More Chinese actors going behind the camera as directors

There is a trend in China's film industry - those who were performing in front of the camera are shifting behind the lens as directors.

Since 2012, from actor Xu Zheng's Lost in Thailand to actress Zhao Wei's So Young, many Chinese actors have gone behind the scenes to work on films, and well-performing films, as directors.

Here we present a few of the successful career switches that Chinese actors (and others) made.

Jiang Wen: Rewriting history with Gone with the Bullets

Chinese actor Jiang Wen, who starred as the male protagonist in Zhang Yimou's Red Sorghum, made his directorial debut in 1994 with the film In the Heat of the Sun. The film sent actor Xia Yu, who acted for the first time in the film, to win the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice International Film Awards.

Since then, Jiang's worked on many films, including The Sun Also Rises (2007), Let the Bullets Fly (2009) and its upcoming sequel Gone with the Bullets, which is to hit the theatres on Dec 18. Gone with the Bullets will be a new landmark in China's film history, as it has now grossed 120 million yuan (US$19.61 million) in Internet presales one month before its release.

Xu Zheng: Returning to the roots of comedy

Chinese actor Xu Zheng has made a name for himself for his comedic roles. When it comes to directing a film, it is not a surprise that he chose to direct a comedy. Xu said he decided to direct on his own to create a "classic comedy" and his debut Lost in Thailand delivered just that (with much more in revenue.)

Lost made 300 million yuan ($48.8 million) in ticket sales in the first three days of its opening in late 2012. The number broke the record for the highest box office for a Chinese film within the first week. The film ended up topping the box office in 2012 as the best selling film of the year.

Zhao Wei: "Learning to direct will also help me perform."

Chinese actress Zhao Wei enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy to study directing to create films herself and not just act in them. In 2013, Zhao's directorial debut, So Young, performed superbly both at the box office (having earned 718 million yuan or nearly $117 million) and in judges' eyes. The film won Zhao the Best Directorial Debut at the 29th Golden Rooster Awards and the award for Best Director at the 32nd Hundreds Flowers Award.

Xu Jinglei: Miss do-it-all

Chinese actress and Xu Jinglei is widely praised in China as cai nv (才女), or the talented female. Aside from acting and directing, she's known for her calligraphy (a font named after her was created) and her literary works.

In 2004, Xu's film Letter from an Unknown Woman won her the award for Best Director at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. Her versatility in directing is recognised in China, from artistic films such as Letter to commercial blockbusters like Go La La Go! (2010)

Her latest film, A Place Only We Know, is to hit theatres in 2015.

Jackie Chan: Kung fu superstar retreats after CZ12

CZ12, Jackie Chan's 101st film and the second film he's directed, may look old-fashioned and too "Jackie Chan" in reviewers' eyes. On the contrary, it is this "Jackie Chan"-ness that speaks for the many classic roles that China's kung fu superstar created on screen. Chan, who celebrated his 60th birthday this year, has cut down on productions drastically since CZ12.

Han Han: School drop-out turned elite writer

Chinese writer and racer Han Han made his directorial debut in 2014 with the road film, The Continent, starring heartthrobs Feng Shaofeng, Chen Bolin and actresses Wang Luodan and Yuan Quan.

Han was born in 1982 and won the first prize at China's first New Concept writing competition in 1999. His works Minutes One Degree (2001) and Fly like a Youth (2002) were both bestsellers of the year.

In 2010, Han was voted as one of the most influential people of the world by Times Magazine. He is often compared with fellow writer and also director Guo Jingming.

Guo Jingming: A complete businessman

Like Han, Guo Jingming also won awards in his teens at the New Concept national writing competition. He also has a vast number of fans and readers among the young in China. What's more, he also turned to filmmaking in his latest career switches.

Guo's tap into the directing field began in 2012. Since then, he has released three films, all based on his trilogy Tiny Times. The films were a major hit among Chinese youth, especially females, but flopped at reviews. Many criticised Guo for his lavish scenes and luxurious lifestyles depicted in Tiny Times as a possible source of misguiding youth's values.

Jay Chou: Not so suitable

Chinese singer-songwriter and director Jay Chou knows how to sell his music. In 2007, he debuted as a director with the film, Secret, which is based on a twisted romance at a music academy. His incorporation of music into films was praised by Chinese director Zhang Yimou at the time.

However, Chou's reputation as a director started going downhill after 2007. Since then, Chou has starred in films (including Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet in 2011) and directed numerous music videos, none of them winning the hearts of reviewers. His latest film, The Rooftop (2013), another musical, only managed to make 100 million yuan ($16.3 million) at the box office.

His talents in music are uncontroversial. Perhaps he should stick to what he's really good at.

Steven Chow: From "not making any sense" to "making sense"

Steven Chow is known for his comedic style that "makes no sense" at all. And in a sense, that's what makes him a groundbreaker in the development of Chinese comedies.

After switching to directing, Chow started to "make sense." CJ7, a semi-sci-fi film released in 2008, spoke about the father-son relationship that offered a chance to see Chow's ability to tell a more emotional story.

Chow's latest work, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, pocketed more than $218 million in ticket sales. To date, it is the best selling Chinese film in the world.