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Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom

Jun 23, 2017

“Over the last 30 years, they (China) have raised more people out of poverty than ever before in the history of the human race, which is amazing. (Most of) the young people in China have such an optimistic view of the future because their life has gotten better every single year.” - Steve Barr

This week’s episode was recorded on location from the 2017 Shanghai Film Festival, but the guest is one of my best friends from L.A. Steve Barr is a writer, producer, and occasional actor who has worked and traveled extensively throughout and between the very different film industries in Los Angeles, China, and New Zealand. His recent credits in one or more of those capacities include Born to Dance, Chronesthesia, Hang Time, and the remake of Pete’s Dragon, in which he had a small but memorable supporting role.

In this interview, Steve discusses the unique challenges and opportunities inherent to the various filmmaking systems, and he explains his working process with a level of detail and candor that will be especially useful to anyone working in a creative industry such as film. He also shares lessons and thoughts that will particularly resonate with anyone who’s spent significant time in China, but which are applicable to travelers in foreign lands regardless.

We cover a lot of ground in this one. As we say in the interview, I want to give full disclosure upfront that Steve and I are not only long time friends, but that we are and have been business colleagues in all three countries, too. Steve was a part of my previous company based in L.A., we are currently partners in a film production company in New Zealand with our friend Andy Conlan, and the partners in my Beijing film company hired him to write the screenplay for an upcoming historical epic film of ours. Steve is now part of that company too, so there are a lot of interrelationships here. Still, we make a serious effort to not be overly self-serving, as the goal of discussing some of our projects past and present is not promotional, but educational and practical. Because we have lots of shared real-world examples to draw from in our discussion, it helps us to be much more real than if we stayed strictly theoretical.

The episode is now available on Apple Podcasts, on most of the popular Android / Google apps, on the Chinese service Ximalaya - please search it in your favorite of those places - and of course on the Podcast player here. Of course I’m biased, but I do think it’s a fun conversation, and I hope you enjoy it! Please tell a friend, subscribe, or send me feedback below as you like. 

"BFMK" Website:

Brendan Davis on Twitter:

Steve Barr on Twitter:

Steve Barr writing website (with Casey Zilbert):

Carl King (composer):