As part of my role as International Chair for the Producer's Guild of America (PGA), I work with film commissions from around the globe, of which the Taipei Film Commission is one of the most pro-active and well-organized.
This year they decided to organize an educational program (the Taipei Film Academy) for professional filmmakers, so three PGA members and I visited for a week to teach a masters class in producing.
There were almost 60 students registered, and I spent my first two days teaching, interchanging sessions with PGA National Executive Director Vance Van Petten. My 6 hour course focused on the theme of "Visual Storytelling", covering topics such as tools for each stage of production; transmedia and other digital media trends; the producer's role vis-a-vis technology; concept art, pre-visualization, faux trailers, and more.
The students impressed me with their dedication and passion towards filmmaking, and as the week progressed we got to know each other. Taiwan has an advantageous and strategic role in the rapidly growing Chinese film industry. Because of its proximity and cultural nexus, Taiwanese films are accepted into China for distribution (assuming the censorship criteria is met), and a co-production with Taiwan can serve as an entree into the Greater China market. Many Taiwanese people speak English and are familiar with American culture, compared to mainland China. And Japan has had a significant influence on Taiwan, which has an affinity for Japanese culture. These factors make Taiwan particularly attractive as a potential partner for a film project.
I spent a few days "scouting" various locations around Taipei, including gorgeous Jioufen (九份), which is known for its gold-mining history and was an inspiration for Miyazaki's Oscar-winning film Spirited Away.
Taiwan's landscape features mainly mountains and oceanside. We visited Yehliu, an area north of Taipei which features unique rock formations on the sea, and attracts a steady flow of tourists. The nearby hot springs serve as a relaxing retreat and reminded me of Japan's onsen.
And a trip to Taiwan isn't complete without tasting the local cuisine - especially its world-famous desserts! From snow ice (like the popular chain Ice Monster) to honey creme to bubble tea, Taiwan is the innovator of sweets throughout Asia. Its bakeries are famous, and the night markets feature delicious street food. I love hot pot, xiao-long-bao, and all kinds of noodles, not to mention my favorite tea - oolong!!
All in all, I loved Taiwan and my week in Taipei - it was clean, safe, energetic, trendy and fun, sort of like a mini-Tokyo but with gorgeous mountains.
Taipei Film Academy:
Jioufen area and Yehliu: