Building the Undersea Empire

small-posterWith Jonathan Lawrence (see picture below) now firmly ensconced as director (despite some sources that still give Pitof the role, such as parts of the actual website), Empires of the Deep seems now on track. Filming was to begin on 20 November 2009 and set to end on 19 March 2010 — at least according to this casting call.

Producer Mark Byers has been quoted as saying that “Jonathan Lawrence is uniquely suited to direct this epic adventure. His previous films integrate visual effects seamlessly into the story instead of treating them like add-ons, and his global experience allows him to interface with the all-Chinese crew without a hitch.” (Press release)

The press release continues: “Written by Jiang Hongyu, and produced by Jiang, Byers, and Harrison Liang, the US$50 million [or US$100 million according to Twitchfilm] Empire of the Deep is set in ancient Greece and tells the story of a band of Greek sailors who discover a secret underwater kingdom of mermaids, and must join forces to combat a dark evil that threatens both mermaid and human civilizations.

“Even though the story is set in the Greek isles, the picture will be shot entirely in China, on sound stages in Beijing, and exotic seaside locations in Fujian and Hainan provinces, making it one of the first Chinese productions based on an entirely Western story.”

The undersea fantasy epic is being touted as the first film in the history of cinema to explore the mystical world of the merfolk — a world “inhabited by mermaids, giants, an evil mage and dozens of different undersea kingdoms and races: each with their own cultural traits.” (Facebook page)

It is a fantasy movie about magic and demons, with spectacular battles and an epic story transcending a thousand years.

Empires of the Deep will introduce audiences to an entirely brand-new style of huge action set-pieces, a host of fantastical creatures and amazing underwater fight scenes. It will combine mystery and intrigue with incredible sea battles.

A China / Hollywood co-production, Empires of the Deep (formerly known as “Mermaid Island”) has been in production since 2006, having undergone personnel changes and production upgrades of assorted kinds — such as the departure of former director Pitof (of Catwoman fame) thanks to some classic “creative differences” and the controversial removal of Sharon Stone from the cast after the US star made some indiscreet political statements about aspects of China’s foreign policy. Ambitions for the CGI extravaganza have also escalated. It is now being seen as “the first movie in a planned movie franchise including comic books, animation and online games: all of which are currently under development. Other derivative products such as gifts and theme parks are also planned.”


The Facebook synopsis reads:

The protagonist of Empires of the Deep is a young man with a hidden power. After a local temple is ghosted away overnight, he begins an epic search that leads him to an encounter with the mysterious mermaid Aka. Their meeting triggers an unforgettable series of events that shakes the mermaid world to its very foundations.

On the mermaid side of things at least (the rest of the cast being largely ignored in existing promotional material), the film stars Monica Bellucci as the Mermaid Queen (first below) and Yan Fei as the film’s main aquatic protagonist (second below) — who together cover the gauntlet of cinematic feminine allure from sexy to cute:



Concept Art:





You can view more concept art in the Gallery.

CGI Creatures:





This entry was posted in Cryptozoology, Fantasy, Film, Giant Monsters, News, Pictorial art, Update. Bookmark the permalink.

131 Responses to Building the Undersea Empire

  1. Avery says:

    Man I can’t wait till we finally get to see this beauty! It’s gonna be awesome!

  2. someguy says:

    The Cast is extremely talented for new up and comers! Its a nice addition to the hollywood talent pool. Hopefully we will see more of these young actors.

  3. fuji says:

    Early footage so far looks fabulous and hopefully this can be a great movie. There is enough talent, Jonathan Lawrence is doing a fantastic job, the crews and sets are great, and the weak script (an English language film written by a non native English speaker who isn’t a writer in the first place) is getting overhauled.

    Unfortunately, Jiang, the writer and money man, is pushing the whole project to the brink of destruction, due to his inexperience and by the very poor and dishonest way he is treating everybody, not honoring contracts, etc.

    It’s too close to call yet folks, but if Jiang doesn’t completely screw it all up, it can be a good film.

  4. fuji says:

    yes, but prefer not to elaborate on that. truly, the footage so far looks fabulous. just hope it can find its way to completion.

  5. Robert Hood says:

    We’ve all got our fingers crossed with you. Be sure to toss some footage our way when any is made available.

  6. fuji says:

    Thanks, I will, and or some still shots when it’s appropriate. So many talented and hard working people are involved in the production of good movies, as we all know, and it’s always amazing how one or two folks can spoil it. Hopefully that won’t be the case here! Cheers mate.

