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Looking for the commonality behind the “extreme”, listening to the turbulent hearts of ordinary people

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The talk show “Talking to Strangers” scored 9.4 points on Douban

Chen Xiaonan: Look for the commonality behind the “extreme” and listen to the turbulent hearts of ordinary people

From “Living Warm and Cold Life” in 2003 to the fourth season of “Talking to Strangers” in 2021, the host Chen Xiaonan has been talking to ordinary people for nearly two decades.

In her eyes, every ordinary person is a grain of sand rolled up by the waves of the times, and every interview is a process of washing the sand in the waves. The fourth season of “Talking to Strangers” was launched in October of this year. Chen Xiaonan spoke to the carrier of the live broadcast village, the doll doctor, the “god picker” who saves money to buy a house, the teenager who “stabbed the bully” to death, and the deceased. The parents of the star Qiao Renliang, the escaped “butcher”… Every ordinary person interviewed in the show is a facet of the times, so it has aroused a lot of discussion: such a serious interview show during the airing period It has been on the hot search list many times, and the Douban score is as high as 9.4 points.

Recently, Chen Xiaonan accepted an exclusive interview with a reporter from the Yangcheng Evening News. In this era of “don’t talk to strangers”, why do you still “talk to strangers”? Chen Xiaonan believes that every concrete character is a world, and to talk to strangers is to talk to the world.

Moved by more than one hundred “letters from outside the prison”

In 2014, 13 days before the high school entrance examination, 15-year-old Chen Sihan received a notice of arrest for stabbing a campus bully, and was later sentenced to jail for intentionally wounding others, embarking on a road completely different from his peers. In August 2020, Chen Sihan walked out of the prison with more than one hundred “letters from outside the prison”. His story appeared in “Talking to Strangers” this season. After the show was broadcast, he changed from a symbol in the news to a flesh and blood person. Afterwards, Chen Xiaonan updated the social platform dynamics: “What can really redeem a person? I think it is still love.”

Yangcheng Evening News: This episode of “Letters from Outside Prison” is very popular, what will the follow-up look like?

Chen Xiaonan: Chen Sihan is now an intern in a Beijing law firm and has great hopes for life. After this episode was broadcast, we received overwhelming feedback, all encouraging him. When we first contacted him, he had just been released from prison and his lawyer was very helpful to him. At that time, there were very few channels for him to communicate with the outside world, and now he can open his eyes slightly in Beijing. He has to explore the next road by himself, and I am very confident in him. He is very pure in his heart. Although he looks shy, he always smiles faintly. “Fortunately, I still have us” played by Ji on the show is very topical. The scene is especially like a cruel youth movie, and his clean juvenile state is still there.

Yangcheng Evening News: How do you feel after interviewing him?

Chen Xiaonan: I interviewed him twice, each for about four hours. During our second interview in Beijing, he knew me better and opened himself up more. His heart is very delicate, his inner narration is very rich and accurate, and many subtle feelings are expressed very complete, like poetry and prose. His future should go well. Coupled with so many people supporting him, he should be quite happy, and his mother is also very pleased.

Yangcheng Evening News: Where does his mother’s comfort come from?

Chen Xiaonan: Now, everyone may be closer to Chen Sihan. He is not only a symbol in the news, but also a young man of flesh and blood. The youth without youth has finally moved into society and become adults. This very special experience brought him the ability to find the light of life from the dark, and he said that he would go on with this power. Everyone has seen these things, and that’s why they have so much expectation, understanding, and appreciation for him, not just sympathy.

Yangcheng Evening News: Did you ever think that this episode would cause such a sensation?

Chen Xiaonan: I still expected it. I like this program very much. When choosing a topic, we are more hesitant. We don’t need to repeat a news event, but hope to discover more humanity behind the characters and present a good story. After discussing for a long time, we suddenly discovered a particularly touching aspect of the story-that is, the more than a hundred letters between him and his classmates. I thought it could be done at the time.

