Not many children can grasp the understanding of color and architecture the way China’s Phenix Miao could. At a young age, he was quickly able to spot the small details in furniture and props in daily life. It was a hobby and skill that he quickly realized could transition into a career. Working as a successful Production Designer and Art Director, Miao is now a leader of the industry in China.
Throughout his career, Miao has shown what a dynamic Art Director he is. With his work on films such as Shanghai Sojourner and Lottery, Miao’s attention to detail and vast talent is evident. He also lends his skills to commercial work, recently creating a series of promotional videos for Lepow and another for Itron Battery to promote their crowdfunding. With an outstanding number of viewers online, the Itron Battery commercial is one of his greatest successes in his esteemed career.
“Phenix is a very rare talent with both marketing and artistic sense. We worked closely on the Itron commercial, talking a lot about budget and production. Phenix was vital for the success of the commercial, and even found the location at a very affordable price, which helped the feeling of the film. He helped me to balance the art and budget so well. He is an expert when controlling the costs of everything. Phenix understands the difference between marketing value and artistic value, and he understands people. From his angle and visual aspect, he did a great job making the crowdfunding video look appealing. A crowdfunding commercial should be tangible and amiable, not chasing perfect as a normal TV commercial would. Phenix told me that crowdfunding is not charity, you need to let people feel this is a hopeful product and company. This outlook inspired the team. His outstanding communication skills allowed everyone to clearly understand what we were doing. He is a great leader and creator,” said Alice Fan, Producer.
The Itron Battery commercial advertises the company’s portable battery bank, the world’s fastest portable charger. It completely charges in 18 minutes, and within three minutes, one phone can be charged. The commercial showcases the product while still being comical and informative. It features two leading characters, one explaining the charger, and another looking to purchase one. They run through many different scenarios in which one may need a charger, leaving viewers both entertained and in need of the product.
“All the people that worked on this commercial were so professional. We did our work really fast, because we were so familiar with each other. From scene to scene, people just did everything very naturally. There was such chemistry, everything was as natural as breathing,” said Miao.
This commercial was not Miao’s first experience with a crowdfunding style video. He previously helped to raise $217,501 USD for Pivot Turingsense crowdfunding, achieving 274% of their goal, and for HiSmart crowdfunding, they reached 531% funded after raising $297,106, with the videos being the main source of awareness. That being said, the Itron commercial was by far the most successful, with hundreds of thousands of views online and reaching 706% of their goal by raising $289,472. It was also an Official Selection at the 2016 International Peace & Film Festival in Orlando, Florida.
“I still feel really excited about this commercial. When I hear so many people talk about it, I almost want to run up and interrupt them to let them know that I worked on it. That’s how proud of it I am. It is a big success in three aspects: art, commercial and crowdfunding,” he said.
Miao and the Director of the shoot, Peter “Zhen” Pan, had known each other for ten years when the opportunity to work on the commercial arrived. Miao is the director’s go-to art director and was the first person he reached out to. After reading the script, Miao accepted right away.
“Peter and I are golden partners. He knows I am a great Art Director that is full of ideas and the perfect match for what he wants. He just called me and told me the details about this project and we started working on it that same night. He always gives me enough space and time to design and develop my ideas. He fully respects me,” said Miao.
As the Art Director, Miao was in charge of the overall look for the commercial, selecting the best and most suitable artistic elements while leading the creative team. He designed a concise, natural, and clean aesthetic while controlling the style. He understands the difference between market value and artistic value, setting him apart from his colleagues. For this Itron commercial, he designed the color tone with Pan and knew to keep in mind the difference between a regular commercial and a crowdfunding commercial. He made sure to meet the requirements while planning the artistic elements around the brand, creating a higher brand value for the video. This allowed the product to stick in customers’ minds.
What was perhaps Miao’s most considerable contribution to the commercial, however, was finding the location of Elliston Winery. Miao enjoys working in historical settings, and the winery is no different. When decorating a historical set, Miao plays with the flavor that they bring to the table and plans everything around the atmosphere they possess. His passion for the location was passed onto the entire cast and crew. They treated it like their homes, making sure to respect every piece of furniture and brick in the building. Such respect for his setting and its parts is a main reason Miao is such a formidable artist and leader.
“I have been Phenix’s Assistant for years, but I also see him as my guide in my film career. He is not only in charge of the art department but is also a tremendous team leader. He understands style and perfectly controls the appearance of every image. Phenix is a great mentor and teaches me all of his techniques and knowledge. He is a talent but also very easy going. Phenix always knows how to take a director’s idea and turn it into something special. He knows how to make the effects suitable and always has new, practical ideas that come from his plethora of experience. I think the fact that he has also worked as a director and writer allow him to understand the role of the art director even better, and it sets him apart from the rest,” said Qin Zheng.
Watch the Itron Crowdfunding commercial here.
Photo taken by Peak City International Film Festival, Phenix Miao and John Whitaker
By Sean Desouza