Director’s Interview

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[00:00]

Fumeng Ruowei
What’re you laughing for?! What for?!

Zhang Xinyu
This is all too serious!

Fumeng Ruowei
Well this is a serious interview, okay?

Zhang Xinyu
I can’t stop! I can’t, really can’t.

Fumeng Ruowei
Ugh, return!


[00:17]

Fumeng Ruowei
Hello everyone, I’m the director of Handbook to Capturing the Black Lotus Audio Drama, Fumeng Ruowei.

Zhang Xinyu
Hello everyone, I’m the voice director of Handbook to Capturing the Black Lotus Audio Drama, Zhang Xinyu.

System
That’s right. They’re get serious in a flash. We will now continue straight into the interview section.


Fumeng Ruowei
The first question is for me. “After reading the novel, what do you think is its main theme and genre, and how do you plan to produce the elements of the genre in the audio drama?” Those of you who have read the novel will know that it is a Xuanhuan genre novel set in the ancient times, and it also includes some elements of novel transmigration. So I think its main theme is basically built upon the foundations of a historical bourgeois tragedy, with transmigration elements. Furthermore, the main female lead is from the modern world with a sense of humour, bringing that flavour to the novel. And also, including talismans and yao hunters, content that touch upon the traditional Chinese culture and religion are written into the novel. I think that this is the main theme and genre we have set for it.


[01:24]

System
“How did you replicate these features of the genre during the production?”

Fumeng Ruowei
We did it in many ways, I guess. For example, in the planning of the lines in the scriptwriting, and sometimes in the small sfx for the recording. And also in our artistic design, we also created the traditional historic feel with a bit of modern elements added to it. This includes the mythical, religious and enchanting touch. What I think really illustrates these elements is the music. Everyone might discover that something about our music is not quite the same as what other historic audio dramas have. Yeah. It has this extremely strong traditional element to it.

Zhang Xinyu
It’s absolutely something worth looking forward to. I’m serious. It had me shocked.

Fumeng Ruowei
When we recorded it we really put in a lot of effort into this to create the feel of the genre.

Zhang Xinyu
And some tracks will not only include vocalists but even our own voice actors.

Fumeng Ruowei
I think the music is rather worth giving it a good listen and discussion.

Zhang Xinyu
Yeah. After the recording, the cast all claimed they could debut as a group. It’s a special element but I think if you’ll all pay attention, you’ll get it.

Fumeng Ruowei
We’re actually all anticipating how it will turn out.

Fumeng Ruowei
Next question. “What do you think is most special about Handbook to Capturing the Black Lotus Audio Drama?” Actually, in our answer to the last question we’ve already included some of what’s special about the audio drama. If you’re talking overall, I think there’s three words for it. It’s enchanting, gorgeous and fantastical.

Zhang Xinyu
Hm, I might… Can I add to it?

Fumeng Ruowei
You can.

Zhang Xinyu
It’s super hard to adjust.

Fumeng Ruowei
You’re probably talking about me.

Zhang Xinyu
Super hard to record. Super huge team.

Fumeng Ruowei
Oh, yeah.

Zhang Xinyu
Super big appetite! Really big…

Fumeng Ruowei
Right, what’s also really special about us is that we have an abundant number of species. We not only have a lot of people, we have a lot of yao and ghosts.

Zhang Xinyu
A lot of yao and ghosts, yeah.


[03:28]

Fumeng Ruowei
Next question. “What difficulties did you have in scriptwriting for the adaptation, and how did you overcome them?” Er… I do think it’s hard to do adaptations, because in the early stages of writing the script we might have a fair few months – I think Director Xinyu would know – it’s that when we were supposed to submit the script as per schedule we didn’t all do it.

Zhang Xinyu
I was pretty much chasing you all up for the script.

Fumeng Ruowei
Yeah.

Zhang Xinyu
I had fun chasing it up, but when I got it, I wanted to cry like no tomorrow. Though I think we’re largely faithful the the original work.