  7. Pingback: Why Green Lantern won’t be a cheesefest |

  8. Captain says:

    Jiang needs to be fired. He is completely irresponsible in constantly trying to force the actors and crew to jeopardize their health and safety by shooting in dangerous locations and conditions, in order to cover up for his mistakes and his lack of movie production knowledge. He is currently driving this entire production into the ground and is risking losing all the talented people he tricked into joining this production through his lies. I too wish to remain anonymous, but I can assure you that I speak from direct experience on set and for all cast and crew.

  9. Insider says:

    Agreed – the Producer, (LOL , Snicker Snort) , Jiang has got to be Ed Wood incarnate. And if he has his way this ‘would be’ summer blockbuster will be little more than a featured ditty on Mystery Science Theater. The main two guys are really good – too bad Jiang’s script sucks so hard but it doesnt seem to stop the actors from doing good jobs. The mermaids are pretty hot but close up their sexy costumes are pretty lame but who cares – they’re hot. I guess later on there will be alot more of them too. I hope the director stays on he’s really trying to make this work but I head him say that Jiang won’t pay him enough to stay after his contract over – that would really suck.

  10. I Like this site – Thanks (unnamed) for pointing me to it – some of the ‘facts’ are not accurate but under contract I cannot say much. I think this is a great place for fans to meet and the crew to vent – When my contract ends I might exercise that luxury as well. Stay posted and and keep it coming this is getting interesting. BTW I don’t know who is posting here but I appreciate all you hard work – thanks for the support.

  11. Robert Hood says:

    Great to hear from you, Lawrence — well, it would be great if you came bearing good news. It’s a shame the project seems so problematic. I hope you can see it through to a good result. At any rate, I’d love to hear more about the production (and the film itself) whenever possible. Oh, I’m the owner and writer of this site — Avery Battles does a lot of the initial research and it was he who dug up whatever info we have on the film.

  12. directorlawrence says:

    Hi Robert,
    Thanks for putting this together – So many things are hush – hush so I am pleased that Avery has found out so much on his own. Without giving anything away I will so this:
    Steve Polites and Maxx Maulion (The two Male Stars) are talented actors committed to a good and entertaining film. I have been privaledged to work with them. Also, there is a massive amount of spectacular CGI in progress. The design and original vision for the film is wonderful and epic.

  13. gv says:

    Please sample these score cues for epic feature “Empires of The Deep” composed by VF associate composer James Guymon:
    Contact me directly with any questions.
    Please note James has NOT signed on to score this picture.
    These are samples were custom written for the producers. I would however be interested in your opinions.

  14. Robert Hood says:

    Evocative and effective music, GV. It seems to capture the otherworldly and romantic nature of the film (as I understand it) very effectively. I’ve posted a new article on this music and asked our readers to post their comments to that article:

    Hopefully you’ll get some meaningful responses.

  15. Avery says:

    Hi guys! Thanks for visiting our site! I’m glad that you found us. We’re VERY excited about this awesome new movie of your’s and eagerly look forward to it. I’m sorry to hear of the troubles you guys are going through on the set. Hopefully you’ll be able to work things out and save this film. Please feel free to vent your frustrations here and come back to visit us anytime to keep us updated on the production. We’ve been following it from the first announcement of it and I’ve been tracking any news updates from it and sharing them with my editor, owner of this site, and dear friend Robert Hood for his fantastic articles. I’ve also been sharing these updates with other news sites that I’m on and on several fan message boards to where a lot of people are really becoming very excited about it. PLEASE keep us updated on it’s production and ofcourse we’d LOVE some exclusives thrown our way if at all possible.

  16. gv says:

    Thank you Robert,
    The idea is give the film a “deep sea sense” with use of the English horn. “Come To Me” is a “radio friendly” piece, a dark love song to tie in the mermaid character in hopes of achieving perhaps what Celine Dion did for Titanic.

    This piece was co-written by a Grammy winning artist who also performs on the track.

  17. directorlawrence says:

    Gil – Excellent music. If you like I will pass it on to the proper channels with no expectations or promises to you other than they might consider you – I have no say in this – unfortunately – things are different here. I will need to give them a direct link to your site or music without any graphic displays from this film – ie. all the cool artwork on this site. Avoid using anything graphically you have found on the web as it could easily be interpreted by them as you stealing something – I know – I know – don’t ask just trust me on this one. Let your talent speak for itself.
    Robert – I am sure you have my personal email on file – If you are so inclined then you have my permission to forward it to Gil only so he can send me a direct link to his music, Sans Empires Graphics OR if you prefer – get the link and you send it directly.
    Thanks guys

  18. Robert Hood says:

    I’ll do that, JL. No worries.

