Liberty Times: Your film is the most expensive movie ever made in Taiwan, with production costs of about NT$700 million (US$23 million). What impact do you expect it to have on the Taiwanese film industry?
Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖): Primarily, I would like the industry to embrace the concept of working together. What I wanted to do is what happens in the movie industry in Hollywood all the time, but the concept of a Taiwanese film industry is not yet fully formed and the thinking of many people remains firmly in the past when movies were still very small-scale.
I tried to bring together the most talented people [in the film sector] and by doing so create a Taiwanese film industry, but what I discovered was that although we definitely have the people, they are scattered around the country and often compete against each other rather than cooperate, preferring to keep their area of expertise or skills to themselves rather than share with others.
The key to industrialization lies in cooperation and the hardest part [about making that reality] is integration.
For example, we initially thought that we didn’t have sufficient know-how and so we hired a [South] Korean company to help, but after seeing them working with steel wires, special effects, equipment and on action scenes, what we found was that we did have the know-how, we just weren’t able to bring the necessary people together as part of a single film industry.
Now there is much talk of integration.
Next in line is the cultivation of professionals. The crew I used to shoot [Warriors of the Rainbow:] Seediq Bale was largely composed of young people who did not have much experience, but were very passionate and refused to take a day off even when they became sick from exhaustion and overwork.
Another problem was basic catering. It was a headache for us to buy 500 lunchboxes every day we were shooting in mountain areas. We couldn’t hire our own chef because only half an hour was allotted for meals and it was just inconceivable that we would stop filming for two hours waiting as hundreds of people lined up to eat.
In the end, the stage manager bought the lunchboxes in town every day. He even made it compulsory for everyone to separate trash from recyclables, which showed impressive spirit.
An even more difficult problem was trying to meet the bathroom needs of the crew and cast. It wasn’t economical to buy diapers, so we solved the problem by digging a hole [which we called a restroom], placing a large plastic bag in it and making sure it was periodically cleaned.
Everyone who took part will tell you that working together and finishing the movie was one of the most important events in their life. It didn’t matter if they had no experience, what was important was that they tried to solve problems head-on. That’s why so many people were in tears at the wrap party — we achieved something that few people thought we ever would.
LT: In the past, Taiwan lacked movies on such an epic scale, because of the self-imposed limits of films and secondly because it was difficult to find appropriate historical subject matter. In contrast, you focused on a prominent event in modern Taiwanese history. How did you approach this epic movie?
Wei: I was not particularly interested in producing an epic, what I did care about was how we were going to interpret history. I am happy that we found a way to interpret Seediq Bale from the perspective of a hunter.