Fumeng Ruowei
Right, and when we adapt a novel into an audio drama we still need to overcome many difficulties. For example, the transmigration element. You need to use… You need to be able to understand through sound. You need to be able to hear very accurately the sound effect that expresses this process. And also the novel actually has a comparatively complicated worldview. It has the whole concept of the world of the novel being transmigrated into, and the worldview inside Monster Hunter that builds the myths, the yao and ghosts. So that means it has two large worldviews, and you need to make sure your audience can hear and understand that. On top of that, it’s already a novel in itself. There are a lot of characters who appear. Even in the first episode there are already a lot of characters. So in the script we have to be able to make the relationships clear, and allow those in the audience who haven’t read the original work to quickly work out who everyone is and what kind of personality traits they have. This is actually quite hard during the adaptation into a script. Plus, hm… Let me take a quick look at my answer…

Zhang Xinyu
You didn’t print your cheat sheet clearly?

Fumeng Ruowei
Plus the plot also has some elements of suspense and mystery. It’s not just a simple plot. So when you add that in, then the logic of it all become extremely important. So we need to work out the logic and lower the hurdle to understanding it. You can comprehend more information from words, but when you’re only using your ears then we need to work out a way to let the audience understand very quickly what clues they’ve received, what they’ll decide to do next, and then come to a conclusion.

Zhang Xinyu
All from what they feel.

Fumeng Ruowei
Exactly. That’s why need to smooth out the logic exceptionally clearly, and only then can we have the underence audistand… audience understand what’s going on.

Zhang Xinyu
What was that?

Fumeng Ruowei
Ugh, we said this was a professional interview.

Zhang Xinyu
It’s very professional. Underence audistand.

Fumeng Ruowei
Okay, the last point is the action scenes. There are many fight scenes and scenes of capturing yao, and managing the scene and characters is terribly hard. Because we need to make sure that… For example the voice director gets the script, the cast get the script, post-production get the script. They need to be able to understand instantly how the scene is established, how the characters move around, the actions in the fights. All this needs to flow into each other. We can’t let every scene be expressed however each person wants it to be, otherwise what is produced might end up a mess.

Zhang Xinyu
Like me getting the script and thinking, “woah, how am I supposed to create this scene? How are the actors supposed to move?” The scene’ll be a goner.

Fumeng Ruowei
Hmm, it’s a very hard thing to work ou-

Zhang Xinyu
This might be reason you were late with the script. Is that your excuse?!

Fumeng Ruowei
Yup.

Zhang Xinyu
Well, no matter what, we’ve been through it and come out on the other side. Anyways, from what I can tell from the script I received, the final result is wonderful.


[06:50]

System
What were your thoughts when you first read the plot of the novel?

Zhang Xinyu
If you’re talking about it from the perspective of producing an audio drama, it was… I thought, “this novel has so many elements in it. So how do we want to adapt it so we can illustrate it?” The original work is brilliant, even if you’re talking about the complexity of human nature. I’m talking about the stages and process of growth the main male lead goes through. The way his personality develops is quite complex. This includes his feelings for the main female lead and his older sister, they’re all pretty complex. We also have a lot of stages for the plot. For example, one thing links into the next. There’s even a tinge of investigation and solving mysteries. And then we also have to work out what this yao is and what that ghost is. There are so many of these elements and it’s really difficult. We were also worried, after we received the script, whether what we created would be able to paint a scene for the audience, and whether the scene was monotonous or flat like a drawing on a piece of paper. More importantly, we hoped the scenes would manifest a three-dimensional feel and be able to flourish on its own. So when you ask me what is so appealing about this novel, it’s because it’s so hard.

Fumeng Ruowei
Huh?

Zhang Xinyu
It really catches my eye. It’s so hard. Very hard to produce.

Fumeng Ruowei
So you like to challenge yourself.

Zhang Xinyu
And within this hardship, we’re able to discover even more about it. Even we slowly and gradually learned and explored every step of the way, and this process is what appeals to me the most. So when I first read the novel I thought it was pretty good. The plot’s good, it’s rich in characters and their personalities and that’s appealing. And there’s also the production. Now that process is very captivating. Before we started, I kept chasing up the script every day in the group chat, right?

Fumeng Ruowei
“When are we getting started?”

Zhang Xinyu
“When is it? Hurry up. Can you give me the script already? I want to read it.”

Fumeng Ruowei
You had high anticipation of how things would mesh when the recording started.

Zhang Xinyu
Right.


[08:45]

System
What considerations did you have when you chose the cast?

Zhang Xinyu
Maybe it’s a habit from the other ones I’ve directed before, but some aspects of a voice actor will be compatible with a character. It could be the tone of their voice or even their personality. There will be some aspects of them and the majority of that must be similar. But the main male lead of this novel is…well, comparatively more complex. Though, in real life it’s hard to find a guy whose personality is… They’re not like him.

