and directed by Mandarin Film founder Patrick Carr.

The documentary was shot all over China including Shanghai, Beijing, a small village near the Great Wall, and perhaps most spectacularly in Inner Mongolia.  Our main character makes a journey to ‘rainbow village’ a hippy commune in the vast grasslands where we filmed beautiful plains, pristine lakes and a traditional Mongolian wedding.  The journey took 8 hours by sealed road followed by four hours across the grassland, with frequent stops to dig our car out of the sand.

Escaping the Temple is now in post production and will be broadcast on TV in summer 2016 (Arte and SVT confirmed).  Our aim is to create a wide outreach campaign for the movie, including festivals and performances around the world.  To find out more join us our indiegogo campaign.

8. Forbidden City Three Wheelers

NDAs being the fearsome beasts they are, we can’t name the A list Hollywood actor we recently organized the China part of his new environmental documentary for, but the risk of being mobbed means we needed to keep constantly on the move.  So how to showcase some of China’s iconic sites when there are literally millions of tourists on the streets waiting to pounce on our global superstar?  The humble tricycle helped us scoot our star around town, evading the crowds and getting some amazing footage of our man on the street.


7. Evil Empress Hang Outs

In the summer and autumn of 2015 Mandarin Film worked with True North to recreate the world of ‘Evil’ Empress Wu Zetian;  China’s first and only empress of China in the seventh century.  This docu-drama involved two intensive weeks shooting in Xi’An and Luoyang, with incredible access to artifacts, locations and experts.  A highlight of the shoot was flying a drone over the site of Wu Zetian’s tomb. 

To really bring the documentary to life though we spent a further three days on a studio lot outside Beijing shooting scenes from the life of Wu Zetian.  Everything had to be period, from the costumes, jewellery, props and furniture to the make-up and the hair.  The set design team spent a week prior to the shoot making all the columns in the main buildings round and vermilion rather than square and black to properly match the times!

Evil Empress will appear on screens on Channel 4, the Smithsonian, France 5 and others from Spring 2016.

6.Billie’s Secret Locations

In Secrets Of China, Billie JD Porter finds out what it’s really like to grow up in the country with the highest population on Earth.  She discovers a surprising nation of super-hard-workers, romantics and millionaires, peeling back the layers of a sometimes secretive and proud society to ask 'what next?' for this complicated and fascinating place.

Mandarin Film helped Billie travel from the world-famous Great Wall, through Gotham-like megacities, to China’s only tropical island.  Along the way Billie witnessed some of China’s unique phenomena, both old and new.

Billie said: “I will never forget my time in China, nor the real importance of the culture's three intertwined chief principles; wealth, obedience and marriage. The country's incredible history has shaped the nation to hold values so contrasting to ours, and it's been fascinating to see first-hand how different an experience growing up in China is compared to my own.”

5.The World’s Most Dangerous Hike

In this innovative series four lucky members of the British public took part in the road trip of a lifetime. Driving a UK registered Bedford Bambi camper van, they set off from England on August 10, 2015 and drove more than 15,000 miles to Australia, passing through 18 countries on the way. 

The group planned to enter China from Kyrgyzstan (via the Torugart Pass), and then drive to the border with Laos via Kashgar, Kuqa, Turpan, Hami, Dunhuang, Lanzhou, Longnan, Chengdu, Pu’er and Jinhong.  Over two thousand miles. All in just 3 weeks.  In a crappy old van.

Problems came by the bucketful – how to cross a closed border? How to get foreign vans and drivers into the country when neither were legal?  How to get a spare part that could only be found in the UK (answer fly it out to Thailand and have our fixer pick it up in Bangkok)?  How to clear a tourist site at the busiest time of the year?  How to keep our cast and crew safe on “The world’s most dangerous hike”? (See video) All issues were dealt with and the team were on their way – one of the most butt-achingly, stomach-churningly long distance journeys we’ve ever been involved with.

The show was aired on Channel 4 in the UK in December 2015.

4. Viral Locations (in a good way)

In January 2016 Mandarin Film completed a fast turnaround project filming in southern China and Europe, this Western Union commercial brought together a son and his parents working abroad.

After release the video went viral, clocking up over 100,000 plays in the first four days.

What made it go viral?  It’s a million dollar question that seems impossible to answer, but the magic mix seemed to contain a good balance of no hard sell, a cute kid, a common problem, emotive storyline and, of course, great locations….

Mandarin Film works regularly with branding company Co.Mission based in New York to create amazing video content, and this Western Union campaign follows successful campaigns for Starbucks and Android amongst others.

3. Delivery Package Depot, China Scale

Mandarin Film worked with Alibaba to create a video seen around the world for 11.11, China’s shopping festival. In an amazingly complicated and time sensitive operation MF was responsible for all aspects of production, simultaneously managing 9 crews around China to come together to produce a video that needed to be shot, edited and outputted in just two days, and delivered to the world on 11.11 itself.

Our most amazing location was the distribution center that deals with hundreds of thousands of packages every day.  We got an amazing drone shot that captures the vast scale and frenzied activity that goes into Alibaba’s operations.  See from 1.07 of the video.

