Wed, Oct 11, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Producers need to broaden horizons

Taiwanese should be proud of the TV show The Teenage Psychic (通靈少女), which has won a Golden Bell award for best miniseries and has been broadcast in 23 nations through HBO Asia.

However, now that the season finale has aired, what is next? How does the nation capitalize on the show’s momentum to showcase more Taiwanese entertainment to the world?

On the horizon is another promising series, tentatively titled A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities to be directed by Nelson Yeh (葉天倫), who has produced several blockbuster films.

The series’ plot revolves around a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner in Taipei and a Taiwanese-American programmer in San Francisco who swap homes.

These are the kind of stories and elements that will garner domestic and international attention — and they also break the mold of sappy, run-of-the-mill Taiwanese love stories or family dramas to pave the way for unique and creative material that showcases the local culture while also appealing to foreign audiences.

However, in general, Taiwan’s television and film scene still largely lacks creativity and international appeal, and while the overall quality seems to be improving, top-notch productions like The Teenage Psychic are still rare.

There has not been a series that has garnered such attention in the past five months, and A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities has yet to begin filming.

Instead, large amounts of money is poured into cheesy films with storylines full of plot holes that even Taiwanese do not watch.

Ask any young person on the street — they will likely tell you that they prefer watching US, South Korean, Japanese or even Chinese dramas.

It is important to note that The Teenage Psychic was an HBO Asia collaboration with the Public Television Service, while A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities is to be a Netflix coproduction.

Taiwanese cannot keep waiting for a foreign production giant that knows what it is doing to step in and produce a high-quality TV series.

The two companies are not only known for their production values, but apparently they also have their target markets set beyond Taiwan and they know that the typical sappy Asian drama model is tired and obsolete, so they are choosing original stories that feature local flavor and elements — a concept that is frequently ignored by Taiwanese producers.

From a positive angle, these foreign collaborations provide a glimpse into what Taiwanese entertainment could be. Producers and crew involved in these productions will likely use the experience they obtained working with these foreign firms in other projects, and hopefully the success of these dramas could inspire other local production companies to broaden their horizons.

Public Television Service international department director Jessie Shih (施悅文) recently told the Central News Agency that US producers “constantly keep the audience in mind.”

She also said that HBO has separate teams for story development, fundraising and marketing, while in Taiwan everything is often taken care of by one group.

She said that when the director is worried about marketing or raising funds, they are not able to exercise their creativity to the fullest.

There is still a long way to go for Taiwanese TV series and movies to regularly reach international audiences, but when steered in the right direction, the nation might have the capability and the talent to approach the popularity of South Korean dramas.

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