Producer Sunny Xiang on 2015: Looking Back While Looking Forward

Producer Sunny Xiang

What is the engine which drives the manifestation of a documentary film? Some might say that it’s a fascinating subject while others point to the director or even the editor. The team who worked on the documentary mini-series 2015 can relate with the utmost certainty that it was producer and distribution executive Sunny Xiang who propelled this production’s huge popularity in China. While some of her peers may prefer the categorization which defines clear boundaries in their responsibilities, Sunny seems voracious in her zeal to empower every aspect of the production from defining a clear storyline to the caretaking of her different departments. Xiang is as much a defining part of the personality and emotional journey of 2015 as those seen on camera because, as she relates, “In a discussion with the director, I proposed the topics about people’s yearning for food and dreams, which was recognized by the director.” The path which led to 2015’s final form is not typical in any manner, which is an important part of why this producer and distribution executive was chosen for this film. Perceiving the story, facilitating the means by which to convey it, and delivering it to the kind of audience who is eager to digest it; these are all aspects that Sunny Xiang wields masterfully. 

  Having led many productions to film festival recognitions such as the London Independent Film Awards Winner The Magic Door, Los Angeles Film Awards Winner Mix It Proper, and Global Film Festival Awards Winner I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone; it isn’t surprising that Sunny Xiang was pegged as the producer and distribution executive for the Fusionart Pictures Documentary 2015.  Juxtaposing the life experiences of those whose diverse professions range from that of sculptor to coffee shop owner, a bar owner, and more, the young people featured in these interviews talk about the culture and food of their home city. The cohesive tissue of this documentary was not defined until producer and distribution executive Sunny Xiang pointed out the common themes. 

  The production pace for 2015 was expeditious to a pace nearly impossible to imagine. Sunny collaborated with the director to create a treatment for the docuseries in only three days and then immediately set about establishing the budget and assembling the cast and crew. From preproduction to production, the entire process lasted a curt two weeks. In a matter of mere days, her producing talents and library of resources allowed Sunny to take 2015 to set all shooting permits, equipment, locations, and other aspects in place for immediate access; saving weeks or perhaps even months in the timetable. When the lockdown of 2020 threatened the post production process, Sunny worked remotely with professionals like colorist Cynthia Chen and sound designer Xiaodan Li to ensure the rapid pace would not lose any steam or exceptionalism. 

  The creation of a documentary like this is a great undertaking which is for naught if the film is not delivered to the ideal audience and in the proper manner. In possibly her most vital contribution to 2015, Sunny perceived that a target audience of twenty to thirty-year-olds were already primed for the topics of food and dreams. Assessing that the Chinese platform Weibo and its 550 million monthly active users, eighty percent of whom were under the age of thirty, offered the ideal distribution vehicle, this decision on Sunny’s part led to 2015’s first episode accumulating a whopping 281,000 views while the last episode saw an increase to 353,000 views. The first episode’s click rate is 209,000; the second episode’s click rate is 856,000. When questioned as to whether the great success of 2015 has convinced her to focus on productions for viewers in China rather than those in America who have seen her numerous films, Sunny replies, “I think the industrialization mode in Hollywood is very mature and the talents in Hollywood are very professional. Thus, I actually expect to bring more Chinese projects to the United States. I also anticipate to make my films seen by audience from all over the world.”

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