The Making of The Wandering Earth

A Film Production Handbook


Jiaren Wang and Regina Kanyu Wang, Storycom (eds.)

Translated by Guo Qi and revised by John Shanahan

This handbook takes us through the making of The Wandering Earth, one of the highest grossing non-English films of all time. It is a rare, in-depth, behind-the-scenes study of the making of a masterpiece, taking the reader through the entire production process of a landmark Chinese science fiction film.

The book brings to life how The Wandering Earth was created, from words to images, by a young and innovative professional team assembled by director Frant Gwo. It discusses specialised details of the filmmaking process and the collaborative work of the crew and the cast involved to present an intuitive feeling of the film’s production.

A step by step guide on the making of a radical large-scale film, this handbook critically examines its various stages such as,

  • its development and production stages — the planning, preparing, recruiting, setting up departments and processes; writing the screenplay; creating a visual style and the production design; and the principal photography;
  • its challenging post-production stages — the editing, visual effects production, colour mixing; dubbing, sound editing; publicity, etc.;

Further, the chapters in volume also explore how Chinese science fiction films disrupt the Western narrative context and provide the larger discourse on Chinese science fiction.

Richly illustrated with exclusive first-hand visuals from the making of the film, this handbook, part of the Studies in Global Genre Fiction series, will be an essential read for professionals, scholars, researchers, and students of film and media production, film studies, popular culture, cultural studies, Chinese studies, world literature, and science fiction. It will also be of interest to the general reader interested in filmmaking.

Rivaling the best of international productions – both technically and artistically, The Wandering Earth is a film of incredible accomplishment. Having experienced first-hand the brilliance and determination of the film makers in charge of this unprecedented film making endeavour, I feel incredibly fortunate to have enjoyed their vision and talent. A hugely positive landmark in Chinese film making and one that the people of China should be rightfully proud. The book does a great job in documenting the production process of the film.

Richard Taylor, Design and Effects Supervisor/ CEO, Weta Workshop

The Making of The Wandering Earth: A Film Production Handbook is about far more than just one great novel or one exciting film. It shines light on upon one of the greatest and most promising trends in the history of all human mythic systems — the rise of Chinese cinematic science fiction.

David Brin, author of EARTH, Kiln People and Existence.

Table of Contents


Series Editor’s Preface

Notes on Contributors

Foreword by Liu Cixin

Foreword by La Peikang

Foreword by Song Ge



Act I Calling for Adventures

Chapter 1 Summoning the Heroes

Chapter 2 “Worldbuilding”: Creating the Blueprint for a World

Chapter 3 Screenplay: Not Simply Science Fiction, But Character Creation

Chapter 4 Aesthetics: A Taste of Soviet Industrial Style

Chapter 5 Conceptual Design: More than Concepts

Chapter 6 Previewing: The PreViz Dynamic Storyboard

Chapter 7 Photography: A Symphony of Light and Shadow

Chapter 8 “The Four Big Shots”


Act II Exceeding Limits

Chapter 9 Director Panel: Growing Wildly

Chapter 10 Camera Crew: Striving for Texture

Chapter 11 Art Department: Realizing the Imagination with Chinese Characteristics

Chapter 12 The Challenge of Industrialization, Science Fiction’s Calling

Chapter 13 Ideal Actors & Actors’ Ideals


Act III: Trials Along the Way

Chapter 14 Editing: A Second Creation through Simplification

Chapter 15 Visual Effects in Post-Production: Technology and Beauty

Chapter 16 Sound Effects: An Acoustic Feast to Arouse Chinese Memory

Chapter 17 Post-production: The Life and Death Choices of a VFX-heavy Film


Conclusion: Voices from Film Crew Members

1. The Creators’ Favorite Parts

2. Difficulties and Challenges

3. If I could do it again…

4. Expectations for Chinese Science Fiction Films and for The Wandering Earth

5. Wishes from the Director



1. Brief Introduction to the “Worldbuilding” in The Wandering Earth

2. The Character Traits in The Wandering Earth

3. The Terms of Scenes in The Wandering Earth

4. The Terms of Props in The Wandering Earth

5. The Terms of Natural Phenomenon in The Wandering Earth

6. Special Terms in The Wandering Earth

7. Chronicle in The Wandering Earth




1. Mingwei Song.  Like a God, Creates a World, Then Describes It” – The Aesthetics of Liu Cixin’s Science Fiction

2. Yan Feng.  The Reality and Myth of Science Fiction: Science Fiction Landscape as a Cultural Phenomenon


Editorial Note of the English Version


©CoFutures, 2020