Writings of a Legend
Behind consistent triumphs in scriptwriting
Guo Jing Yu
Award-winning creative director
G.H.Y Culture & Media (Singapore) Pte Ltd
It is humbling to realize how some of the most successful industry pillars remain so by staying true to their roots and never forgetting some basic values and work ethics. When many go on to fame and fortune, eventually becoming an elitist where all basic grounding dissipates, Guo Jing Yu, award-winning creative director and Chairman of G.H.Y Culture & Media (Singapore) Pte Ltd, the global partner of ATF’s Chinese Pitch – Mystic Asia – brings it all back to the fundamentals that has been the secret to his success.
Guo has been honoured as the “Legendary Drama Series King” in the industry for consistently delivering high performance ratings and award-winning television series. His insistence on creating his own original scripts continues today, dwelling into the details of the plot, the rhythm and picking on the performance of the actors.
His works such as “Beautiful Life”, “Secret Drawings”, “Red Lady”, “Dog Stick” and “Brave Heart” won prestigious awards, which include the Flying Apsaras, the Golden Eagle, the Five-One Project, the Magnolia” and the Huading Award, among others. In 2011, Guo was named one of the 20 directors who made a significant contribution to Chinese television industry for the past 20 years.
“My creation was greatly influenced by the storytelling artists. The main works are based on legends of the age,”Guo explained.
“Someone summed up my work succinctly, describing the sustained loyalty and filial piety elements in them and the contemplation in generational continuity and tradition from our ancestors.
“Loyalty and filial piety is the essence of Chinese civilization. It is the foundation of cultural Inheritance and education for the next generation. These traditional elements are especially liked by the audience,” Guo continued.
One can imagine after reaching such great heights, Guo must have come across or conjured up millions of stories. Yet, he does not hesitate to express his favourite, a series titled “Soul Ferry", written by Guo’s very own student, Xiao Ji Xiang Tian.
The creation of Soul Ferry began in 2012, when China's online drama market was almost nonexistent.
“It can be said that "Soul Ferry" was the originator of the online drama; its astounding success gave the whole industry confidence and hope, making it my most cherished,” Guo reminisced, while also prompting that the willingness to keep up with the development of the cultural industry will allow you to always stand at the forefront of the market and maintain a young mindset.
While Guo himself is a believer of such a habit, it has been a conflicting subsistence, desiring to wear the hat of scriptwriter and producer and now, having to also be the necessary businessman.
“But I must emphasize that I am a cultural businessman,” Guo defended. “I will only run cultural works that involve creation, and will not involve other products. One cannot accurately balance the identity of the director and the company's chairman, so my choice is to minimize my shooting tasks, to run the company wholeheartedly, and to provide a stage for more young directors, playwrights, and producers.
“But I will definitely participate in the work of our company as a scriptwriter (the script can be written in my spare time) or as a producer, so that I will know more about the quality of the work, and be part of the planning process of projects, with a strict role as gatekeeper.”
Chronicling Chinese Intricacies
Storytelling, says Guo, does indeed have a long history in China.
“The ancient sages have often expounded their philosophical and political concepts to generations after through storytelling methods. In ancient China, there were a lot of folk artists who set up bookstores and told stories for a living, receiving money and meals.
“In reality though, the stories they told were not entirely historical; many were composed on the spot based on everyday impetus. It can be said that they were not only artists, but also literary creators, much like Pu Songling, who collected stories and edited them into immortal classics.
“China has never lacked stories. Good stories have influenced generations of Chinese sons and daughters. Writers then never had any tips, and they were even more naïve, with no tricks of the trade. Today, there are many excellent young screenwriting superstars in China that are rising. Of course, there are also quite an amount in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, while Japan and South Korea have relatively higher numbers. Numerous Thai film stories are also touching, while Bollywood in India has produced countless heroes.
“Therefore, we are never lacking people where good stories reside within. However, someone who carries a worthy take may not always encounter a trustworthy production company and a quality director. Consequently, many first-rate stories are wasted and destroyed. This is unfortunate.
“China's culture has always been open to the outside world. Its market is indeed huge, but it is not mature. There is still much to be regulated or upgraded. The Chinese market needs a lot of talent, not only screenwriters and directors, but also outstanding talent in various industries, such as lighting, photography, and fine arts among others.
“G.H.Y Culture & Media (Singapore) Pte Ltd’s upcoming ‘The Little Nyonya’ accommodates a screenwriter and director hailing from Singapore. I welcome more creative and thoughtful young people to go to China for greater development. As long as you have a strong personal ability, good morality, and comply with relevant policies and regulations, you will be able to get the development space you desire,” Guo assured.
Words of Wisdom
13 Warriors of Writing a Win
Make sure you experience life more
“It is impossible to make a car behind closed doors.”
“Do not blindly admire masterpieces nor great writers.”
“If you haven't written a five-million-word script, you can't be considered a screenwriter. Practice makes perfect.”
Pay close attention to the freshness of the story
What has never been seen before is the best
“There are too many works online for reference and even plagiarism. Of course, this seems to be theoretically impossible.”
I can see in the text whether or not the writer has been touched himself
“If the writer is himself not truly touched by the story, he will not be able to impress me. A story written ‘in love’ is capable of touching hearts, making it unforgettable. That is successful writing.”
A creative mindset is most important
Good work is by no means a day's work
Being anxious for success, scrambling for quick successes and instant benefits are all undesirable
If you can't endure loneliness, you can't make great works
Being able to calm down and think is an indispensable cultivation and ability to be a storyteller
Persevere with a good attitude
“Myths and legends are indeed an important factor in Asian culture. The ones that are (close) and similar to their own culture must be easiest to carry forward. Therefore, I think this type of work is still attractive and promising.”
- Guo Jing Yu, award-winning creative director and Chairman of G.H.Y Culture & Media (Singapore) Pte Ltd, on Mystic Asia’s myths & legends genre