Short List
Product / ServiceIPHONE
CategoryA02. Script
Idea Creation TBWA\MEDIA ARTS LAB Shanghai, CHINA
Media Placement OMD Shanghai, CHINA
Production ICONOCLAST Los Angeles, USA
Post Production MPC Shanghai, CHINA


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Write a short summary of what happens in the film.

Entirely shot on iPhone, the 12-minute movie ‘Nian’ is an alternative take on a Chinese New Year folklore that traditionally portrays the titular character as a terrifying monster. In this version, a curious little girl confronts her fear of the unknown by seeking out the elusive, forest-dwelling Nian to find out if he was indeed as menacing as her parents often described – a ruse to discourage her from wandering off to the forest alone. Her curiosity was rewarded when she discovers the creature was misunderstood all along. Soon a beautiful friendship ensues.

Cultural / Context information for the jury

According to Chinese New Year folklore, Nian is a ferocious beast that is often said to terrorize villages and eat children. Little is known about the creature which makes it fearsome in people’s imagination for centuries. This fear of the unknown is an innate human insight carried through time which intensified in 2020, a year full of uncertainties. In our story, our protagonist acts on her curiosity by confronting her fear of the unknown in seeking out the truth about ‘Nian’, whose name also means ‘year’ in Chinese. As a symbolic gesture towards another challenging year, we reimagined his character as a beacon of goodness to spread positive cheer and encourage people to explore new horizons with courage.

Provide the full film script in English.