  19. directorlawrence says:

    Thanks Robert – He’s already been in touch so hopefully I can point the producer his way.
    There is SO much going on here in China with EOTD I wish I could give you details – IN TIME ! Some of it is very cool – and SOME — HORRIFYING! When I am permitted I will give you the breaking news first.

    • Robert Hood says:

      I really look forward to hearing the goss, Jonathan, both cool and horrifying. Maybe we can do an interview when the time comes. I imagine the mere fact of doing a big film in China would in itself be interesting. It would have to be a vastly different experience to directing a film in the US.

  20. directorlawrence says:

    ps. Robert – I have been browsing your site and may have some things for you to look into that fit right in – Shoot me an email if you are interested….
    Speaking of fitting in – The first Hollywood production I worked on as an intern PA was H.P. Lovecraft’s RE-ANIMATOR — wow that was a long time ago.

  21. directorlawrence says:

    Good Lord – If I could tell you what happened today on location. Far more terrifying than ANYTHING in or on Re-Animator – BECAUSE IT IS REAL! One way or another this project is going to get international exposure sooner than later.

  22. deadpoet says:

    I was on the set yesterday and it was an interesting experience. Director Lawrence is doing great work considering the problems he is facing. China has an opportunity to expand it’s movie industry but it faces the usual problems of culture and communication. If the powers that be ever decide to listen to the people they hire the world could be their oyster, but that is a big if.

  23. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Just wanted to say something before I read all the comments on this page…

    It’s great to be a part of this project!!! 🙂

  24. deadpoet says:

    Pierre, I agree with you, for all the problems with shcedule and locations it is still a blast to be working on this film, and I think I speak for many of the cast and crew when I say we all hope for a big success for this project not only in China but worldwide!

  25. Gil says:

    Fresh cue composed by James Guymon
    “Battle of The Giants”
    Download here:

    Soon to be added to streaming player on our other link.

    Thanks for listening, Gil

  26. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    I hope it will be a great success too, “Deadpoet”… Despite the problems encountered (and which movie doesn’t have any?), we’ll try our best to make it so anyway! 🙂

  27. DirectorLawrence says:

    First of all – THANK CHRIST we are done with that Rock Mountain Location – ..l..

    Ok – SO – The rumors are true!!! My contract has ended and the production company was not able to meet my terms to sign on board to complete the project.
    DO NOT FEAR! They have opened up yet another can of directors and one will be flying in shortly. I know almost nothing about him but I hope and trust he will bring new life to the project that it so desperately needs.
    Hang in there everyone – I saw the NEW and IMPROVED trailer that the company is working on using some of the footage we have been pouring our souls into. Things are looking good – the actors are doing a great job and the CGI is really starting to shape up.
    I will miss you all but will stay in touch with those I spoke with before I left – also, I am leaving on good terms and I have been asked to remain a part of the promotional package – (go figure), so you may see my HAT lurking around China from time to time. AND I will check in here regularly for the latest … challenges?

    • Robert Hood says:

      I’m so sorry to hear this news. You seem to be taking it well. It must be frustrating for you though — to put so much effort into a project only to have to leave it in someone else’s hands. Stay in touch!

  28. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    I can’t believe it Jonathan!!! Are you going to stay a bit in China? If so, please let us know!

    You can write me on my blog:

    Keep in touch! 🙂

  29. victor says:

    I wonder whether a project can be made of patches. Everything that’s been vented about this film leads the reader in and out of clouds. Where’s the truth? How come they brag a 100K film budget while they can’t afford Hollywood names or at least paying the same film director up to the end?
    Initially they announced Pitof as the film director . He proved to have declined the producer’s offer. Then director Lawrence comes in and tries to make something out of merely nothing, as long as they cannot afford paying him either. A local director is to take over what Lawarence started, and most likely will try to be smart fail. First Sharon Stone then Monica Belucci were announced as leads, to be soon replaced by a totally uncredited Chinese lady. Octogenary Mr. Kerschner was announced as an executive producer, a piece of news quickly blown up by the old man’s secretary who denied everything. The script writer actually cannot utter a word in English and hides behind Mr. Frakes’ books, so too many contradicting pieces of info telling us of this patchy film. It looks as if the filmmaker is simply happy to pick out stock footage to fit the visuals. Luckily there’s some CGI involved.

