Mon, Jan 01, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Mark Ang wants filmmakers to meet the world

Award-winning director Mark Ang, 36, whose microfilm ‘Replace’ has been successful at international film festivals and who last month organized the Formosa Festival of International Filmmaker Awards in Taichung, said in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) staff reporter Ho Tsung-han that he is determined to help Taiwanese films be seen by the world after he was previously mistaken for someone from Thailand

By Ho Tsung-han

Film director Mark Ang poses for a picture on Dec. 14.

Photo: Ho Tsung-han, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): You originally studied foreign languages. How did you become interested in theater and film?

Mark Ang (洪馬克): My father is linguist Hung Wei-jen (洪惟仁). Due to his influence, I have been interested in languages since I was young. The year I was accepted into Yuan Ze University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Applied Linguistics, my father was also appointed at Yuan Ze. I went from originally hoping to enjoy the freedom of attending college away from home to being watched by all of the department’s professors.

There were many opportunities to perform in plays in the foreign languages department: during freshmen orientation, senior send-off, Christmas, graduation productions… I also double-majored in English and Japanese, so when other people performed four times, I performed eight times.

I also participated in the school’s theater club. As an actor, I slowly became interested in scripts and directing. I took in a lot of films from movie theaters, the Chiu Hai Tang (秋海棠) video store and affordable VCDs.

During my junior year, I audited film critic Lan Tzu-wei’s (藍祖蔚) class on film appreciation. That was my first formal film class. Once, we analyzed three film adaptations of Anna Karenina in class. That was when I discovered that the same story could be told in many different ways and that film appreciation could be incredibly diverse.

LT: How did you shoot your first film?

Ang: After graduation, I heard of the Environmental Protection Administration’s “Throw Away Your Cigarette” (丟你的菸) campaign competition and took advantage of the break before I entered military service to create a good entry.

I thought that signing up for the “society” category, I would be treated as cannon fodder. I did not expect to receive first place, but to my surprise I claimed the NT$130,000 prize.

Shortly afterward I went on a self-guided tour of Japan. In a photograph I took randomly, I saw an announcement for an environmental protection video contest hosted by public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Co (NHK) and I filmed a video for entry.

Even though I did not win, I received a letter from NHK saying that it liked my work. That was a huge encouragement for me and I became surer of this path.

During military service, I filmed event documentaries and news videos for the military police school. After being discharged, I decided to start a business with my friends. Because we did not receive professional training, the three of us only earned NT$200,000 the entire year.

Often, we had to share a loaf of bread for a week, until we were commissioned to film a postal service insurance commercial. We then were asked to film commercials for CPC Corp, Taiwan and Taiwan Sugar Corp. After that, we were able to earn NT$1 million [US$33,503] per year.

Later, I started feeling like I was a money-making tool. Ninety-five percent of the time, I was working in others’ service and not creating. I was very unhappy. I only really came in contact with the film world when I received a special effects storyboard-drawing job for the title sequence of the movie Monga (艋舺).

LT: Was it also your experience from filming movies that helped you blend into the international community?

Ang: My first work, Replace (替生), portrays organ transplantation. The subject is very heavy. But I thought: “I took the filming seriously, so it should be shown in a context where people will watch it seriously.” I decided to participate in film festivals.

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