If you would have told me 8 years ago,
“Matt, You are going to produce and host a popular television show in China that has the potential to be viewed by seven million people every two weeks”
then I would have told you that you are insane and to please get out of my bathroom…
Let’s analyze the previous sentence.
If you would have told me that 8 years ago that I was working inside china I would not believe it.
If you would have told me that 8 years ago I would be producing videos I would not believe it.
If you would have told me that 8 years ago I would be acting in a tv show I would surely not believe it.
And as far as being in my bathroom…. I have nothing to say about that…
Yet all of these statements have come to pass… except for the bathroom bit.
In reality, with the help of a small production team, I have produced, written, directed, and hosted 16 episodes of a local show I developed for the Ningbo Focus Magazine from November 2012 until September 2013. This is coming from a guy with basically “nil” in the educational background that includes the visual arts. The only think that I have is a passion and a creative eye for video and photography.
This is one of the reasons that I love China. In China it is fairly commen to get opportunities coming at you from right angles to the direction you are actually headed. Could this same situation come my way if I was in Los Angeles, or anywhere else in the States? I think the answer would be a probable “no”. In the USA, you need credentials. In China, you need connections. I’m pretty good at connections, but as for credentials….
Does a driver’s license count?
My connection, which lead to the TV show, began with a networking group I put together called the Asia English Business Network. It was a group of local professionals getting together to talk, in English, about what they were looking for and what they could offer in front of other people giving and needing something.
Well sometimes you get something you didn’t even know you needed or wanted… for instance a television show. I learned this shortly after I made connections with the “then” president of the local bilingual business magazine, the Ningbo Focus. Everyone knew that my camera and I had become a staple at parties and functions, and asked if I could create a pilot demo of a small 4-minute segment of a larger 12-minute program called “Ningbo Now”. The Ningbo Now program was put together by a team at Ningbo TV Station (NBTV), and included a 4-minute local news segment, a 4 minute local interview segment, and a segment about local activities. I was asked to be in charge of the segment about local activities. In China, opportunities can come at you from the strangest angles. You have a choice to turn them down, or follow them to see where they go. I snatched it up.
Within a couple days I recruited a cohost, wrote a script about a couple key areas in Ningbo, a cocktail bar called the Bar Constellation and the local traditional Chinese market called ChengHuangMiao, and got my camera gear together. The show was written in English and I laid it out focusing on the Chinese traditional subject first, then new business in Ningbo segment second, with a segment teaching local Ningbo Language in between. I shot the pilot in a day and then edited the footage on my computer, teaching myself Adobe Premiere Pro along the way. The pilot came in at 5 minutes and I was pretty happy about it.
This is the pilot episode of the Ningbo Focus Show. 5 minutes that inspired a whole season. if you cannot see the above video… I’m sorry, it is a youtube video and you may be in china. Try to get a VPN.
When Ningbo TV saw my pilot, they reorganized their entire format. They threw out the news and interview section, and asked if the Ningbo Focus could absorb the whole 12-minute show slot with the format I had composed in the pilot.
When Ningbo Focus approached me explaining NBTV’s request, its safe to say I was gratified and thoroughly excited. It seemed I was soon going to go from a businessman specializing in import, export and product design, to a television show producer and host.
The dollars didn’t make sense.
The amount of financial liberty you get producing a show in the USA as opposed to China is huge. Call it naiveté or call it looking at it from a perspective of a potential learning opportunity, but I ended up signing a contract to produce one 12 minute episode each month for a year for a extremely small budget. But this story is not about the money or the drama, it is about getting an opportunity to do something vastly different what I was doing, and having it move life into a new direction.
So therefore I will digress.
But I still had to at least mention it.
I digress yet again.
Ask me about it someday if you see me. It’s a knee slapper.
Either way, Soon I was producing a TV show on for Chinese Television. Putting a team together on a shoestring budget, and picking out location and topics for future episodes. I have used the show to explore my city. I have filmed in the SiMing Mountains and visited one of the oldest libraries in china. I have ridden thru the streets of Ningbo on an e-bike dressed as Santa Clause and inspected the cuisine in all its forms. I have learned to speak a few phrases in the local dialect and even eaten a 15 patty whopper Ningbo’s first burger king. (took me about a hour check it out… episode 4) I have played with dolphins and whales at the cities aquarium, and swam across Moon Lake in the middle of down town in the winter.
On top of all the fun I have been putting myself thru impromptu film school, learning the in’s and out’s of production, directing, editing, and even become comfortable in front of the camera. I have created for myself a skill I can now use on the road, bartering my services as a filmmaker for quick cash, room and board. And on top of that, it allows me to retain memories in film, assuring that I will never lose the details of my great adventure to the fallibility of my stupid brain. In video I have found the perfect travelling companion, and I would have never known it, had I not taken a left field opportunity.
I guess that is the lesson, If your life has a chance to move in a sudden and abrupt direction, don’t dismiss it. You may be on the verge of meeting your destiny.
Unless your destiny is jumping into a stranger’s bathroom and announcing said stranger’s future.
If that is the case, go straight and true my friend.