Nian Written by Alice Bell Story by Alice Bell & Lulu Wang 1. EXT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST – MORNING A young girl, AH TING (6) is surrounded by every kind of green as she sits amongst lush trees and ferns. Her PARENTS are foraging nearby while she eats “nian gao”(sticky rice cake) absentmindedly out of a steel lunchbox. A gentle rustling in the leaves takes her attention...Seeing nothing, she turns back to her nian gao. Suddenly, the large hairy claw of a beast creeps into frame behind Ah Ting... its breath close on her neck. Ah Ting holds her breath, feeling the presence of the NIAN * (GIANT, usually ferocious, mythical beast), too afraid to * turn around. Suddenly- MOTHER (O.S.) Ah Ting! The moment is broken. The Nian bolts. Ah Ting’s head whips around catching a flash of its reptilian tail as it disappears into the trees. Just then, Mother appears with a stern look on her face. MOTHER (CONT’D) Come, we have to go... Ah Ting looks into her lunch box to grab a rice cake - it’s gone. The box is empty. Ah Ting I saw him! I saw the Nian! MOTHER Really? Ah Ting It was really him! He came close to me! FATHER How many times have I told you? Don’t wander off by yourself… Ah Ting He even ate all my rice cakes… MOTHER Are you sure you didn’t eat them yourself? Ah Ting No! It was the Nian! I could smell him… He has stinky breath. And a tail! TITLE CARD: Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max From Lulu Wang, Director of the 2020 Golden Globes Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film Nian 2. INT. AH TING'S HOME – EVENING MOTHER The night sky is dark. AH TING Why? MOTHER Because the earth faces away from the closest star that provides us light… Also known as the sun. Ah Ting’s father washes dishes in the kitchen. Mother reads a book to Ah Ting. MOTHER The morning sky is blue. AH TING Why? MOTHER Because gases and particles in Earth’s atmosphere scatter sunlight. Ah Ting sighs, only half listening. Mother looks to Ah Ting, waiting for her “why” but her daughter’s eyes have drifted outside. Her mind elsewhere. MOTHER (CONT’D) ...Ah Ting? What is it? AH TING Why is everyone is afraid of the Nian? MOTHER Because the Nian is dangerous. AH TING Why? Father hears turns off the water to listen more closely. MOTHER Because he eats children. AH TING Why? MOTHER Probably because they taste good. AH TING Why? MOTHER Because someone I know eats too much rice cake! Ah Ting smiles up at her mother, defiant and cheeky. AH TING I’m not scared of the Nian. Ah Ting’s father turns the water back. 3. EXT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST – AFTERNOON Chopsticks TAP-TAP-TAPPING on a STEEL LUNCHBOX. Ah Ting has returned to the forest but this time she’s alone and trying to lure out the Nian... A steaming hot NIAN GAO sits inside her lunchbox as bait. Tap. Tap. Tap. AH TING Nian, where are you? Come on out! Come on out! Nian, where are you? Come on out! 4. EXT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST - MONTAGE/SEQUENCE Ah Ting steps her tiny foot into a large footprint. She is excited and frightened to have found a footprint! She finds more footprints, walking inside of them, leaping from one to another until she arrives outside a cave…the Nian’s cave. She steps inside, only to discover an eclectic collection of human trinkets and possessions scattered about. She picks up trickets, one by one, studying them. Suddenly, the sound of a loud exhale makes her jump. She drops the trinket and it rolls right into the large reptilian foot…The NIAN appears from out of the darkness. He takes a step towards Ah Ting, towering over her. Ah Ting cowers, but as she feels his breath on her face, she gathers her courage. Standing tall, she yells right up at it- AH TING Hey! It freezes.She looks directly into the eyes of the beast. AH TING Do you really eat children? The Nian watches curiously as Ah Ting reaches into her lunch box and nervously pulls out a NIAN GAO to offer it instead. With some hesitation, the Nian reaches for the sweet snack, clasps his claws around the sticky rice cake and eats it. 5. INT. AH TING'S HOME, DINING TABLE – NIGHT Ah Ting eats with her parents at the dinner table. She shoves food in her mouth enthusiastically. Her parents exchange an uncertain, semi-alarmed look - what’s going on with her? 6. INT. AH TING'S HOME, BEDROOM – LATER It’s later.Ah Ting lies in bed. Her parents argue on the other side of the curtain that separates her bedroom. FATHER (O.S.) You did this to her! Filling her head with all the why’s... MOTHER (O.S.) She came into the world asking questions. That’s her nature. FATHER (O.S.) It’s dangerous for a child to be so unafraid. 7. INT. AH TING’S HOME, KITCHEN - NIGHT FATHER (CONT'D) She never plays with the other children. Instead, she runs off into the forest, alone. Ah Ting sneaks closer to the curtain. MOTHER She’s curious, that’s all… And the forest IS a magical place. Father gives her a disbelieving look. Mother smiles. MOTHER (CONT'D) Sometimes I think you forget. A moment between them (and we wonder if there IS magic in the forest that they are hiding it from us). Then, they notice Ah Ting’s feet beneath the curtain. She puts a finger to her lips. Shhhhh.... But father speaks deliberately louder so Ah Ting can hear him. FATHER Oh,I remember now! The Nian lives in the forest! As Father gets more animated, the parents’ animated figures cast shadows against the curtain, forming silhouettes. FATHER (CONT'D) He likes to eat children. He’s always hungry and he’ll swallow her whole! 8.INT. AH TING’S HOME, BEDROOM. - NIGHT Back in Ah Ting’s room, we see her against the silhouettes, drawing a monster of some kind. We quickly realize that the “monsters” are actually her parents, wildly shouting and waving their arms. 9. INT. AH TING'S BEDROOM-NIGHT TO MORNING As the inky night sky brightens with morning light, we slowly push in on Ah Ting’s window to capture the passage of time outside with TIMELAPSE. 