There was a round of news reports when he was released on parole. We found more than a hundred letters. These immature letters run through the youth and growth of him and his classmates: senior high school entrance examination, college entrance examination, university, going to society, new friends, new things… the classmates who wrote letters and Chen Sihan went to Different tracks, but the letters keep their emotions tightly bound together. Seeing the photo of the letter, I was poked right away. This profile can open up the characters more and deeper, and can empathize with the more general crowd. In addition to bullying, many people may also have encountered very sincere friendships, the feeling of falling into a pit and being pulled up by everyone, and the feeling of yourself struggling to climb back to the track of life. How many people will see it in the end, I can’t predict, but I was very confident at the time-as long as I click to watch this film, I will be deeply moved.

Digging up the topic of the times from individuals

In 2017, the first season of “Talking to Strangers” was launched. By the fourth season, the Douban scores of the programs all reached 9.3 points or more. Chen Xiaonan and her team are obsessed with digging out the topic of the times from individuals. They hope to open a window for the audience to understand the world and the times in 30 minutes.

Yangcheng Evening News: Why do you want to do “Talk to Strangers”?

Chen Xiaonan: Our team is very obsessed with in-depth character stories. A real person, as long as you dig deep enough, the whole world will be presented; putting these stories together is a description of the whole world. In a fast-paced era, particularly ordinary stories may not be able to attract everyone’s attention. Therefore, we must dig out the empathic content from the drama of the story, and then dig deeper into the “soil” where the story can grow-that is, the topic of the times it reflects; dig deeper, it will appear in any era Universal humanity. Dig in several levels, and the story is valuable. If we want to take up 30 minutes of the audience’s time, we need to provide a story that opens up their cognitive and psychological boundaries, allowing them to learn about the times, the world around them, and then people, life, and human nature through this person’s story.

Yangcheng Evening News: Every season’s program has a slogan, what are the implications?

Chen Xiaonan: Never leave its ancestry, and the slogan points to what we need to do. For example, the slogan of the first season is “Connect with lonely strangers”. Everyone comes and walks alone. Since we are born lonely, let us be alone together. One season talked about the relationship between bizarre and understanding, other people and myself, which I also liked. We are still doing this, such as this season’s “Live Village” story. When I first saw this street, I felt very incredible. They used unusual means to show themselves in front of the camera, but they were bizarre and out of place. Behind it is still the responsibility for the family, the responsibility for the children, and the feelings for the relatives.

Yangcheng Evening News: How do you understand the slogan of this season is “the calmer, the more turbulent”?

Chen Xiaonan: You can also say backwards, “The more turbulent, the calmer.” The more extreme and turbulent the story, the more we have to deal with it in a straightforward, inconclusive, and restrained style. For “the calmer, the more turbulent”, like when you are walking on the street and seeing everyone’s expressions, it may not be hysterical and joyous, but you can imagine that everyone accepts so many challenges and differences in this era. Change, our inner flexibility will be expanded, and everyone has a very ultimate life story. We want to hear the turbulent waves in their hearts, and perhaps it can be more real and more aftertaste when we tell them in a calm way.

Ordinary people should be paid attention and listened to

The “dog tweet” who slid into the slaughter plate and stole the list of victims successfully escaped, the girl who was slaughtered and succeeded in revenge, and the PUA “master” struggling on the poverty line… In Chen Xiaonan’s view, these interviewed The story of the author is as tortuous and exciting as a Hollywood blockbuster, but behind the bizarre experience is the common humanity. She believes that everyone should look at the world without prejudice, “Everyone is not a monster, and everyone is not a pure evil person or a good person.” She also teaches her children to be empathetic and think more from the perspective of others.

Yangcheng Evening News: Many netizens believe that the interviewees selected by the program are minority groups. Can it be understood that “talking to strangers” means “talking to minority groups”?

Chen Xiaonan: I don’t think so, they are not a minority. Ordinary people may rarely be taken to public platforms to tell, but they are definitely not a minority. Ordinary people are the main body of this world and should be paid attention to and listened to. On the contrary, celebrities are in the minority. We will analyze whether the story has anything to do with me during the festival. For example, the story of “PUA”, many people learn PUA, and many people are recruited. Although the episode of “Picking Girl” seems bizarre, there are a group of people behind her. People reflect our discussion of consumption views.

