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Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom
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Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom

Author: Brendan Davis

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A weekly podcast about making it big as a foreign fish in the world's biggest pond - China!

Every week from Beijing, host Brendan Davis talks with a fellow foreigner who is doing something challenging, unique or maybe even just a little bit crazy. Guests ranging from venture capitalists to standup comedians share funny stories, useful insights, and occasionally, cautionary tales about their lives in China.

The podcast aims to be invaluable for anyone considering making a similar move, plus entertaining and relatable enough to be fun for everyone to enjoy and learn from.
131 Episodes
October’s solo episode of my new show could be called “If You Knew ME Better”. This is a very candid and revealing one, as I share details about my father and his life that I never have publicly, so I wanted to share it here, too. NOTE: *trigger warning* for those sensitive to stories of domestic violence that you might want to skip the second half of this one. SHARE: 
This week I’m cross-posting an 8-minute shortie episode to both “If I Knew You Better” and my original, retired podcast “Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom”. There are THREE recent episodes of my other show, “How China Works” (co-hosted with Yingying Li), that I really don’t want you to miss. Check out those shows and our guests MARK LEVINE, FU HAN, ISABEL CROOK, & JESSE APPELL via the links in the shows notes, and subscribe to “How China Works” and “If I Knew You Better” so you don’t miss anything. Thanks! LINKS:
Writer-Producer-Director KEVIN GEIGER & I had a long-running “bonus feature” on THIS show called the “Fretful Laowai Radio Hour”: a very popular free-form conversation about all sorts of current China-Hollywood & related issues. I’m very pleased to now bring "Fretful Laowai" to my NEW show, “If I Knew You Better”, as a recurring feature. Please search it in YOUR favorite podcatcher or find it right HERE to listen & SUBSCRIBE:
Okay! All good things must come to an end, and in this - the last episode of “Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom” - I say THANK YOU to many of the people who’ve helped me make it as good as it can be. The catalog of over 120 shows will stay live forever, but to hear me on NEW shows, please search and visit “If I Knew You Better” or “How China Works”. Thanks for over 2 great years! MORE: SEARCH “If I Knew You Better” in all podcatchers OR listen / learn more below: APPLE: / WEB PLAYER: LINKS “How China Works”: LISTEN - APPLE: / ALL PLATFORMS: / WEB:
Nick Cheng is a popular British comedian based in Beijing, and a natural storyteller. And he has some great stories to tell: some are funny, most are fascinating, and a few - discussing a family member’s suicide attempts, his coming out while a member of the Royal Navy - are wrenching. But all are worth hearing, and I am glad to share them with you on this very special LAST REGULAR EPISODE of “Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom”. Please enjoy! LINKS:
This week I want to tell you about another of my podcasts, “How China Works”. My co-host Yingying Li interviews 2-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Malcolm Clarke about his new film BETTER ANGELS. If you like THIS show, I think you’ll like THAT one, too, so I hope you’ll check it out! APPLE: / ALL PLATFORMS: / WEB:
Michael Nakan is the founder of Clipper Media Capital, a London-based production and packaging company. He cut his Hollywood teeth on the US version of “House of Cards” and then in NYC at HBO before returning home to the UK to work in development for DARKEST HOUR director Joe Wright. He's also established a China office of his UK firm and is successfully bridging the gap between the two markets. A great talk! LINKS: MICHAEL NAKAN / Clipper Media Capital:  SEARCH “If I Knew You Better” in all podcatchers OR listen / learn more here: APPLE: / WEB PLAYER: LINKS
Weiko Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan, & he continues to work throughout Asia, but it’s in Hollywood that he’s really made his name. His upcoming book, Crazy Screenwriting Secrets (Michael Weise Productions, avail July 1) is both a solid art & craft writing manual, AND a knowledgable how-to on navigating the often-treacherous waters between China and the global cinema industry, as epitomized by Hollywood. If you follow the world entertainment business with any degree of seriousness, YOU MUST LISTEN TO THIS SHOW. Just sayin’. Enjoy! FULL BLOG POST:   WEIKO LIN book: Crazy Screenwriting Secrets - Pre-Order now on AMAZON:   BRENDAN DAVIS on “The Carl King Podcast”: Apple: SoundCloud: or SEARCH “The Carl King Podcast” in your favorite podcatcher   SEARCH “If I Knew You Better” in all podcatchers OR listen / learn more here: APPLE: / WEB PLAYER: LINKS