  30. deadpoet says:

    First I am sorry to hear Jonathan is leaving the project. He had the vision needed to see this project to the finish line. China has a unique opportunity to show the world what can be produced in China for a worldwide market. The problem is as it usually is that the Chinese crew and the western crew don’t understand each other, this is not a language issue, this is about where to put effort and money. As is typical in state owned companies (of which this is not but has the same problem) They keep their money in a shoe box and their pencils in the safe.
    Good luck Jonathan and I hope we will see you back on the set from time to time. Don’t give up on this project yet. It still has a soul, it just needs glue to hold the two sides together.

  31. DirectorLawrence says:

    Pierre – I wish I could have said goodbye to you and everyone in person but the way they kept us all so separated made it difficult. I am home in Los Angeles now with my daughter and starting up other projects. All the above the line problems aside – working with all of you has left me with found memories.

    Robert – The reason I am taking it well is because it was my choice. All said and done, they made me a second term offer and I countered knowing full well they would not be able to afford me any longer – the conditions for shooting and their terms for compensation were not balanced and the game of playing on my ego with empty promises of futures has long since passed. I will still be checking this site though for updates as well as staying in touch with many of the players.

    Victor, your assessments are quite astute even with much misinformation fed to the media, like the budget. The saving grace of this movie will most likely be the sincere performances from Steve and Maxx and as you mentioned the CGI, (which I think will be great and a lot of fun to watch. the design work is fantastic)

    Deadpoet, a kind and gentle thought, indeed. And you are right it is not a language issue. I was told repeatedly that it is not even necessarily a ‘Chinese’ issue. I have been assured that most Chinese productions are not run, (or destroyed) in this fashion. For a few of us from the West it was not about the money, (that only became an issue to give us footing as things crumbled beneath our feet), the problem comes when talented professionals devoted to excellence in their craft are continuously pounded into mediocrity. None of us want to make an expensive home movie. Five months of battling for basic reason and sensibility tends to knock the creativity right out of you. I have been so soured that I was no longer of any use to anyone – I hope and trust the new director will bring renewed hope and encouragement and guide this thing to the big screen with dignity in honor of those who still fight the good fight.

  32. DirectorLawrence says:

    Anyone working on the film – please be careful about posting set photos or production design photos even on personal blogs. (you know who you are) because we all signed NDA’s built into our contracts and I would hate to see any trouble come your way. I have already been confronted with this issue.

  33. deadpoet says:

    Jonathan, At least you are back with your family. I enjoyed working with you and well who knows, maybe I will get that chance again.
    I have been acting and directing in China for several years and it never ceases to amaze me how difficult they can make easy things and how lightly they can take the more serious issues. Keep us China side actors informed of your new projects. It was a sincere pleasure to work with you. The General

  34. Director Lawrence says:

    deadpoet, Good to have a brief but satisfying stint with you as well. My best wished and hopes for this film and your continued success in China.
    I hear the new director is a good guy so you should all be in good hands.

  35. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Thanks for the advice Jonathan, but don’t worry: all the pictures you saw on my blog were from a totally different project (for the atwork) and there is no way I would put any of the pictures taken on set on the internet before the film comes out… I’m not that crazy…

    Well, if you come back to China any soon please let us know… It was a great pleasure to work with you and I hope that we’ll work together again in the future… That might sound a bit unlikely but who knows… Good luck with all your future projects anyway.

    Take care! 🙂

  36. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    I meant “artwork” earlier, not ‘atwork’… Sorry! 🙂

  37. Antonio says:

    I find all the discussion about this movie incredibly fascinating and I’m really looking forward to see it despite the trouble it seems to be facing. I’m curious about the look of the mermaids, I know you can’t post pictures, but if someone could shed some light about how the mermaids look in the film I’d appreciate it. The concept art seems to portray them a little more creature-like and less human and sexy than they’re traditionally depicted.

  38. jonathan Lawrence says:

    The Mermaids are very sexy and take on an unexpected look. My favorite Mermaid is Zoe, played by Erika Larissa, a beautiful Brazilian model/actress. She steels the screen.

  39. seth says:

    So… I have never in my life seen a production as unproffesional, cheating, lying, irresponsible as this one. Director Jiang lied about payments, is going cheat Chinese people by paying them almost nothing so that they can play the parts of the Greeks by just putting them in wigs. Promised people dates and then rescheduled 4 different times so that people took time off work, paid for travel to get to the location, and pretty much made them loose a lot of money just to cut their salaries in half and then cancel it 2 days before shooting so that their were a pile of people out of money and don’t even have the opportunity to break even. As far as i’m concerned he has stolen money from me as well as many others that he has done the same thing to. He’s a thief and a lier and sorry to all those who will be in this movie but i hope if f*ing tanks because of your unproffesionalism. Everyone will know that you paid poor Chinese people pennies just to save a buck and act like a bunch of snotty foreigners. You’re cheating the people who are in this movie, you’re cheating the Chinese citizens, you’re cheating foreigners and you’re cheating any person anywhere that will ever glance at your unproffesional movie.