Yangcheng Evening News: Is the show looking for the commonalities of the people behind the “extreme” stories?

Chen Xiaonan: This is also the meaning of “behind the bizarre is understanding”. In this era, we are accustomed to fast labeling, and everyone is becoming impatient. It seems that it is safe to classify quickly. But human nature is a multi-prism and it is complicated. The story of why we do “killing pigs”, because many young women are coaxed to fall in love by someone who knows how to “understand” you and “listen” to you. This is the disease of the times. Bizarre stories are just the entrance, behind which is understanding-there are not so many monsters in the world, there are not so many people with tags and facial masks.

Yangcheng Evening News: Some bulletin speeches are still full of prejudice against the interviewees. How do you view this incomprehension?

Chen Xiaonan: Try our best to understand more, but it is impossible to change the world. Many people who send barrage may not really understand it, but may just use a simplistic expression to join in the fun. Even if I let one or two people stop and watch the whole movie, it will be my best effort. In fact, we have seen a lot of understanding beyond expectations, which makes me feel that doing this is still valuable.

Yangcheng Evening News: Many people like that you can always understand the world without prejudice. Do you agree with this?

Chen Xiaonan: People should treat the world on an equal footing. But being unbiased is also a kind of technical content, that is, independent thinking. I enjoyed the interview very much. At that moment, I was both him and me. I jumped into the river of his life and thought about it for him. But at the same time, I am still me, and will ask things that the outside world does not understand from the perspective of a third party. This kind of jumping in and out is actually a very pleasant process.

Yangcheng Evening News: So you have confidence in the finished product of the interview.

Chen Xiaonan: Yes, I have confidence. The audience will not feel a waste of time watching a 20-minute program. But I really don’t have the confidence that every episode of the show can be clicked on. Some programs have a lot of traffic and vibration; some programs have a big response in the later stage. Many of the programs I have done on Phoenix Satellite TV are suddenly revealed by netizens. These programs have a strong sense of work, and I just waited for the trickle to slowly flow through many people.

Choosing a topic requires waiting and luck

The production of each episode of “Talking to Strangers” needs to go through multiple links: topic selection research, identification of interviewees, communication details… it can take a few days or as long as half a year. This process is full of waiting and luck. Chen Xiaonan compares it to “Sowing seeds that do not know whether they will germinate”. Chen Xiaonan mentioned that contacting the interviewee cannot be quick and quick. Reaching trust is the most important link in the early stage. “Compared with the person who does the show, the interlocutor needs a person who is willing to listen to his story.”

Yangcheng Evening News: What was the topic selection and planning process of this show?

Chen Xiaonan: We look for topics from all angles, and don’t give up any possibilities. We will pay attention to hot news figures like Chen Sihan, but we will not do it just because he is a hot spot. It depends on whether there is room for excavation beyond the hot spot, whether the character’s story is thick enough, or whether the topic is interesting enough . For example, in the story of “Killing the Pig Pan”, a girl who was deceived took revenge for her dignity. We have been staring at this topic for a long time, and waited for it to be plump enough before doing it. Because we are looking for individual stories to take on the topic, it is extremely difficult and it also depends on luck.

Yangcheng Evening News: How difficult is the process of finding such stories?

Chen Xiaonan: It’s very difficult, we need to put a long line. Like the “Sex and Love of the Elderly” we once did, it took more than half a year to decide to shoot. There is also Chen Sihan. He was not particularly active in accepting interviews at the beginning. We could not force him. We waited for a little half a year, and slowly contacted him to gain his trust and let him understand what we meant. We need them to really have the will to appear in front of the camera, and this requires a lot of preliminary work.

Yangcheng Evening News: What preliminary work will you probably do?

Chen Xiaonan: The most important thing is to communicate clearly with him. What does the show want to do? What was the original intention? Why interview your story? How do you understand you? What is the value of the story? What kind of people are we? What are we doing? We will also show him many previous shows. Sincerity may be the most important. Then, we expressed heartily and sincerely in front of the camera, caring for each other’s hearts and getting healed.