Fumeng Ruowei
Nor have they experienced what he has.

Zhang Xinyu
Yes, and that’s why when we were casting I told myself I’d have to find someone who’s mature, has a lot of experience, and is a highly professional male voice actor for him. When Big Wei discussed this with me, I had my eyes locked on Chengzhang Taikang.

Fumeng Ruowei
Give him a round of applause!

Zhang Xinyu
Yes, give him a round of applause! So casting the male lead was easy. There would definitely be no problems with his professionalism. Character comprehension? Absolutely no problems either. The only thing we had to adjust was adapting to the character, but Taikang found his unique characteristics very quickly so the direction was pretty much set. The rest of the details relied on comprehending the script, which a detailed read and discussion on how to establish his character, where his character is headed, including his habits and issues. We’d set the character some physical and verbal mannerisms. Now the main female lead was… I think it was a little challenging.

Fumeng Ruowei
Her role is difficult as well.

Zhang Xinyu
First of all, the volume of her lines is huge. Secondly, she’s from the modern world and transmigrated into a historical period. She will need a period where she slowly gets used to her environment over the course of time. So the voice actor’s professional skills must be up to par. But what I find most difficult is that this female lead really has an appetite.

Fumeng Ruowei
Absolutely!

Zhang Xinyu
Ling Miaomiao is someone who can eat eight bowls of rice in one meal. So the female voice actor needs to be able to understand this feeling…

Fumeng Ruowei
You can stop now. Didn’t you just find someone who can really eat?!

Zhang Xinyu
That’s why I just went, “Qiao Su, she’s can do it! She can really eat!” And of course, throughout the recording Qiao Su lived up to our expectations and really could eat. Why? Well, I can’t say it now otherwise I’d spoil it but…

Fumeng Ruowei
We’re saying things and smearing our female lead’s reputation even before we’ve started airing. You sure it’s okay?

Zhang Xinyu
I’m guessing by the time the drama’s over she won’t be friends with me anymore. But back to the topic. From the new generation of voice actors, Qiao Su is very smart and grows rapidly.

Fumeng Ruowei
And she also has a lot of the qualities you see in Ling Miaomiao.

Zhang Xinyu
Yeah, she’s already merged with her character. And when she’s interacting with Taikang in the studio, I think she’s very… Ling Miaomiao-esque. Even though Taikang doesn’t have Mu Sheng’s personality, but when they’re immersed in their roles, the way they interact is spot on. It’s great and I just think…

Fumeng Ruowei
That you didn’t cast wrong.

Zhang Xinyu
I knew that I didn’t choose wrong and they’re great for their roles. Now for the main supporting characters, what more do I need to say? Our Fumeng Ruowei is so obviously fit for the role. It was like Mu Yao was made for her.

Fumeng Ruowei
Why does that sound so…so fake to me?

Zhang Xinyu
What, do you want me to say, “oh I had sooo much trouble. That missy gave me a troublesome one there.” And then in our main character group we have a dream guy, right? For Liu Fuyi we chose Big Kun. My first impression was that he would be perfect for the role. The moment he entered the studio and made a sound we were like, “oh that’s Liu Fuyi right there.” The production team had a few discussions with Big Wei about the casting and this is basically how we decided the main cast. But Big Wei started off asking, “oh are you really sure you want me to do Mu Yao?” and acted all shy. I told her, “What about it? Take the role. Stop wasting time. Get it on!” Either way, I personally think all four voice actors are well suited, at least for their roles.

Fumeng Ruowei
Even if we’re not it’s too late.


[12:27]

Fumeng Ruowei
Next question. “What difficulties did you run into during the recording. How did you overcome them?”

Zhang Xinyu
Can I say it? It’s Qiao Su’s eating problems… Aish, that child’s so true to herself.

Fumeng Ruowei
She’s good at eating but it’s also the eating that gives her trouble.

Zhang Xinyu
Exactly. She really does have the appetite. She’ll eat as much as you give her, but the problem is that…

Fumeng Ruowei
She so focused on it.

Zhang Xinyu
When we record, our voice actors may sometimes use props to completely act out the eating in the scene. But we gave her…

Fumeng Ruowei
She finished off all our props!

