In LA / NY / everywhere, I always appreciate having an artisan’s opinion. The people building things and painting things often come into the process with a couple new ideas, and I love trying them out because I often learn something. In China, you don’t really have that luxury - that’s not the way the culture is. They don’t really collaborate. That is, they want to know EXACTLY how YOU want things to be done. While I was production designing Sing! China, I definitely did not expect to have totalitarian control over every detail. This was such a new mode for me. No doubt, it was fantastic and unique to have that level of authority over every decision. But, sometimes it’s nice to keep things a little open because you WANT the artisan to suggest new solutions based on their expertise.
Right down to the fastening hardware, I had to decide on every single thing in China. This was incredibly infuriating at first. It was like, ‘oh my god I have to decide on hinges for this door? Really, again? Every single piece?’ Every single color/pantone had to be sighted out for prints there too (in the US, printers often take care of a lot of the color management and do a few proofs themselves.) In the speedy world of television - it’s about the same pace in China as it is in the US - we were not exactly prepared to make every single detail decision.
Fortunately, as with any challenge, you make adjustments and adapt to a different workflow. To our delight, everything came out exactly on point. While their culture may not encourage collaboration, I really came to appreciate how deeply the Chinese value the artistry and your opinion 100%. They will stop at nothing to get every bit exactly right! Workers in China are dedicated to making sure their job is done perfectly accurate, especially because it keeps their boss happy. At the end of the day, you end up with craftsmanship that is incredibly detailed and executed to perfection. We were certainly thrilled with the results. Respect!