Today Kevin Geiger & I bring you a special “Fretful Laowai: Summer Vacation" edition of Big Fish! In it we discuss our new alliance on the movie I’m developing in France, film festivals, some recent guests on my new podcast “If I Knew You Better”, my appearance on “The Carl King Podcast”, and what the changing tides (personal, professional, international) mean for us both. We aim for fun, informative, & thoughtful too; hope you enjoy it! LINKS: KEVIN GEIGER links: Peewee Frogbooks   Magic Dumpling Entertainment   BRENDAN DAVIS on “The Carl King Podcast”: Apple: SoundCloud: or SEARCH it in your favorite podcatcher   SEARCH “If I Knew You Better” in all podcatchers OR listen / learn more below: APPLE: / WEB PLAYER: LINKS
Fei Wu is the host of the Feisworld podcast, a documentary filmmaker, & a digital marketer. She left China to finish high school in the US, where she’s lived for almost 20 years now, but lately she’s been revisiting her China roots and supporting her artist mother, whose famous paintings illustrating Chinese literature classic The Dream of the Red Chamber made her famous and which are now getting a permanent gallery home in Qingdao. We also touch on Fei’s passion promoting palliative care for the sick & dying, which she developed after her father’s long illness and passing when she was a little girl. This topic just became highly relevant to me, too, as my own father died just this past Monday (after the interview was recorded). The first 10 minutes of the show is me talking about that, but the interview with Fei is fun, enlightening, fresh, and optimistic about the power of art to transform. Please enjoy this very special episode of the show, and visit for links and more.
Steve Katz has possibly the most eclectic background and resume of anyone I’ve ever spoken to. His early influences in the 1960s, like Ray Harryhausen and Famous Monsters magazine, mixed with watching rehearsals at the nearby Westport Country Playhouse with visiting directors like Woody Allen to the influence and support of his parents to propel him into an artistic life from the very beginning. That led him to, among other things: learning film cameras via a cousin in New York who worked on TV shows like “Car 54, Where Are You?”; putting together psychedelic light shows in NYC at places like the Fillmore East and working with bands like The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Byrds, and Sly & The Family Stone starting at age 19; playing bluegrass banjo; working on John McTiernan’s first film; befriending “Saturday Night Live” writing legend Michael O’Donoghue and seeing a legendary short film he directed, “The Clams”, go on to open a season of “SNL” and catch a big break as a TV writer; he continued to work and grow and eventually established himself as a writer-director-producer in Hollywood; created the first digital previz on the feature Clear and Present Danger; and eventually, all his experience brought him to - yes - China, where he has been involved in many projects big and small. But of all the references I just name-checked, the one that originally cemented Steve’s name in my mind back in the day was that he wrote a truly legendary cinema book called Film Directing: Shot by Shot, published by the then-upstart Michael Weise Productions. It was released in 1992, which is when I was in film school, and it instantly became required reading in my Film Production courses! It’s familiar blue cover was updated a few years ago to announce the new, 25th anniversary edition, which was freshly and thoroughly revised for the digital age. It’s easily the film book I have gifted to more people than any other, and it was a real treat to get to hear some of Steve’s stories in-depth. Among the crazy but true tales already mentioned, we scratch the surface on Steve’s several engagements as Michael Jackson’s personal filmmaking tutor - a story he has NEVER told before! Steve was resident at the Neverland Ranch for months at a time, was flown into luxury hotels to work with the star, sometimes just watching movies late at night. He also saw things in his time around MJ that will likely merit another show entirely, but we will have much more on that topic another day. We even overlap on his interest in the intersection between art and neuroscience, among many other wonky and highly specific topics. To top it off, he’s also a good friend of one of my best friends, Kevin Geiger, so the “small world” meter is off the charts with this one for me. More on all that later. For now, though, you can visit the blog post at for links, contact information, and I hope you enjoy this epic conversation with Steven Katz!
