Florence Low Sloan is co-creator, producer and CEO of Big Feet Productions. Mrs. Sloan produced the feature film Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, based on the best-selling novel by Lisa See. The film will be released in China and in the US on July 15, 2011.
Prior to creating the production company, Mrs. Sloan was a writer and author of children’s books in London.
Mrs. Sloan was born in Malaysia, and spent much of her early years in London, England. She studied at the City University London where she obtained her BA in Law while graduating with honors.
A philanthropist at heart, she sits on the board of many charities, including The Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, Facing History and Ourselves, and American Ballet Theater.
Mrs. Sloan is married to Harry Sloan, Chairman and CEO of Global Eagle Acquisitions. They live in Los Angeles with their four children.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a timeless portrait of female friendship. In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong – or “old sames” – bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan.
In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong’s descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever.
What unfolds are two stories, generations apart, but everlasting in their universal notion of love, hope and friendship.
Asiance sat down with Florence and her Big Feet Productions business partner, Wendi Deng Murdoch at the Four Season Hotel in Manhattan to discuss their latest endeavor. I love meeting dynamic, hard-working and creative women.
ASIANCE: What made you decide to produce films being that you are a writer and lawyer? What attracted you to the Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?
Florence: I studied Law in England but I got married at 21, so I didn’t actually practice. I’ve always loved the creative process. I’ve always had a great love, great passion for movies. What really made us decide to produce this movie, and I may be speaking for Wendy, was when we read this book. The story really drew us together. We saw it immediately. We were going to make this great, epic, inspiring movie.
After reading the book, Wendy I were just so fascinated with the story. It’s a really powerful story of these two friends. It really relates to today. We juxtaposed a modern story with the old. I think you see that when you see the movie. The relationship between these two women, is that strong, harbored friendship that transcends everything; race, religion, geography and stage in life. It shows how endearing women’s friendships can be.
ASIANCE: What is your favorite movie?
Florence: I love “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It’s really corny but I like old movies and foreign movies. I love “Raise the Red Lantern” by Zhang Yimou.
ASIANCE: What about “Memoirs of A Geisha”?
Florence: The book was amazing, the movie not so much. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve by this as well.
ASIANCE: What do you want the audience to take away from this film?
Florence: It shows how much women can endure in this instance and what we can achieve from that. Again, that transcends into today’s world. How much women had to suffer in China; the customs and the cultures. The audience will learn about that. It was exquisite and painful at the same time. They had foot binding. They had marriages arranged for them. They had to pray that the mother-in¬¬-law was nice to them and that they bear sons.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your experience living in Malaysia? How did that experience influence your life?
Florence: I was born in Malaysia. Malaysia is a British colony so we all spoke English. We gained our independence. As soon as we gained our independence, the government decided that everything was going to be Malay and English would be the second language. My parents did not want that for me because I’m the oldest. I was sent off as an experiment. I was sent off to boarding school by the time I was 11 years old. I was really young but I’m really glad I did it because I don’t think I’d be sitting here talking to you (laughs) because I wouldn’t speak much English. Most of my formative years were in England. I would holiday to Malaysia. My family still lives there. I think that is what transformed my life and led me here.
ASIANCE: What do you think of Asia’s impact on American culture?
Florence: I think Americans are fascinated by this immense growth in China. I think they’re surprised but at the same time inspired by it.
ASIANCE: Do you speak to your family in Asia?
Florence: My family is in Malaysia. I talk to them very often. Sometimes, too often. (laughs) They come and visit me very often. I also say, “Is it because of me or my children?”. They love them very much.
ASIANCE: Are they fascinated with the American culture or is it starting to fade?
Florence: Oh no. There is still a fascination with American culture, especially in South East Asia. South East Asian (Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam) are all fascinated. We have a saying, “If the United States sneezes, South East Asia catches a cold”. There is still a huge impact.
ASIANCE: Do you think this will appeal to mainstream movie audiences or Asian American audiences?
Florence: We want mainstream. This is another reason why we wanted to do this is because it has an international message.
ASIANCE: America is so fascinated with China.
Florence: Yes, which is why I think that is so great for our movie. It’s a Chinese movie but it’s more for the international and vice versa.
ASIANCE: What drew you to Bing Bing and Gianna?
Florence: Gianna is what we imagined Snowflower to be. Very well known. Physically, they’re built very beautifully but in different ways, which we wanted for the movie. They both speak English.
Gianna is vulnerable but at the same time a contradiction, powerful, sexy.
ASIANCE: I spoke with Li Bing Bing,she said both of you were on set all the time.
Florence: Yes we made sure.
ASIANCE: What advice would you give to women who want to produce films? Should they achieve a certain type of experience?
Florence: You have to watch as many movies as you can and all different genres. Try to get an idea on how you would like to make this movie. The most important thing in making a movie is the script. If they have an idea, book, magazine or newspaper article, imagine how that would happen.
Also, you should get a job in that industry. Start as an intern and then work your way up.
We’re more involved in the writing process. We’re going to try to stick to Chinese inspired films.
ASIANCE: Would you please describe Wendi.
Florence: I have a great admiration for Wendi. Not only is she beautiful, she carried me along with the movie. She’s tenacious. She doesn’t give up. She was incredibly supportive and caring towards this movie. We had some challenges but she was always there for me.
ASIANCE: Is there anyone that you want to work with in the future?
Florence: I haven’t really thought about it. We always wanted to make movies with a Chinese theme. We haven’t thought of big movie stars…Hugh Jackman and Wayne Wang. Ang Lee has immense range.
My sons were actually very instrumental in helping me in terms of being my harshest critics, yet most loyal critics. I like to see how they responded to the movie because they are young men. We weren’t really targeting them. They were fascinated. They liked the creative end, especially my youngest boy. He wants to be a musician.
ASIANCE: What instruments does he play?
Florence: He plays piano and violin. He likes to compose and write lyrics.
Stay tuned for an exclusive contest where an Asiance member (and her friend) will win a meet and greet with Ms. Florence Sloan and Ms. Wendi Murdoch. Stay tuned for the announcement!