“Taiwan shouldn’t be left out from the global movie production value chain,” renowned Taiwanese director Ang Lee (李安) said on Friday via a pre-recorded video to the local press.
The New York-based Lee — whose works include Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (臥虎藏龍), which won an Academy Award for best foreign film in 2000 — was concerned about the future of Taiwan’s film industry and, after pulling strings for two years, persuaded US visual effects producer Rhythm & Hues Studios Inc (R&H) to set up production facilities in Taiwan.
Established in Los Angeles in 1987, R&H is one of the top-five visual effects companies in the world. It has been involved in more than 130 Hollywood films, such as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Night at the Museum, Garfield, The Mummy and Daredevil. It received an Academy Award in 1995 for Babe and in 2008 for The Golden Compass.
In a press conference in Taipei on Friday, R&H founder and president John Hughes told the media why the company wanted to invest in Taiwan, what the investment would entail and how Taiwan can play a role in the global movie production chain. The following is a summary of the question-and--answer session that Hughes had with reporters.
Question: R&H is planning to spend as much as NT$6 billion (US$198 million) to set up two studios and establish a movie fund. Can you tell us more about your ventures in Taiwan?
Hughes: Special thanks to director Lee for introducing us to Taiwan and the government officials here. We are going to form three companies in Taiwan.
The first will be a visual effects center, called VFX Center, where we will create visual effects and animations. We worked closely with Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) and we decided to situate the VFX center in Kaohsiung. Our intention is to hire approximately 200 artists over the next couple of years and to train them to do world-quality visual effects.
The second joint venture is called CAVE, or Cloud Computing for Animation and Visual Effects, and special thanks to Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and his team for helping us coordinate that. The principal partners in this joint venture are Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) and Quanta Computer Inc (廣達電腦).
When you look at some of our samples, they involve an enormous amount of computer technology and computing power, bandwidth and storage. And technology is crucial in the creation of special effects. So the needs for computer technologies in the film industry are increasing exponentially and Taiwan today is one of the global centers for the design and manufacturing of computers and servers and we are very pleased and excited to partner with Chunghwa and Quanta.
When we talk about the VFX Center and CAVE, these are both parts of a process in making films. The technology, the computing and the creation of images in Hollywood are very valuable works, but they are not high up in what we call the value chain.
So the third venture is a film fund, [in] which we will be raising funds to become co-producers of movies and therefore become part of the profits participants in the films that are being made in Hollywood.
[Editor’s note: According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the movie fund is aimed at co-financing and co-producing major Hollywood motion pictures within the next six years by leveraging R&H’s Hollywood relationships to find investment opportunities. The movie fund will gather NT$3 billion in capital from investors and the state-managed National Development Fund will review R&H’s application for possible financial backing this month].