There is still a certain amount of freedom, but the people I run with now don’t abuse it in any way. It’s more like this is where we like to live and this is who we like to hang out with. This is our country and our family.
There is an undefined je ne sais quoi about Taiwan. I remember when I went back for the second scouting trip. I would ask people what makes Taiwan Taiwan for you? And you can get all sorts of insane, different answers. And I realized that it is so individualized and personalized, but at the same time tapping into this universal bubble — almost like a Venn diagram, but double. You can’t point at one thing directly.
(Jarrett used Kickstarter, a crowd funding Web site, to make the project happen. Touted as the “world’s largest funding platform for creative projects,” Kickstarter links up creative individuals in film, theater, art, food and video games, with people who have an extra few bucks to invest in their projects.)
TT: What was raising funds with Kickstarter like?
MJ: At the time [Kickstarter] was still a fledgling operation, so we had to run a campaign. We had one stranger give us money — whereas now it would probably be 20 percent. It was a hard-fought campaign — a hundred US dollars here, a hundred US dollars there. But Kickstarter is a great thing. It was helpful, and I would almost venture to say now it would be a more helpful tool than it was then. US$15,000 was our goal and I ended up putting a US$1,000 cherry on it. So we earned US$14,000, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
I think there is a movement going on right now, which we are a part of. There are a lot more no-budget indie films now than three years ago. Instead of it being the one-set horror movie or the one-set talking heads movie, you can actually tell a bigger story because the equipment is available, and because the equipment is cheaper you can put your money towards other resources. You can get together a band of rogues and leave and go pound it out with willpower and skin.
TT: I’ve read that you call yourself punk rock filmmakers — is that coproducer Sean Scanlan’s phrase?
MJ: Kenton Harmer, another Taiwan
ex-refugee like myself, coined that term. It’s the idea of having a story and not being limited by budget restraints, putting together a bunch of people who are like-minded and willing to sort of live rough for a month. It’s passion and it’s pain, but it’s willpower too. That’s it: Shooting for the moon with limited expectations.
This interview has been edited and condensed.