2. 5,000 years of China locations

Exploring the history of the world's oldest civilization and newest superpower, Story of China is an extraordinarily ambitious six part BBC/PBS landmark series presented by TV historian Michael Wood. 

One of the biggest projects ever undertaken by Mandarin Film, the series has been three years and over one hundred shooting days in the making.  Filming began in 2013 and the series aired on BBC2 in January 2016.

Locations galore - From Henan temple fairs a million people strong to ancient capitals, barges on the Grand Canal to Song dynasty cooking recipes, from the silk road to the modern cities of Nanjing, Shanghai and Beijing, from modern day football matches to Maoist communes. But rather than tell you our favorite, why not let the great man Michael Wood take you through his highlights of this amazing series?

1. An Extraordinarily Large Ladder.  Made of Fireworks.

A memorable moment of this Sundance- nominated feature doc was having eight camera crews overlooking the 2014 Beijing APEC event where our artist Cai Guoqiang was organizing a firework art piece for the world’s leaders and being told that our crews would be shot by snipers if they moved from their designated areas!  Sharpens the mind.

But the most challenging part of the shoot (and our number one favourite location of 2015) came at the denouement of the film, when (without giving too much away) Cai attempts to suspend a 500 meter firework ladder from an enormous hot-air balloon.  In total we organized eleven camera positions, with everything from Red Epics, Amiras, Movi rigs and Gopros to two remote control helicopter crews circling the action (in high wind).

To stay away from prying eyes, the event took place on a remote island in South East China with little electricity or internet connection, and several tonnes of equipment needed to be shipped to and fro using local fishing boats.  On top of this, the onset of typhoon season meant days of delays, and a shoot on the edge of safety limits (No one wants a balloon carrying a ladder containing several tonnes of detonating fireworks drifting over their head). 

The film has been selected for Sundance 2016.  Click here to know more.

Not enough amazing locations?  Sign up for our blog to receive them hot off the press, and check out last year’s too!

Happy New Year!

Love and peace,

The Mandarin Film team




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FEB 10 2016

Story Of China Episode 4

This Thursday at 9pm, BBC TWO, Michael Wood tells the tale of China’s most famous dynasty, founded by peasant rebel Hongwu. The film takes us all the way from his great capital Nanjing, to the Bao family village, to the ‘Venice of China’: Suzhou. We see the giant fortifications of the Great Wall, the ritual enclaves of the Forbidden City in Beijing and travel with Mr Hu down the Grand Canal – China’s great artery of commerce right up to the present day. And if that wasn’t enough, we even meet the westerner and Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, who hoped to convert China to Christianity. 

Mandarin Film provided full production services for the series in China.

Link to Episode 4 clip:
Link to BBC programmes page:
Link to series trailer:
Link to Episode synopses:

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JAN 21 2016

The Story of China

As some of you might be aware, we’ve been working hard on our new series, The Story of China with Michael Wood. It’s going out as part of the China series on BBC Two,  beginning on Thursday 21st January 2016 at 9pm on BBC Two!

“The oldest state on earth, today China is the second biggest economy in world and is flexing its muscles again across the globe. It’s a great time to look at what has made Chinese civilisation so utterly distinctive, and so brilliant, for so long. And time, too, to ask whether after the last 400 years of the triumph of the West, China – for long periods of history the greatest civilisation on earth, – is simply returning to its place?”

Exploring the history of the world's oldest civilization and newest superpower, The Story of China is an extraordinarily ambitious six part BBC/PBS landmark series presented by TV historian Michael Wood. 

One of the biggest projects ever undertaken by Mandarin Film, the series has been three years and over one hundred shooting days in the making.  Filming began in 2013 and the series will air on BBC2 in January 2016.

The series is truly epic in scale and sweep.  From Henan temple fairs a million people strong to ancient capitals, barges on the Grand Canal to Song dynasty cooking recipes, from the silk road to the modern cities of Nanjing, Shanghai and Beijing, from modern day football matches to Maoist communes.

Mandarin Film was involved in all aspects of production, from the research and development stage right through to chasing up archive and music rights during post-production.  We are proud to have been involved in such a momentous landmark production.

BBC Two’s new landmark documentary series, The Story of China (6×60), written and presented by historian Michael Wood, explores the history of the world’s oldest continuous state, from the ancient past to the present day.

Home to over a billion people, China is the new superpower, a country we all want to understand now, and Wood argues that to do so we have to look at its history. Travelling across the country he explores the landscapes, peoples, stories and cultures that have helped create China’s distinctive character and genius over more than four thousand years.


Journeying along the Silk Route, down the Grand Canal, and across the plain of the Yellow River, where Chinese civilisation began, Wood meets people from all walks of life, visiting China’s most evocative landscapes and exploring ancient cities like Xian, Nanjing and Hangzhou.

He’ll trace some of the great moments in Chinese history – from their extraordinary voyages of exploration before Columbus, to amazing scientific inventions before the European Renaissance: he’ll even show that the Chinese invented football!

A grand sweep narrative, full of big ideas and unexpected surprises, the series shows how the Chinese created their own distinctive vision of the world: a vision that is still alive in the 21st century and indeed, Wood argues, is the real motor behind the incredible and growing success of China today.”

Here comes the trailer:

An episode guide can be found here:

And some of host Michael Wood’s favorite moments are here:


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