From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

Novels with farming themes are common, but dramas with farming as the main theme are rare, especially in the realm of fast-paced and emotionally-driven micro dramas. The fast-paced nature of micro dramas distances them from traditional theater and brings them closer to short videos. Therefore, whether in landscape or portrait mode, revenge, suspenseful twists, and intense tragic love stories dominate, allowing viewers to quickly satisfy their dopamine cravings. However, for creators, it is easy to fall into the vortex of homogenization.

Recently, a fresh and uniquely presented micro drama called "Invincible Stepmother" on Youku has caught the attention of many micro drama enthusiasts. As drama fans have said, for the first time in a micro drama, the female protagonist travels back to ancient times not to pursue love or engage in political machinations, but to earnestly raise children and make money through business ventures in the countryside.

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

"Invincible Stepmother" is adapted from the novel "Chuan Cheng Si Ge Tuo You Ping De E Du Hou Niang" by Fanqie novel. It is also a key project of Youku's micro drama development plan. The female protagonist, Chi Yue (played by Jin Meichen), was originally a martial arts star who accidentally transmigrated into a young widow in the ancient village of Xikong. She had no money and was heavily in debt. From then on, she embarked on a hilarious journey of building a career, repaying debts, and outwitting her wicked relatives while taking care of three children who were not related to her by blood.

Half a month after its release, the drama has repeatedly topped the charts as the most popular micro drama, with total revenue sharing exceeding 4 million. It is one of the hottest micro dramas on Youku. Presenting the enduring charm of farming literature and the tranquility of the passage of time in a fast-paced format requires courage, effective adaptation skills from the creative team, as well as innovative thinking and marketing methodologies from the platform. In light of this, Sun Yi, the executive producer of "Invincible Stepmother," shared the production experience of this work and the collaboration process with Youku.


The market for farming micro dramas: Focusing on neglected emotional needs

Before overseeing "Invincible Stepmother," Sun Yi was responsible for producing various types of micro dramas and revenue-sharing dramas, including comedies, suspense, sweet romance, and fantasy. "Invincible Stepmother" was her first attempt at the farming genre. Sun Yi mentioned that the previously successful micro dramas were mostly romance and revenge stories. Many people were concerned that micro dramas featuring farming and child-rearing would not resonate with the audience. However, the final viewing results proved that the audience actually had a strong demand for such stories.

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

The production team of "Invincible Stepmother" consists mostly of experienced online literature readers. "Farming literature has been popular on various novel websites every year, indicating that this genre has a large number of loyal readers. Moreover, online literature and micro dramas have a high degree of audience overlap. Therefore, a slow-paced and slice-of-life story can still be compatible with micro dramas," Sun Yi believes. She believes that the high conversion rate of "Invincible Stepmother" is largely due to the scarcity of its theme. In order for a content format to have long-lasting development, it must generate rich themes that cover diverse viewing demands as much as possible.

"The creators need to consider the balance between user demand and market supply. While the audience has a need for love, not everyone enjoys high-intensity emotional dramas. 'Invincible Stepmother' caters to those who yearn for a sense of companionship and warmth, and appeals to viewers who enjoy adorable children."

"According to the backend data, the target audience for 'Invincible Stepmother' is slightly older than the average age of micro drama users, primarily consisting of women aged 25 and above, with the highest proportion in the 30-35 age range. Many of them are either pregnant or already have children."

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

"In recent years, there has been a trend of middle-aged feminization in film and television content, with a focus on the thoughts and life situations of mature women." Before preparing for 'Invincible Stepmother', Sun Yi observed the needs of many young mothers on social media. "Their desires are simple: they hope for a compliant partner, financial stability, and a voice of their own. We created the drama based on these needs. For example, in the drama, Chi Yue is a decisive person who has a strong sense of execution. Her ideas are not only known to her mother-in-law but also to the villagers."

"The original novel has consistently maintained high popularity on the Fanqie novel website, with positive reviews mainly focusing on the protagonist's decisive character and the smooth and natural plot style. The novel is a lengthy work of over one million words. During the adaptation process, 'Invincible Stepmother' primarily focuses on retaining the character development of Chi Yue and the emotional changes involving the children."

"In the novel, Chi Yue is straightforward in her actions and prefers to use actions rather than words. The drama version continues the protagonist's lively personality. Prior to transmigrating, Chi Yue was a respected martial arts star, with a clear sense of right and wrong and a tendency for revenge. When someone tried to defame her in real life, she immediately retaliated with a slap, just like in the drama.

After transmigrating to the Xikong Village, Chi Yue's full martial prowess made her unable to tolerate any grievances. When she saw uncle kidnapping her daughter, Chen (played by Mo Zixuan), she immediately intervened. When her son, Zi Qiang (played by Zhu Binyu), was bullied by villagers, Chi Yue effortlessly knocked the culprits to the ground. This resilient and non-confrontational character design is very likable."

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features


Generational and Family Portraits

"Immersion and family dynamics are essential elements in rural-themed novels. The essential focus of 'Invincible Stepmother' is the upgrading of management skills and the battle of wits against formidable opponents. The former serves as the main storyline while the latter provides dramatic conflicts. Chi Yue's journey of advancement and leveling up in the drama is very relatable. She applies modern management thinking and methods to run a wild game business, open a liquor store, and engage in promotions, gradually paying off her debts and bidding farewell to a destitute life. The drama does not provide Chi Yue with many golden fingers, and even at the end, she does not leave the small courtyard in the countryside."

