Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - Page 12 News List

The sign painter

An oil painter and the movie house he works for are maintaining some old traditions of Taiwanese cinema culture

By Sam Sky Wild  /  Contributing reporter

Encouraging younger audiences to appreciate the experience of film-watching is important says Wu, especially if Taiwan wants to build its homegrown film-making industry.

“Hollywood films are still the most popular [screened at the cinema] because they have good marketing and promotion … But local films need to progress. Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale was good, but it was an exception.”

Surging interest

Recent figures from Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture verify Wu’s experience and show that in 2011 nearly one in five trips to the cinema nationally were to see Taiwan-made films — a total percentage boosted by the hugely successful historic drama Seediq Bale.

Between 2007 and last year Taiwanese cinema audience numbers have shown marked fluctuation: 2009 was a low point with a reported 505,880 cinema visitors whereas 2011 saw a staggering 5,967,392 tickets sold. Last year a relatively impressive 3,614,992 visits were made.

Taiwanese cinema audiences are very much moved by content with a national flavor, and this could help give the industry the boost it needs, according to Ellen Co (柯慧貞) from the Ministry of Culture’s Motion Picture Division.

“The first surge appeared in 2008, when the film Cape No. 7 by Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖) took the local box offices by storm. The film set the record for the best Taiwanese-made film in our film history and is regarded the starting point of the recent revitalization of local film industry.”

Yan has nearly completed the final panel and is preparing to put the last element of his four-piece pictorial jigsaw in place — a delicate operation involving joists, swings and a fair bit of sweat and toil.

Propping the completed canvas against a wall of the 450-seat cinema, Yan explains that the advantage of painting over a standard printed advert is that it allows for extra creativity.

“We can zoom in on one area of the image for example — with a brush you can paint and play with the image, add extra shadow and bring areas to life, for example.”

Yan — whose favorite film, both to paint and watch, was Raiders of the Lost Ark — says he has limited interest in modern CGI-soaked cinema. Like his hero Indiana Jones, Yan is a one-man operation and it would seem that the artisan will bow from the stage alone — taking his skills with him when he leaves.

For now though Yan quietly trundles on. “I remember once I painted a billboard with the actor Mok Siu-chung (莫少聰). He saw the image and really liked it. We didn’t take a picture so now it’s just a memory, but I love my job and have many good memories.” Yan scrapes a ball of yellow paint from under a nail and then begins to clear the pavement of his well-worn gear with another poster finished and another day drawing to a close.

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