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What fuels China's film catching up with Avatar (3)

By Raymond Zhou  (China Daily)

13:30, January 13, 2013

Xu Zheng, actor-director-writer of Lost in Thailand. (Photo/ China Daily)

Xu responds that he was lucky Enlight trusted him with the project. "They not only saw the commercial possibility of the movie, but also the texture of the story. That was valuable to me."

Xu enlisted his wife, Tao Hong, an actress who has a cameo in the movie. "After I wrote each draft, she would be my first reader and give me feedback," Xu says.

A couple of weeks before the movie opened, Xu was spotted by paparazzi with another girl, in a supposedly suspicious situation. He later clarified that it was a misunderstanding, but did not respond to claims that it was a marketing ploy for the movie.

While the movie was being shot in Thailand, Huang Bo's role had not yet been cast. "Huang had an extremely tight schedule. He was actually making another picture for us at the time," Wang says. "We sat down with him and talked for eight hours straight until he signed the contract."

With Huang, who is equally comfortable doing comedy or drama, taking the role of villain, the movie could attain "higher energy and higher value", in Wang's words. "As part two of a franchise, everything, not just the budget, must be enhanced," rationalizes Wang, who backed it up with a 15 million yuan marketing budget.

The movie showcases many Thai delights, including its myriad temples, elephant rides, resort hotels, and especially the exotic phenomenon of "lady boys", young transgender men who entertain clients for a living.

Tourism experts forecast that Chinese, in the afterglow of this smash hit, will swarm to the Southeast Asian country for the coming holiday season. Surprisingly, perhaps, Thai government and tourism agencies did not pay a single penny in product placement or tie-in promotions.

"We were very tight in pre-production. We had to shoot everything before the monsoon season. So, we didn't even think of contacting those agencies for sponsorship. Instead, we turned to personal friends for help," Wang says.

In the process of post-production, Xu made a 3.5-hour rough cut.

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