    Again, I hope your project tanks because of Jiang and he looses all of his face!!!!

  40. Insider says:

    No doubt Seth. This thing has been a lie from the beginning. Even The casting guy has pitted the actors against each other so the company could make them feel insecure and allow themselves to get cheated. Part of that is on the actors for being so desperate and allowing it but for the company to make that a part of their corrupt strategy is so wrong in so many ways. At one point Jiang demanded everyone film in really dangerous locations when it was raining. A bunch of people slipped on the wet rocks and fell. Some got hurt but kept filming. One of the actresses was fired then Jiang refused to giver her passport back so she couldn’t leave the country. I dunno why he had her passport but I dont think that’s legal. This guy Jiang is making a lot of enemies and I hear the investors are catching on. I don’t want this thing to tank because some good people are hoping to jump start their careers but I hope certain people at the top get what they deserve.

  41. Antonio says:

    thanks! sounds interesting, i’m sorry to hear it’s been a terrible experience to film. does anybody know when filming is supposed to last until?

  42. Insider says:

    I heard they are trying to be wrapped by April 15 this year but that just means they wont give any attention to quality because the whole thing is so far behind schedule thanks to Mr. Jiang. I talked to Mr. Lawrence before he left and he said this thing would need at least 3 to 4 more months to do sorta right under theses insane conditions.

  43. Janitor says:

    From behind the lens I can tell you things are going great, sure directors leave, actresses get fired, and people squabble about money, but that is the monster of the movie business. Show me one production where everything went smoothly and I’ll show you the gates to heaven.
    From what I have been reading, it sounds like a lot of sour grapes from people who are no longer associated with the film. To each their own. But for the hard working people still devoting their lives to making this happen, I commend them.
    On a positive note, we are now being instructed by the team that shot avatar, yes, we hired the 3D team and flew their gear out to Beijing. Empires of the Deep is now being filmed on the F35 Sony camera by the same team that filmed Avatar.
    The April 15th date is only for the new director, he has a prior commitment, and as soon as that is fulfilled he will be back to finish. In the meantime, the chinese action director will be filming the action scenes.

    I would like to thank the actors Steve Polites and Maxx Maulion for continuing their professionalism throughout the bumpy process of film making.

  44. directorlawrence says:

    Insider, For the record I said ‘challenging’ conditions. I hope the new director and Avatar Team can bring this thing home. And I can attest to the great attitudes and work ethic of both Steve and Maxx.

  45. someguy says:

    Maxx Maulion and Steve Polites are the shining rays of hope for this movie, i hope they keep up the good work!!! cant wait to see this movie!!

  46. Antonio says:

    well either way, i am very excited to see how this turns out. although from the sound of it, i may be waiting a very long time?

  47. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    I know, the conditions are far from being ideal but no matter how bad it looks, we still have to try our best and stick together… This crew should not collapse and this project should not tank all because of one single guy…

    If that film ends up being a flop, we will all feel terrible about it… So even though it might seem unfair to a lot of people if Jiang gets all the glory, it will at least be a success for which we all pulled in together…

    You guys all know that in a battle, the general gets all the glory, not the soldiers… No matter how hard they fight no matter how many of them die, no matter how many mistakes the general makes… But no soldier likes to loose a battle. Stay strong guys!

  48. Acura says:

    So this production has sunken to a new low today with its transportation arrangement… you guys know what I’m talking about. I’m this close to quitting this one.

  49. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    This film will look great… There’s so much “energy” in it! 🙂

  50. fuji says:

    To Robert Hood,,,thanks for the forum here, truly, but perhaps you can control some of the trolling going on, via looking at and verifying email addresses and/or url’s…then deleting. These recent comments, including the last one attributed to me, are definitely the work of a troll, as ‘someguy’ pointed out. As I said, this kind of thread can quickly become absurd, as this one now has.


    • Robert Hood says:

      Fuji, yes, I just woke up and looked at what’s going on and will certainly do something about it. Just looking at the tone of various responses is enough to pick the troll… The actual email addresses are quite varied. However, there is a particular IP address that is obviously the troll’s yet that IP’s initial occurrence is quite rational and convincing. It’s the one that first mentions the involvement of personnel from Avatar. Can anyone confirm the truth or otherwise of this? I am going to delete them all but will save the first in case it is genuine. This does mean that your responses to “Janitor” were made to the troll. Would you prefer that I removed them?

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