Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Nov 20 2006


In order to make our story a little less macguffinolicious, Dean and I came up with a new version of the film’s ending that makes use of a kind of dream world. Of course, the first place one thinks of when one is considering surreal surroundings in Taiwan is the old abandoned spaceship village up on the north coast. It must have seemed a neat idea to the Jetsons afficionado who came up with the idea, but land disputes did the place in, not to mention the idea of fiberglass houses alternately baking under the Taiwanese sun and being blown around by typhoons.

In order to carry out the sequence, we needed to find someone to play Dean’s character’s wife, and he found Heidi, who is a little young for the part but looks good. I hauled myself up early Saturday morning and took the train all the way to Danshui, where I met Dean, and we took a cab out to the site. William and Heidi were walking their dogs along the beach on the other side, and we met up in the middle. I filmed a wide shot while Dean and Heidi went over their lines and blocking, while William tried to keep the dogs from running into the shot. He was mostly successful in this.

Heidi and William had to split early, leaving Dean and I to get his half of the conversation, so I read Heidi’s lines while operating the camera.

Here I’d like to interrupt the regularly scheduled blogging for a minor rant: You know those long dramatic shots of characters, where you’re looking at them standing there, feeling the emotion of the scene and listening to the grand swell of the music? You like those, right? But on the set, there is no grand music and people are walking around and talking and wondering when lunch is, and here’s the director with his little camera just sitting there filming and distinctly not saying “cut” or “ok” or “that was good” or “well, I guess that will do” but instead just staring into the viewfinder. I can understand that it’s quite annoying and mystifying, but chances are there’s something really interesting going on, something that will not only make it into the movie but could possibly even raise it to another level and make the audience go “oh!” or “damn!” and send a tingling down their spines.

A lot of what attracts us to a movie lies in the pacing. It’s a lot like music that way. I like to have as much latitude as I can reasonably get when I’m playing with the pacing of a scene. I aspire to cutting down on the talking heads and getting the point across with visual cues.

Ok, that’s enough ranting for now. I’m not so much complaining as explaining why I tend to let the scene play itself out.

As we left the spaceship community and were waiting on the side of the highway for a cab to pass by, we spotted an enclosure with a sign saying “Beware! Electrified!” Inside the fence was an ostrich and several chickens.

We caught a cab back to Danshui and went to the foreigners’ graveyard at Athelia University to do more dream stuff. I climbed a tree and balanced on a limb while filming Dean walking around the various graves.

We had an appointment for more filming in the city later, so we caught the train back to Dean’s house and then headed out to the Outback restaurant at the corner of Dunhua and Nanjing Roads. Dean had talked the people there into letting us use one of their rooms to be part of our museum sequence. April and Mark showed up, as well as Eddie, an acrobat who would be standing in for April in the heist sequence. I set up the camera and let Eddie do his thing while the others munched on fried onion that the restaurant graciously provided.

Eddie was pretty good, I have to say. He jumped and flipped and rolled all over the place. He even brought a sword, you know, just in case. I’m hoping he can help us out with our sword fight later. He seemed surprised that his part was over so soon, but we had more to do in that location. We filmed Mark’s scenes using my monkey statue and then April’s stuff before calling it a day and winding down over a nice meal.

Dean has to be back in Canada by Christmas. Our goal is to get main photography done by then, so I can have a rough cut ready for ADR soon after that, so the schedule’s pretty packed this month. We really only have one major scene to go, plus a few pickups here and there. It’s been a long race, but this is the last stretch.

posted by Poagao at 4:43 pm  


  1. I passed these buildings when driving around Taiwan a couple of months ago and my girlfriend knew of them but not what they were. I assumed some kind of post modern holiday camp brought down by the proximity to China and the nearby nuclear power station. Perhaps the truth is far more prosaic.

    Comment by Simon — November 22, 2006 @ 2:14 pm

  2. It was actually a hotel/condo deal killed by a land dispute and no doubt helped along by a typhoon or two. The nuke plant is quite a ways down the coast, and I doubt China had much to do with it.

    Comment by TC — November 22, 2006 @ 2:16 pm

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