Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Production Team



Our core production team is finally assembled...

In addition to Veronica Shamo-Garcia, who is already the stateside producer, "Mei" will have two local producers: Lin Ying Tso, who will also be working on-set as the assistant director, and Tsai Shing Hong. Both of them come from a background of producing indie features here in Taipei, and will bring a lot of crucial experience to the film.

Our director of photography, Nelson Cragg, is a recent USC graduate we're flying out from Los Angeles to head up the local camera crew. Nelson's already been shooting lots of music videos, commercials, and features since graduating, and his work is amazing. Veronica and I had a great time working with him recently and we're lucky he was available to shoot "Mei".

Our production designer is Eli Hsieh, a good friend of mine who I worked with in Taiwan a few years ago. Eli has a fine arts background and was most recently in London studying fashion photography - he has great eye and sense of aesthetics that will be invaluable.

Finally, three other USC classmates of mine, Benji White, Justin Guerrieri, and Charlene Wang (who will be shooting her own thesis film in Taipei soon) are flying out here to support us and help out in production. It'll be really nice to have them around.

We have about 5-6 weeks left before we start shooting, but with this team behind me, we're already in great shape.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Chinese New Year



It's the Chinese New Year break here in Taipei. I was cornered by a German woman who turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness. I was trying to help her out with directions on the street. I'll be revising my script the next few days while everyone is enjoying the New Years festivities.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Taiwanese Nepotism



I went and visited some labs and post houses over the last few days - my producer basically takes me around town and we pay courtesy visits to different vendors, sitting down with the owners and talking about our film (trying to communicate some of my ideas about "Mei" in my white-washed mandarin has been problematic - I hope they find it amusing at least).

Since the Taipei film community is so small and insular, you have to know someone to get anywhere, but there's a general attitude of helping students and first-time filmmakers out. Everything is also so pre-packaged here, so by knowing some people at the processing lab, we've been able to get a fatty deal from Kodak-Taiwan on film stock in addition to developing and printing.

We're sending out casting notices now, and will start seeing people right after the Chinese New Years break. Taipei is pretty much dead for the next week, so I'll be spending my time looking around for locations, and in coffee shops revising the script and figuring how to shoot this thing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Panavision of the East


My producer took me to visit a camera/grip/electric place today (cameras and lighting gear are sometimes packaged together here). It was definitely an experience - the rental house was basically just a tiny garage located in a side alley. We got to hang out with the owner, this chain-smoking, Rick Rubin-esque guy with a sweet beard, and talked to him about "Mei" and what we need from him (including gaffers, ACs, grips - all of which come as one package). There was no Panavision gift shop or Latte counter.

I was introduced as "director" to everyone (kind of like "professor" or "doctor"). It was a massive ego stroke of course. I was also introduced as being "from California". I'm sure that made me sound like an asshole.

We also went to check out a sound house run by the guy who works with almost every director in Asia (including Wong Kar Wai) - he was really cool too and willing to help out on "Mei" as much as possible both in production and in post. Sweet.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Weekend




Not too much going on this weekend in terms of preproduction - I spent most of Saturday catching up on some work and trying to find an apartment.

Ang Lee's in town to promote the opening of "Brokeback Mountain" here. He's like a national hero, on the cover of every newspaper and magazine and always being interviewed on TV. A major source of Taiwanese pride.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Scooter Ride


I got in touch with some friends today who are going to help contacting actors - there's no real system here so it's pretty much who you know. Unlike LA, most actors here will only work for pay, just because there aren't many actors in the first place and often you have to go through agencies - lame.

I also took a nice scooter ride with my friend through the city tonight. It was a little awkward initially because it necessitated straddling him from behind, but once we started weaving through traffic, it was a sweet ride.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Spiritual Advice


At the insistence of my mom, I left Taipei this morning to go see a spiritual adviser/fortune teller outside of the city. She made some eerily accurate observations about me within a few minutes. I didn't ask anything specific about Mei, but she did say that I should just keep doing what I've been doing and that it would all work out....hmm. Anyway, here's a photo from the train.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Day One



I had 4 hour meeting today with one of my producers. It was sweet. There are going to be lots of issues, but just going over production was reassuring - especially realizing that there really aren't that many differences between the way movies are made here and in LA. Tomorrow we start working on casting.

Here are some photos from outside where I'm staying.

Monday, January 16, 2006

First Night In Taipei

I just arrived in Taipei to find that one of my producers here has to leave for Tokyo tomorrow morning for a family emergency. I'm going ahead with a preproduction meeting tomorrow anyway, but this is definitely a rough way to start. But driving in from the airport, I was re-inspired by how great the city looks and how great it will look on glorious 35mm. I'll take some photos soon and post them.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Leaving for Taipei

I'm leaving for Taipei tomorrow morning and will arrive late Monday night there. First thing Tuesday I start meeting with my two Taiwanese producers (Nobu and Ajax, sweet). The priority for now is to start casting for the 3 principals, and especially for Jian, the lead.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, there's nothing like Nowcasting or Breakdown Services in Taipei - we probably won't have to weed through the same amount of mediocrity as in LA, but casting will rely on a lot of references and going around to different commercial agencies. I'm also going to check out some theatre departments because I have this romantic notion of walking into a dimly lit stage and finding the perfect actor/actress sitting in the dark and reciting some moving O'Neill monologue, in Mandarin.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Leaving Los Angeles

I just moved out of Los Angeles this past week, and won't be back in town again until around sometime in May. I'm leaving for Taipei on the 15th to start preproduction.

Thanks to everyone for all their support and kind wishes over the last few weeks. I'll really miss everyone.