Sun Yi stated that this approach is a continuation of the original novel's style. "Many social skills today would not work in ancient times, and it would be challenging for modern people who transmigrate to immediately become wealthy. Additionally, the novel itself does not focus on rapid upgrades. Therefore, the drama emphasizes the atmosphere of daily life rather than just the satisfaction of leveling up." The original novel had four children, but the drama version retained three. Sun Yi mentioned that each of the three children has their own unique charm and fulfills different dramatic functions. The eldest son, Zi Qiang, is stubborn and undergoes a gradual adjustment with his mother. The second daughter, Zi Chen, is a well-behaved little adult, which many fathers can relate to when raising daughters. The youngest daughter, Zi Xi, loves to eat and play, and often delivers witty lines. "The portrayal of these three children represents different family situations and caters to various preferences of the audience."

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

During the shooting, the three adorable child actors were very cooperative. Sun Yi felt that children have a strong innate emotional perception, and their performances were very accurate, not like the usual impression of struggling to get into character. Especially Ye Quanxi, who played Zi Xi, could quickly shed tears in crying scenes and immediately laugh after the cut. Because it is a family drama, the creative team tried to get as close as possible to real-life family relationships and emotions during the preparations. "We invited screenwriter Cai Yao, who has experience raising children, and we often chat about the details of raising multiple children. We created a conflict for the eldest son Zi Qiang, which is actually a common situation in real life."

In the drama, Zi Qiang always wanted to protect his two sisters and take responsibility for the whole family, but Chi Yue always took everything upon herself and made all the decisions. However, after experiencing setbacks with the children, Chi Yue realized that the existence of family means sharing and shouldering together, and she didn't need to handle all the problems alone. She started delegating some of the work to Zi Qiang, and gradually they untied their knots. Zi Qiang understood his mother's hardships, Zi Chen was no longer timid under Chi Yue's care, and Chi Yue, who used to dislike children and was unwilling to take on family responsibilities, also came to understand the love and thoughts of the three adorable kids. When "Invincible Stepmother" reaches its end, there will be a sense of simple and warm happiness, like being in the fields.

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

Sun Yi said that although people think Chi Yue's career is exciting, the whole drama wasn't made with the mindset of creating excitement. Rather than the excitement, it aims to convey the cohesion of a family and the long-lasting and cherished emotions between parents and children. "Chi Yue cannot be considered the main female lead, she is the core of the family, with many ideas, but she cannot overcome every obstacle without the support of her children.


Reinventing micro dramas: The Dual Journey of Platforms and Production Companies

Looking back at previous micro drama works, most creators emphasized the hook, which is a strong suspense that captivates the audience. However, "Invincible Stepmother" is different. Its slice-of-life and healing style doesn't have a strong sense of conflict or continuous suspense to keep the audience hooked, but the drama still achieved impressive viewership and completion data. Reflecting on "Invincible Stepmother," Sun Yi feels gratified that the drama didn't follow the mainstream model and successful experience of fast-paced and plot-driven micro dramas. Instead, the creative team focused on developing the relationships between characters and the emotions within the family. Ultimately, the audience responded positively because "viewers don't only love to watch stories of love and hatred; if the daily situations in a slice-of-life drama are portrayed deeply enough, people can also empathize."

Today, micro dramas are an important segment of long-video platforms. Every innovation in micro drama themes is closely linked to the platform's control and support. When the outline and scripts of "Invincible Stepmother" were just finalized, the production team collaborated with Youku.

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

As a platform that has been deeply involved in micro dramas, Youku has always encouraged content innovation based on a deep understanding of user needs. Through their "Fuyao Program," they provide support for creators from zero to one. In the collaboration for "Invincible Stepmother," Youku worked closely with the production team from the script polishing stage, providing extensive user profile analysis and actively participating in post-production editing optimization.

Sun Yi mentioned that Youku's user data granularity is very detailed, and they also provide suggestions for structural and pacing adjustments in the later stages. "For example, the part where Chi Yue outwits the evil mother-in-law, according to the original script, the mother-in-law's appearance was later, but Youku suggested bringing forward the mother-in-law's appearance because the confrontation with the outrageous relatives is an exciting segment and a highlight that resonates with the audience of rural-themed dramas, placing it at the beginning can retain more users."

In addition to participating in co-creation, Youku also takes the lead in marketing efforts after the drama is launched. Sun Yi said that Youku's experience in marketing micro dramas is very rich. "From the selection of promotional suppliers in the early stage to the strategy and material optimization during the execution process, even every video, Youku's marketing team is fully responsible and meticulous. A few days before the release of 'Invincible Stepmother,' it was among the top three trending topics on the platform. This is the result of everyone's joint efforts."

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

Therefore, it can be seen that "Invincible Stepmother" is another dual journey of platform and production company based on good experience and a good story. As the platform that entered the micro drama field earliest, Youku has formed a methodology of supporting the entire process for production companies. It is expected that in the future, we will see more new themes and genres like "Invincible Stepmother" on Youku, breaking through in terms of data and reputation, and leading the industry towards a diversified and high-quality path.

From Script to Screen: The Making of Invincible Stepmother and Its Standout Features

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