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Shanghai Customs Has Had Spielberg's Cameras in Storage for 33 Years

Empire of the Sun is a 1987 coming-of-age war film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson and Nigel Havers. The film tells the story of Jamie "Jim" Graham, a young boy who goes from living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai, to becoming a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp, during World War II.

Shanghai Customs Has Had Spielberg's Cameras in Storage for 33 Years

The movie was filmed at Elstree Studios and on location in Shanghai and Spain and entered negotiations with Shanghai Film Studios and China Film Co-Production Corporation in 1985 After a year of negotiations, permission was granted for a three-week shoot in early March 1987. It was the first American film shot in Shanghai since the 1940s and was one of the first movies shot with Panavision Primo-L lenses. And it turns out, they are still there.

Chris Fenton was president of the Chinese-based DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group, General Manager of DMG North America (owners of Valiant Comics), and Senior Advisor to IDW Media Holdings. He has now written a book, Feeding The Dragon, looking at his career, getting American movies into Chinese markets, notably Looper and Iron Man 3. I recently read it, and it made for quite the page-turner, and there are so many nuggets to share. You can follow along with a few with this tag.. Including about dealing with Chinese customs and officials. Fenton writes;

By then we had even brushed elbows with Hollywood's movie business a few times. Though uneventful production-service and consultancy kind of work, it still counted. The first was helping Quentin Tarantino's team garner access to government-owned soundstages for his film, Kill Bill. The second involved facilitating on-the-ground production logistics for Miramax's (yes, Harvey Weinstein's studio) epic war drama, The Great Raid. The third, Fox's Flight of the Phoenix, required DMG's guanxi with the Chinese military to approve landing rights for the production's private jets.

Additionally, with each production, DMG worked closely with Chinese customs officials to clear the import and export of specialized production equipment—a simple task in most countries but not in China. In fact, to this day, Steven Spielberg's Panavision cameras from his 1987 production of Empire of the Sun still remain in the back of a moldy Chinese customs storage facility inside Shanghai's airport.

Anyone want to pop by? See if you can pick up some primo Primo-L lenses?

Feeding The Dragon by Chris Fenton is published by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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