Taiwan

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Overview and productions

Algeria-born French director Rachid Hami’s For My Country, which premiered in Venice Film Festival’s Horizons section, was among a recent flurry of films shot on location in Taiwan. Recording the highest number of international shoots since the start of the pandemic, the island-state also hosted Loveboat, Taipei, a US film adapted from Abigail Hing Wen’s bestseller; CJ ENM HK’s drama series Venus On Mars; and two Singapore-driven multi-country co-productions, Tomorrow Is A Long Time and Pierce.

 

Based on a true story about Hami’s late brother (played by Karim Leklou), who came to Taiwan to learn Mandarin in 2010, For My Country received joint support from the Taipei Film Fund, which is financed by the Taipei Film Commission and Taiwan’s International Co-funding Programme (TICP), launched by Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA). Hami, along with six French crew and two actors, spent three weeks shooting the Taiwan segment, which makes up about a third of the movie. The other filming locations were Paris and Morocco.

 

“It was an amazing experience,” says Hami. “The Taiwanese crew was fully dedicated and determined to do their best, especially my Taiwanese producer Amy Ma [American Girl]. Also, local authorities were extremely helpful when it comes to locations and funding.” In addition to its diverse locations, efficient crew and friendly filming culture, Taiwan offers international producers the perks of attractive production funding and incentives.

 

“Taiwan is eager to engage with foreign filmmakers to shoot their projects in Taiwan,” says Peter Bien, the Taiwan-born Canadian co-producer of Loveboat, Taipei. Produced by Los Angeles-based Ace Entertainment and directed by Taiwanese-American Arvin Chen, the young-adult romance was filmed entirely in Taiwan late last year, making use of cash rebate benefits provided by the Ministry of Culture’s bureau of audiovisual and music industry development (Bamid).

 

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, foreign travellers were not allowed to enter Taiwan unless granted special-entry permits. A two-week stay in a quarantine hotel was mandatory, followed by seven additional days of self-health checks in normal hotels. (The process is now much smoother, having been reduced to three days of quarantine and four days of self-monitoring, while business travel is now allowed.)

 

Bien explains that various government departments helped the US crew of Loveboat, Taipei — including actors Ashley Liao, Ross Butler, Chelsea Zhang and Nico Hiraga — to obtain the necessary entry permits. “The city of Taipei and the United Hospital helped the production in performing three PCR tests per week so we could conform to SAG requirements, even though Taiwan had an exemplary Covid record,” he says.

 

Jow Zhi Wei’s Tomorrow Is A Long Time and Nelicia Low’s Pierce — both debut features by Singapore directors — were two of the first recipients of TAICCA’s TICP. That co-funding programme aside, the two projects received further public funding support in Taiwan, including from Taoyuan public government’s department of cultural affairs (both films), Kaohsiung Film Fund (Tomorrow Is A Long Time) and Taipei Film Fund (Pierce).

 

“We were allowed to apply for multiple funds as long as we fulfilled the eligibility criteria, tax and spending requirements,” says Jeremy Chua, the Singapore-based producer of both films. “The funds work on several levels. Federal funding [is in the form of] investment schemes, while regional funding [involves] regional-centric support schemes to bring film business to the region.

 

“The funding application is quite systematic,” Chua adds. “For the regional investment schemes or grants, there are designated open calls for applications as well as a pitching session for shortlisted projects to be interviewed by an industry committee.” Both shoots started in mid-January 2022, with Pierce running longer as the entire shoot was held in Taiwan. Director Low, a former national fencer from Singapore, lived in Taiwan for a year and wrote the fencing thriller with the country in mind.

Her debut feature is the first Taiwan-­Singapore-Poland co-production. 

 

Taiwanese co-producer Flash Forward Entertainment handled the pre- production and production, including casting, fencing training, location scouting and crew research, as well as part of the financing. The crew was mainly Taiwanese, except for the camera team, with cinematographer Michal Dymek and his key grip and gaffer coming from Poland.

 

“One benefit of filming in Taiwan is that there are very different kinds of landscapes and visual textures [across] the entire country,” says Chua, who spent more than two months in Taiwan working on the two projects.

 

“Pierce was set in Taipei City, where urban and school life could be depicted at real locations, whereas the shoot of Tomorrow Is A Long Time took place in the forested areas around Guishan and Lalashan in Taoyuan and the rocky terrain around Kaohsiung, which represented a certain kind of wilderness.” About half of Tomorrow Is A Long Time was shot in Taiwan, the rest in Singapore. 

 

Singapore director Chai Yee Wei shot all six episodes of his sci-fi romantic comedy series Venus On Mars in Taiwan late last year, bringing along only his regular DoP Derrick Loo. “This is the hardest-working team I have encountered,” Chai says. “The production was fun and there was a joyful atmosphere throughout the shoot. The experience of shooting in Taiwan is phenomenal — I can’t wait to do more productions in Taiwan.”

 

“The Taiwanese are some of the nicest people I have ever met,” he adds. “The attitude of the people is very collaborative and non-­combative. I’m not just talking about the crew and cast, but also the Taiwanese people in general.”

Locations

"While it is not a big place, its natural landscapes span from seaside to mountains, rural villages to modern city, providing very diversified locations,” adds Kam-Engle.

Many productions shoot in the capital city Taipei, which ticks all the boxes for ‘buzzing Asian metropolis’ but is less crowded and easier to navigate than some cities in Asia.

Infrastructure and crew

Taiwan’s first specialist medical studio was opened last year by Awesomeworks Production with the support of TAICCA. Located in New Taipei City, the facility is equipped with hospital beds, medical equipment, operating tables, waiting rooms and cashier counters, as well as space for crew, lighting, hair and makeup. 

 

Major studio and post-production facilities include CMPC Studios, Arrow Cinematic Group, Leader Entertainment, 3H Sound Studio and The White Rabbit Entertainment.

Travel and logistics

High-speed rail runs along Taiwan’s west coast, covering a total of 345 kilometres in about 1 hour 45 minutes. Major cities such as Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung have their own international airports and local metro lines. Most of the popular filming locations are within a 30-45 minute drive from downtown areas.

First people to contact

  • BAMID, taiwancinema14@bamid.gov.tw
  • Taipei Film Commission, service@taipeifilmcommission.org
  • TAICCA, coproduction@taicca.tw

 

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