30 July 2019


Xiao Ji Xiang Tian’s one simple desire
By Lulu M

Xiao Ji Xiang Tian
China’s top rated scriptwriter & producer

For those who have a passion for evergreen oldies, it would then not be unfamiliar when one parallels Xiao Ji Xiang Tian’s philosophy on good scriptwriting to that of Ol' Blue Eyes’ My Way. The gist this renowned screenwriter and producer has always tried to get at, when revealing what it takes to write a good script, is making sure that the writer spills his/her own personality (read: flair, style, trait) into it.

“Writers have been repeating the same story for thousands of years,” noted Xiao Ji Xiang Tian. “The only difference is the way they narrate the story. This reveals the individual personality of each writer,” he continued, noting that the structure of the human brain will not change, as context was already set in stone a million lifetimes ago, since humans told stories around the fire.

Xiao Ji Xiang Tian’s own success, the online movie, “Soul Ferry · Huang Quan”, has been a hit since it was launched in February 2018. It raked in more than 46 million yuan (approx. US$7 million), and the number of hits broke the 200-million mark, making it the highest-rated online movie, while its sequel, “Soul Ferry · Chu Ge”, will begin production within the year.

Xiao Ji Xiang Tian’s Soul Ferry · Huang Quan
The world’s highest-rated online movie

And true to Xiao Ji Xiang Tian’s wisdom, this massive success is not in itself a new story. Chinese myths already carry such a concept, where the legendary Chinese figures, known as "the Black and White Impermanence", have been in Chinese literature for centuries, read and related repeatedly, as the two deities in charge of leading the souls of the dead to the underworld.

In fact, it even harks back to Scottish author Claire McFall’s “Ferryman” series, which became a phenomenal hit in China, where more than 2 million copies were sold since the debut of the series in 2015.

McFall’s story follows the romance between Tristan, a ferryman who guides souls from a wraith-haunted wasteland to the afterlife, and a 14-year-old girl named Dylan. Even this is not a new idea, as McFall herself was inspired by Charon, the Greek mythological ferryman of Hades, who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead.

Yet, it was Xiao Ji Xiang Tian’s own mark that relayed his version to unmatched success online.

And so, this is his wish, “that every writer can find his/her own personalization and special means of expression. This is the distinguishing trademark of a writer.”

Taking it further, Xiao Ji Xiang Tian demonstrates the trait of a pure artist, believing that captivation in a work is far greater than specifics of technique.

“I think it is relatively easy to excel in (writing) techniques. The hard part is the expression of charisma and attraction from the text itself. Some content is like a person who is born beautiful, with very nice facial features, but has no charisma, which is a very unfortunate thing.

“Therefore, it is not difficult to come across good writing, but a writing with charisma – the way of telling the story – has the ability to touch audiences’ hearts.

“The deviation in writing techniques can be disregarded. However, that certain je ne sais quoi is really not easy to find; this depends on fate,” Xiao Ji Xiang Tian candidly expressed.

Xiao Ji Xiang Tian – The spirit of a true artist


It is ultimately that ability to be inspired that lets Xiao Ji Xiang Tian’s own imagination take flight.

“Different countries have different cultures; different foods, climates, different population, different micro-expressions of people, and even the scent of the wind can be inspiring,” Xiao Ji Xiang Tian conveyed. “I have always felt that the story ideas which I came up in different places carry a strong native style. Being away from home is an excellent source of inspiration.”

The ATF Chinese Pitch 2019 – Looking for that special script the world over


On his second journey back to ATF this year, Xiao Ji Xiang Tian has only one mission: to encounter good scripts; cute, touching, or one in the horror genre.

“As long as they are charismatic, they will be good.”