Elliott Zaagman has built a professional life as a writer, podcaster, investor in, & consultant to the leaders of some of China’s most famous (& infamous) tech companies. He appears in print & on-air internationally speaking truth about that environment. Ell co-hosts the China tech Investor podcast w/James Hull and has been on my other shows several times too, so we started from a place of comfort and dove deep from there. LINKS
Today is both my 3-year “Chinaversary” and the 2-year anniversary of launching THIS VERY PODCAST! In all that time, I’ve released about 300 hours worth of podcasts, and I’m looking forward to many more. Please SEARCH and join me on “If I Knew You Better” & “How China Works”, and thanks for all your support. It means the world to me. MORE:
Millions of people in the tech & startup world know Steve Hoffman as “Captain Hoff” from Foundersspace, a leading incubator from Silicon Valley that is now omnipresent throughout China. But very few people know that his FIRST career was as a development executive in Hollywood, and this is the first time Steve’s talked about all this in-depth since beginning his China adventures. The lessons he's learned from his success shaping startups & stories are invaluable, & applicable regardless of your vocation or location. I especially love his closing thoughts: “Are you putting your time into the most important things? Given who you are and where you are in your life, what's the most value you can be creating for the people around you and the world around you, and can you focus your energies on that instead of getting distracted by all these other things?” This was a very fun and special conversation, so I hope you check it out. LINKS:
James Goodnight is an Arts Center graduate who adventured around the US after school, but that was just the start. He moved to Beijing 10 years ago and built a career as a commercial photographer, specializing in car ads. He’s also a big fan of indoor watersports, and tells us all about that. James’ story involves a lot of synchronicities and I just had one of those days myself yesterday, so I share my own weirdly funny tale in the intro. LINKS:
Lee Chen is a familiar face on US TV, but her own story is more impressive & incredible than the many shows she’s appeared in. For starters, she’s probably the only successful Hollywood actor who got their start in a "Chairman Mao Thought" propaganda performance troupe towards the end of the Cultural Revolution in China. She was born in Inner Mongolia, was a founding-class member of the Johns Hopkins Chinese Program at Nanjing University, then moved to the US for grad school - earning two Master’s degrees - and began a dual professional life as an academic and an actor. She landed in Chicago after grad school, and fell into studying acting at the famous Piven Theater Workshop. Lee worked and studied for years, moved to Hawaii for a second Masters, did every theater production she could, and finally moved to Hollywood. Today, Lee has built an eclectic film, TV, & theater career with roles ranging from the dramatic to the absurdly funny. She also worked diligently over a 20 year period to move her ENTIRE family - one by one - over to the US from China. I was lucky to meet Lee when she accepted a role in a small film I produced, and when I heard her incredible story I knew I had to get her on the mic to share it with you, too. I am cross-posting this show "If I Knew You Better" and my original China-focused podcast “Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom” too, but no matter where you hear it, I hope you enjoy it. DO NOT MISS this one! MORE:
Returning champion Kevin Geiger (Magic Dumpling, Peewee Frog; ex-Disney) is back for another freewheeling China chat! We start with an outline and let it rip from there. Big fun, and a big reason I rebooted the podcast. We talk about returning home & expat ennui (hence the “Fretful Laowai” show handle), our new projects, how to (and how NOT to) package and produce a feature film (note: it really helps if you hire a rockstar cinematographer, and then he brings on partners who’ve worked on Green Book, the latest Star Wars, Interstellar, etc) and lastly: how to tell if you’ve been in China for too damn long. Enjoy! LINKS: 
Check out this special episode from Paris as I dish out the details of what I've been up to here, the future of THIS podcast, the launch of my NEXT podcast, how to attend a sneak preview in Los Angeles of the film my team and I recently completed, and when I’ll be back in China - in theory. Enjoy!  BLOG:
Today I’m presenting a live recording of a special event I did at the Beijing American Center at the US Embassy to China back in December, 2018 with my former Migration Media partners Mike Shaw and Chrislyn Choo, plus Cara Gleeson. We were introduced by Janice Englehart at the BAC, the event was organized by Leslie Dong, and my esteemed friend and colleague Jonathan Garrison was kind enough to moderate the discussion. Enjoy! BLOG:
Welcome to 2019! I’m jumping the show numbers ahead to reflect the actual number of shows released so far. And I'm in Los Angeles this week & for awhile in general, so I’m making some other changes & expanding the idea of what’s possible. Check out today’s show, which doubles as my January solocast, to hear all the latest. Cheers! APPLE: / SOUNDCLOUD: / STITCHER: / WEB:
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