The interview needs to “forget one’s own existence”

Chen Xiaonan described each conversation with interviewees as two people working together to build a “temporal environment” in which she was immersed in the interviewee’s life path and enjoyed the wonderful process of “I am both me and him” . Faced with netizens comparing her with Chen Luyu and Yi Lijing’s talk shows, she didn’t care, thinking that every host has his own style, and only when “I am me” can she fully utilize her advantages. come out.

Yangcheng Evening News: During your interview career, have you been emotionally crying?

Chen Xiaonan: (Weeping) The most serious time was when the Wenchuan earthquake was reported. In other interviews, I may often be hot in front of my eyes. When I was young, I still cared that reporters should not be emotional, but later discovered that I was not doing a reporter’s job, but talking to him. In this process, I have to throw away the distractions of professional identity, and then throw myself into the story. Before communicating with a character, I will thoroughly understand his story, ask questions without an outline, but trust my own subconscious reaction. When I went in, I couldn’t take care of so much, but I wouldn’t lose control very much. After all, I had experienced vocational training.

Yangcheng Evening News: Many viewers reported that they often had tears and emotions when watching “Talking to Strangers”. When you interview face-to-face, this feeling should be stronger, right?

Chen Xiaonan: Very strong. During face-to-face interviews, I am willing to pull the two chairs of myself and the interviewee very close, sometimes chatting, and involuntarily become leaning forward.

Yangcheng Evening News: From controlling the image before to releasing it with ease, is this a kind of growth?

Chen Xiaonan: It can even be said to be a kind of practice. I have been doing this for almost 20 years. My biggest experience is “No sword in hand, sword in heart”, all weapons can only be your listening and questions. When I was young, I would make this kind of mistake. The other party said a good thing but didn’t record it. I asked him to repeat it. He couldn’t tell the previous effect anyway. The flow of human thought is fleeting, and he cannot restore himself. So, you have to grasp the fleeting chemical reaction between the two. This process is also quite mysterious. Only by doing subtraction, clearing the mind, and being one with the other side can you achieve good results.

Yangcheng Evening News: Isn’t it difficult to expect serious talk shows to get out of the circle and achieve the kind of continuous topical enthusiasm like entertainment variety shows?

Chen Xiaonan: I am quite satisfied with the current results, because there are not many such programs now. Our programs on topics such as “mental violence”, “sex and love of the elderly” and “PUA” all have very good traffic. We will also work harder. The starting point of serious interview traffic is lower than that of star programs, and we must do it well enough.

Yangcheng Evening News: What is your ambition or ideal for insisting on doing serious talk shows?

Chen Xiaonan: I don’t have lofty ideals, but I treat each work as the last one-even if my career ends at this moment, there is no regret. The story of being a stranger brings me more sense of accomplishment than anything else. It is rare and difficult.

Yangcheng Evening News: Compared to Yi Lijing and Chen Luyu who also do talk shows, you seem to not often touch the topic of the entertainment industry. Is there any reason?

Chen Xiaonan: I will also participate in suitable programs, but every host has his own method. I also have shortcomings and do not have the ability to interview all the stars well. Of course, I have also taken Yi Qianqianxi and Mao not Yi. This is no different from interviewing ordinary people. They talk about life slowly. If I can successfully talk about it, then I will contribute one aspect of him. I remember not cutting a frame of the interview with Mao Buyi, which is rare in my career.

Yangcheng Evening News: After twenty years of doing talk shows about ordinary people, what changes have taken place in your perception of ordinary people?

Chen Xiaonan: Nothing has changed. The relationship between ordinary people and the times is very close. Everyone is a grain of sand rolled up in the great waves of the great age, and everyone has a huge stamp of the age. People’s psychological structure has not changed, only the form of expression has changed, and new variants have been encountered to challenge human nature. And we look for constant things in these mutated topics, and those things make people become humans rather than animals.

Yangcheng Evening News: If you let Chen Xiaonan talk to Chen Xiaonan, what would you most want to ask yourself?

Chen Xiaonan: Are you happy today? Are you happy every day? Do what you want to do every day, you can be happy every day.

Source: Yangcheng Evening News


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