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Production designer Yuanyuan Xu on artistic storytelling and new film 'Dead Not Dead, Dead'
Every word of a script proves to be inspiration for China's Yuanyuan Xu. As a production designer, it is her responsibility to create the world audiences feel transported to. Any small background piece that doesn't belong is a distraction to the story and takes away from the immersive experience that is watching a movie.

Xu has an outstanding attention to detail, making sure every stroke of her brush and nail in a set has a purpose, and aids in the telling of the story. With her job, she can fully create and design new worlds, not being limited to the real world around her, and that is why she loves what she does.

"My favorite part of production design is creation. This is something I find myself very drawn to. Being able to see various worlds through the scripts, I think this is where my everyday inspiration and happiness comes from," said Xu.

Xu's passion for what she does directly translates to the success of her work as an award-winning production designer. She has been a part of countless acclaimed productions, including La PietaGum GumStain, and many more, contributing greatly to their success. Every new project she embarks on gives her the opportunity to express herself and allows the world to see just what she is capable of.

One of Xu's most recent successes is the drama Dead Not Dead, Dead. Written by Xu, the film tells the story of a mean, 55-year-old man, Damien, a hustler who owes a lot of money to shark loans and must repay the money or he will be killed, or worse, his family might get hurt. His daughter, Brittany, has the opportunity to study abroad, but she will need financial help to pay the expensive tuition and expenses. Damien, who will do anything for his family, decides to gamble the last dollar he owns, but loses it all. In an act of desperation, he comes up with the plan of faking his own death and have his family cash the insurance money. However, for the plan to succeed he will need the help of his always perfect daughter.

"I like dark comedy very much and I enjoy both reading and writing it. This film actually has some irony to the real society. When I was creating this script, I saw the reflections of many people. The idea of this story suddenly came out of my mind when I was chatting with my friends one day. After discussing it with them, we all thought it a very interesting idea, so I started writing the script. Dark comedies are usually ironic, and some exaggerated art styles are used to highlight the development of the story," said Xu.

On top of writing the film and doing the production design, Xu also directed the film, allowing herself to be fully responsible for executing her vision. As a production designer, she focused on the film being a visual work of art, and she did not disappoint.

Because the film focused around a family funeral, Xu needed a house with a very big backyard where she could build a funeral set.  It took her quite a long time to find a house with a good arrangement and size. As it is a family funeral, it needed to fit quite a large number of actors, as well as the entire crew. However, once she found the location, she was able to execute all of her ideas seamlessly.

"My favorite part was having the chance to build the scene of a funeral on my own. Since the culture which nurtures me is different from the story in the film, the funeral culture varies as well. It is not a traditional American family funeral, since the colors and decoration designs are very bright and bold. This was a very big challenge for me as I cannot predict audiences' feedback. The result is very unexpected and I achieved my purpose through the right design. It makes the story more ironic and realistic," said Xu.

After its premiere at Warner Brother Studios in Los Angeles early last year, Dead Not Dead, Dead made its way to several renowned film festivals around the world, including Cannes. Xu took home two production design awards as well from the International Independent Film Awards and the Asia and America International Film Festival, as well as many other awards. As the film was her baby, she is tremendously proud of what it achieved.

"I feel absolute pride for this film from the bottom of my heart. Being the production designer, director and writer of a film at the same time is a nightmare. It is also a dream for me to some extent. I devoted a lot of effort to it since I regard it as my baby. Knowing this short film was an Official Selection at Cannes, I felt like I was in a dream. This is a great affirmation to my efforts and encouragement for more great work," she concluded.

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