Thu, Nov 14, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Hollywood to Matsu

‘Scrubs’ director Henry Chan and acclaimed playwright Lin Wei-ko talk about ‘100 Days,’a Chinese-language feature film they shot on a Taiwanese offshore island

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

The filmmaking profession is also strictly divided into different categories, and the idea of professionalism is thoroughly respected.

“You have a guy in charge of property, and if someone starts moving his things, he gets mad ... It is because the union wants to protect their jobs,” the director says.

In Taiwan, the division of labor is much less clear-cut.

“One time we had to pull a boat and it was heavy. At first the grip did it. Next thing you know, the cinematographer and actors all jumped in to help. That’s camaraderie. It is not that we don’t have camaraderie in the American, but here it is like a family,” Chan says.

But oftentimes when there is no union to protect crew members’ interests, the rules can be “too flexible.”

“Lots of sets work crazy hours, and people get mad, tired and exhausted,” Lin notes.

Invited to hold screenwriting courses at the Taipei National University of the Arts in 2008 after years of teaching at institutes in the US such as Northwestern University, Lin also notices that when compared to Hollywood cinema, many local movies focus on “scenes” rather than threading elements together to produce a coherent narrative. And there is often little character development.

“Hollywood movies have a certain way of telling stories, whether big-budget Transformer or small drama … [It is] a journey with the characters. We see them change for the better,” the writer says.

Working in the studio system also requires discipline and efficiency. According to Lin, a professional contract in Hollywood requires writers to turn in the first draft within 12 weeks.

When asked about the film industries in Taiwan and the US, Chan observes that while studio movies can become factory-made products, Taiwan’s tradition of auteur-driven cinema is able to have unique points-of-view. However, having a director produce a “handmade film” every four years cannot sustain an industry.

“We need something like Hollywood, which is the infrastructure of a studio, to keep people employed,” Chan says. “There should be a balance.”

“I think Taiwan is going in the right direction, fostering people like Lee Lieh (李烈) [producer of many Taiwanese blockbusters including Monga (艋舺)] with more producer-driven material so you can build an industry,” Lin adds.

Global filmmaking

In 2008 when Lin returned to Taiwan, it was around the same time that Cape No. 7 (海角七號) was released. The writer saw that the Chinese and Taiwanese markets were “on the verge of growing.” So along with UK-based Stacy Fan (范雯斯), he co-founded the Unison Company in 2011. 100 Days is their first work and, with the exception of a few special effects, was made entirely in Taiwan with a local crew. Four more projects are ready to roll, with the next one a co-production with China, according to Fan, who is also the film’s producer.

Registering the company in Taiwan, the duo has a global ambition, aiming to produce Chinese-language films that have “accessibility to the world.” By going global, it means that all their projects can be designed for Hollywood remakes.

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