This film actually started as a book idea and my initial goal was to write a traditional business memoir. Before leaving Alibaba, I requested and was offered archival videos and photographs from the company’s internal events that I intended to use as a reference to ensure my book’s accuracy. When I reviewed the sheer volume of materials available I realized that the story might be better told as a film, rather than as a book.
I spent the next two years gathering archival footage from sources around the world. I was fortunate that several documentarians and news organizations had followed Jack at important times in the company’s history and generously offered to share their footage. And I was doubly fortunate that in much of this footage, Jack and I were filmed discussing Alibaba’s strategies at key turning points in our competition with eBay. I especially owe a debt of gratitude to Stefan Tolz and Marcus Vetter who provided me with raw footage from their film, Traders’ Dreams.
To supplement this archival footage, I travelled to locations in the US, Europe and Asia to film b-roll of building exteriors and driving scenes where key events had occurred. This b-roll footage was the only footage shot specifically for Crocodile in the Yangtze and all of the dialogue and speeches shown in the film were captured as they happened.
With more than 200 hours of footage in hand, I faced one big problem - I had no idea how to make a film.
So in 2010 I spent a month at the New York Film Academy studying film editing in a class led by Giuseppe De Angeles, who I later persuaded to join my project as a full partner. Giuseppe brought his artistic and technical expertise to the project and introduced composer Federico Chieli who recorded the film’s original music.
During 2011, Giuseppe and I edited the film as a team, sending files back and forth, reconstructing the story clip-by-clip. We added Federico’s music and, after a yearlong journey, ultimately arrived at Crocodile in the Yangtze.
Director, Crocodile in the Yangtze