Wang said Chinese censors asked that some of the gruesome sounds related to foot binding be dialed down. "But if I didn't have somebody like Wendi and [executive producer and prominent financier] Hugo Shong, I would have been in much bigger trouble," Wang said, because the two are so well-known inside China.
Murdoch, who used her own and Sloan's money to option See's book, said that she had little trouble raising financing for the film's production. "Everybody in China wanted to give us money," she said. "In China, everybody knows who I am. It definitely helped. They have confidence in me."
She and Sloan declined to discuss the film's budget, but a person familiar with "Snow Flower" said it cost about $6 million. The movie, which has product placement from (among others) Louis Vuitton, Samsung and Yves Saint Laurent to help defray costs, was co-produced with production company IDG China Creative Media Limited.
Wang said he was determined to add the modern Shanghai story not just to broaden "Snow Flower's" appeal — "I didn't want people to go away from the movie thinking Chinese culture is all about foot binding and macho males," he said — but also because the city "is so relentlessly contemporary now. It's almost like New York mixed with Las Vegas."
He said any number of recent Chinese movie imports — including John Woo's "Red Cliff" and Feng Xiaogang's "Aftershock" — failed to connect with American audiences because the storytelling isn't ambitious.
"They keep making the same kind of thing — these big, epic sword-fighting period dramas," Wang said. "I don't think a lot of these filmmakers are great storytellers."
Murdoch said "Snow Flower" is a first step. "We hope to inspire other people to make Chinese films for everyone," said Murdoch, who has two other movies in development with Sloan.
Sloan knows "Snow Flower" is not an easy sell but hopes that the very things that make it challenging could also help buoy its prospects. "It's not," Sloan said, "kung fu."