10. INT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST, NIAN’S CAVE - A NEW DAY It’s a new day, the Nian stuffs MORE Nian Gao in his mouth while Ah Ting asks him relentless questions without pause- AH TING Do you have a name? What do they call you? Do you live here alone? Where are your parents? Do you have any friends? Where did you come from? Why does everyone say you eat children? The sticky NIAN GAO gets stuck in the Nian’s teeth and the frustrated beast ROARS, interrupting Ah Ting. NIAN RRRAHHAKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!! With a camera wipe, we… 11. EXT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST, DAY ... Suddenly find ourselves in a new location, where Ah Ting stands her ground and roars back. NIAN RRRAHHAKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!! The startled Nian jumps on his feet. He circles her, trying to size up this little girl with the big roar. As they circle each other, Ah Ting gets closer to Nian and roars some more. Suddenly, Nian grabs Ah Ting, but she quickly wiggles out of his arms, turns to him and gives a few more roars, more playful this time. They’re learning each others language and what looks like aggression becomes clear as play. 12. EXT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST - MONTAGE/SEQUENCE And from here, a sequence begins... showing Ah Ting at different ages: (6 years, 10 years and 12 years) as her friendship with the Nian develops over the years. They dance together; play together; roll around in the mud together; and rest together. Their bond is strong. They are wildlings of the forest. Unbridled and free. She even addresses him as Ah Nian endearingly, a sign that shows how close they have grown. Finally, the montage closes as the two of them rest together. AH TING Nian… Come with me… Once they meet you, they’ll know you like I know you. END OF SEQUENCE. 13. EXT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST – DUSK A spectacular wide shot of an ANCIENT CHINESE VILLAGE nestled into the mountainside. The twinkling lights of houses give it a warm glow. From up high we hear the POP-POP-POP of CNY celebrations, see festive lights and colorful decorations. 14. EXT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST – DUSK Ah Ting (12) walks backwards slowly, covered in mud from playing in the forest, enticing the Nian to follow her into her village. Trusting in Ah ting, the Nian tentatively follows her. Sloppy- step by sloppy-step, it walks further into the village, feeling jumpy around all the unfamiliar sounds. 15. EXT. AH TING'S VILLAGE – NIGHT A DRAGON PUPPET dances joyfully. Ah Ting and the Nian watch from a quiet, hidden alleyway. The Nian wants to dance too, copying the dragon. Ah Ting smiles, raising her arm dancing and closing her eyes, swept up in the music. Suddenly, a LOUD FIRECRACKER goes off nearby and startles the Nian. It backs away from Ah Ting, frightened. AH TING Hey Nian. Don’t be afraid! Nobody’s going to hurt you. Nian, come back! But it’s too late. Smoke fills the alleyway and the Nian is disoriented and takes off.It disappears into the haze. NIAN (O.S.) RRRAHHAKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!! Ah Ting tries to chase the Nian until a hand appears from out of nowhere and grabs her wrist. FATHER (O.S.) Ah Ting! Where have you been? It’s her parents. Shocked to find Ah Ting a muddy mess. Ah Ting roars at them, like we’ve seen her do with the Nian: AH TING RRAHHAKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!! Her face crinkles into a terrifying expression, mouth open, like she will eat them, raising her shoulders up and allowing her arms to hang like absurdist wings... She flaps wildly as villagers gather around to watch, mouths agape. As Father tries to calm Ah Ting, we pan to Mother, who spies something in the shadows: the Nian. It watches over Ah Ting, protectively. Mother makes the tiniest movement toward it, reaching out... The Nian scatters and she glimpses its reptilian tail before it disappears into the night. 16. EXT. AH TING’S VILLAGE/FOREST - NIGHT The Nian runs wildly away from the village through the village. Grunting in pain as it rubs the smoke out of its eyes. 17. INT. AH TING'S HOME – CONTINUOUS* At home,Father, Mother and Ah Ting are arguing. 。 AH TING I have to find the Nian! FATHER There is no Nian! It was just a story to protect you! AH TING Why? FATHER Because the forest is dangerous. AH TING Why? FATHER There is no why. It just is. Ah Ting rushes into her bedroom, the curtain closes behind her as her eyes brim with tears. In the other room,she hears her parents continue to argue, silhouetted by the curtain that separates them. FATHER (V.O.) She thinks We’re monsters! Are we wrong for wanting to protect her? MOTHER (V.O.) No. But what are you trying to protect her from? What are you really afraid of? The CAMERA PUSHES IN SLOWLY as Ah Ting climbs out her bedroom window… FATHER (V.O.) This village has never been able to contain her. And now she’s growing up. I’m scared of the day… Ah Ting crosses the window and jumps free. An untameable spirit. As she runs back towards the forest- FATHER (CONT’D) She won’t have us by her side. She’s fearless and that terrifies me. MOTHER (V.O.) I understand. I’m scared too. But maybe we can learn from her courage. FATHER (V.O.) What do you mean? MOTHER (V.O.) Every year, we set off all these fireworks. Is it really to scare away the monsters? Or is it to light up the dard night sky? Ah Ting runs down the middle of the street toward the forest, the pop-pop-popping of fireworks, lighting her way. MOTHER (V.O.) If we let our fears hold us back… Then we would miss out on all that’s magical. CLIENT LOGO The sounds of FIREWORKS merge into tap-tap-tapping... 18. EXT. ANCIENT CHINESE FOREST – MORNING It’s a new day. Ah Ting wanders through the forest, tapping chopsticks on her lunchbox, always searching for the Nian. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. This time, we hear more tapping and discover Father and Mother are in the forest too. They tap along with chopsticks, enjoying this magical search with their spirited daughter. CUT TO BLACK. CREDITS ROLL THROUGHOUT. 19. INT. AH TING’S HOME, DINING TABLE – NIGHT It’s dinnertime. Around the table is Mother, Father, the Nian and all the Ah Tings at every age we’ve met her (6 years, 10 years and 12 years old). Everyone eats, acting completely normal, like this is just another normal dinner. Ah Ting (10) serves Mother some food as Ah Ting (12) serves father some food. Father serves Nian some meat, but he shakes his head. Points to a plate of green veggies instead. Father serves him the green vegetables. THE END


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