Zhang Xinyu
Right! We gave her enough props for all the recording of the whole audio drama, but she polished it off in one session. I don’t… Really, I just don’t… It’s just… What I found astounding was that Taikang said, “huh? You finished it all?” I turn around and that bread she had?

Fumeng Ruowei
There was only a small piece left.

Zhang Xinyu
Yes! I thought, “that’s so scary! Doesn’t this female voice actor go on diets?”

Fumeng Ruowei
All Taikang did was lower his head for a moment and when he looked up again…

Zhang Xinyu
And we all told her, “you don’t have to eat it all. Just keep it in your mouth. You don’t need to finish it off.” And her: “Mhm! Okay!” And then I go, “did you swallow it all.” Her: “Uhuh.”

Fumeng Ruowei
I don’t think it’s just a dilemma for you the voice director but also the props team’s as well.

Zhang Xinyu
Alright, I was kidding. I just find it hilarious. We had a great laugh. What gave us a headache was probably actually the extras! It took me so many days to cast them all. It’s like, “noooo I can feel the money flowing out of our pockets…” But you’ve got to admit that it…

Fumeng Ruowei
Gave you a great sense of accomplishment.

Zhang Xinyu
Yeah, I felt really accomplished because for what we wanted when err… how we designed the yao capturing scenes and the catastrophe scenes…

Fumeng Ruowei
Like we said before, there are many species and the scenes are huge.

Zhang Xinyu
And these huge scenes aren’t what’s hard. What is, is creating smaller scenes within the larger one. And you’ve got to plan for the tiny details to reproduce it from many angles. Of course, I also bothered the post-production team. So the creators, err… the scriptwriter gives the me, the voice director a tough job and I give post-production a tough one too. The source material we have to work is highly complex and rich…

Fumeng Ruowei
We put a lot of work into it.

Zhang Xinyu
Making the team cry.

Fumeng Ruowei
Our dialogue editor was dumbfounded when they received the files for the extras. “Checked. There’s still more. Checked. There’s still more? Checked. There’s still more?!”

Zhang Xinyu
“Just how many extras do we have for this episode?!” We told them they hadn’t even gone through 30% of it all.

Fumeng Ruowei
Yeah. We really wanted to build this world that is so rich in its elements and give everyone the feeling that it’s vivid and realistic.

Zhang Xinyu
But the bigger the stage, the more cast we have to use and we had to split record the recording into many groups. What we end up with is all types of people and yao. I think this is the hardest thing to adjust throughout the recording process.

Fumeng Ruowei
To be honest we had the hardest time with recording lines for the extras.

Zhang Xinyu
I think what was challenging was that we had to speak with each voice actor who came to record about why we want them to do something and how we’d like them to cooperate. But I have to give praise to the extras were very cooperative and they were able to record their lines in one go after I explained things to them. It happened quite a few times. No retakes. It was amazing.


[15:25]

Fumeng Ruowei
Alright, next question.

Zhang Xinyu
“Promote this audio drama as your role in the team.” Wow this is…

Fumeng Ruowei
You go first.

Zhang Xinyu
Either way, from my role in the audio drama I’ve put my heart, emotions, brains, efforts, er…my stomach counts right?

Fumeng Ruowei
Yeah you used it.

Zhang Xinyu
Right, so…

Fumeng Ruowei
You used all parts of your body.

Zhang Xinyu
Sure did. Into producing this audio drama. I just want to pull an “old man Wang selling melons, praising his own wares.”

Fumeng Ruowei
Old man Wang selling melons?

Zhang Xinyu
Then I’ll be old lady Zhang.

Fumeng Ruowei
Old lady Zhang selling melons.

Zhang Xinyu
Yup. I really think it’s worth everyone’s anticipation because we truly put an enormous amount of heart and effort into the tiny details. I hope everyone can pick up on them.

Fumeng Ruowei
From my role… It’s actually the first time I’ve directed something of the Xuanhuan genre. I guess you could call it a novel experience. Other than what we’ve mentioned here, I hope everyone can explore the audio drama. Also, the interactions between the main male and female lead are quite sweet. We were even struck down by some of the scenes and lines while the recording was happening. So I’m hoping that everyone can feel the rich and diverse story in this audio drama, and the considerations we made during production.

Zhang Xinyu
At the end of the day, “buy it!”

Fumeng Ruowei
We’ll see you in the main episodes! Buh-bye!

Zhang Xinyu
Bye!

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