It has been said that everyone has a story. In the world of television and film production, writers and directors are considered to be the creators of these stories. While this may be true, without the mastery of a technical director and producer…none of these tales would ever reach an audience. Having a vision is a very different thing from having the skills and knowledge to manifest it. Xiang Nan Gong has served this role for decades at Shandong Radio and Television, earning him the status as one of China’s most respected professionals in this field. During his time with Shandong he oversaw the multiple technical facets in the creation of documentary and scripted series. From massive scale variety shows to location documentary series which told the history of the Chinese people, Gong designed and facilitated lighting, staging, sound, and a myriad of other components which are essential to delivering the filmmakers vision. Xiang Nan might be the least well-known member the production team but he is definitely the most vital.
As with all cultures, the Chinese people are interested in the history of their ancestors and land. A country of such immense size and variety of inhabitants has many stories to tell. “The Story of Yili River” is a documentary depicting the Yili River from the perspective of the cheerful running water line. It explores the Yili river people’s folk customs, rich life, and delicacy. Gong focused on his expertise as a recording engineer for this production, recording and placing the authentic music of the inhabitants of this region to tell the folk customs of the people on both sides of the Yili River.
Xiang Nan worked closely with the director and a small team of professionals in the studio to create and recreate the sounds of the Yimeng People for the “Shandong Report.” Layering a series of sounds and sound patterns, Gong created the sound design with a mixture of authentic music, location recordings, and studio sonics which depicted the hard lives of these people. This village is surrounded by high mountains and steep cliffs, streams, and other harsh natural environmental factors. To properly recreate and communicate what these inhabitants experience required a consummate expert like Xiang Nan.
As technical director and producer on Shandong’s “Sun Bin Military Strategist”, Gong aided this production which tells of a man who also lived through a difficult situation but persevered and elevated himself to the level of great respect. Famous for receiving the punishment of face tattooing and having his knee caps removed, Sun Bin later became one of the most respected and trusted strategist of his country’s era. While remarking that his difficulties were nothing compared to Sun Bin’s, Xiang Nan concedes that the equipment of the 90s which he used was less than desirable for this thirteen-episode historical series. He tells, “Historical dramas are grand in scale with many layers of sound. This is what makes it so believable to the viewer. While your conscious mind may not notice it, something in your unconscious tells you that you are really there amidst these battle scenes and different locations due to the small details. Today’s state of the art technology makes the process much less cumbersome but back when we made this series, it took many hours to achieve what can happen in minutes now. Regardless, the finished product is what is important and ‘Sun Bin Military Strategist’ was very well received and popular.”
Another of Gong’s productions, “44 Notes” received international and domestic acclaim. “44 Notes” won the first prize from the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of radio and television, the “Golden Bridge Award” in the United States, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other countries and regions, and was adapted for television drama production at the center in Beijing. This documentary shows the bicycling trip of teacher Du Xiangjun and forty- four of his students (of the Zibo Normal School in the Shandong Province) as they made their way to the capitol to perform a concert. Along the way, they sing and experience a number of hardships on their journey. Half way between reality TV and unscripted drama, “44 Notes” called upon Gong to be prepared for an unlimited amount of variables that could affect the filming and recording of this production. Its international acclaim is a testament to his expertise on this project.
As a loving husband and proud father of a daughter, Xiang Nan was especially happy to assume the duties of technical director and producer of Shandong’s “The Charm of Women.”
The program is the first female Chinese series about female characters with outstanding contributions from all walks of life. It introduces the work, study, life, and successful careers of each woman. Shot in documentary style, Gong took particular care to oversee the lighting and sound to present these women with the respect and admiration which their achievements deserve. While certainly not the most famous subjects of the many productions he has overseen, Xiang Nan professes that they are among the most important because they serve as an example to current and future generations like his daughter, exhibiting the great importance and impact that Chinese women have on their families and society.
As the professional who literally “sets the stage” and supplies the sounds on a wide variety of productions, telling the stories of China’s past and present; with international award-winning productions to his credit, the respect of his industry, and a long history at Shandong Radio and Television, Xiang Nan Gong is among the elite technical directors and producers who continues to bring new ideas to an ever expanding production community.