Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jan 05 2015


Dean and I met up with Tobie Openshaw at the gate of the Taipei American School in Tianmu yesterday afternoon. Tobie was helping us record the commentary track for the DVD/Blu-ray package. We went up to Tobie’s office/classroom, where he teaches videomaking, and we spent the next few hours making snarky, somewhat lucid remarks as we watched the film. I got the single pair of headphones, so Dean talked a lot more while I was busy watching the movie, making an occasional grunting noise here and there. Every half hour or so we would take a break downstairs. It was odd being in a high school again after so many years, though TAS is far nicer than my own high school. And it should be for what it costs to go there.

Dean is moving to Hungary later this months, where he will be working on the final packaging of the DVD/Blu-ray/download of the film. We will then mail/send links out to everyone we promised to send it to, as well as perhaps making it available on download services.

posted by Poagao at 12:08 am  
May 11 2014


Ten years ago, at the 2004 Urban Nomad Film Festival, “Clay Soldiers” swept the awards (if I recall correctly. All I know is that I got a vase of some kind). That was the year we set about making “The Kiss of Lady X”, and the film, appropriately enough, premiered at this year’s Urban Nomad, which has grown much in terms of scale and scope in the last decade, this last Saturday.

I had just gotten off the plane after a couple of weeks in China due to being part of a photography exhibition there. I’d cut the visit short, despite most of the discussions and other activities being held on the weekend, because there was simply no way that I could miss our long-awaited premiere. Dean told me that due to greater-than-expected ticket sales, we’d been bumped up from the smaller 70-seat theater to the largest, 200-seat theater where the opening and closing films were being shown. Although that sounded good, I was a bit worried that the larger theater would make the audience seem smaller.

I needn’t have worried. Not long after I arrived at the Lux Theater in Ximending, a long line of people waiting to enter snaked across the adjacent square. I got a free UB t-shirt after talking with Dave Frasier and Sean Scanlon, the organizers of the festival, who have been waiting patiently all these long years for the completion of the film. It was a shame that Rowan and Dolly couldn’t make it, not to mention Josh and April. I stayed outside the theater waiting for Sandy, who was on his way and a bit lost, just to make sure he found it alright and got his free ticket. Then it was into the big, post theater, and the film began.

What can I say? It looked great. It sounded great. The audience was great, with a hugely positive response. I could feel them getting into the story, the characters, everything; they even broke into applause at several points in the film, which was enormously gratifying. So many times during production I had said, “Don’t worry, it will look good on the big screen,” and it was great to finally see if it was true. As the credits rolled and the the applause swelled, I couldn’t help but think to myself: damn, all the frustration, the waiting, the extreme measures we took to get this thing made, and made as well as we could…it was all worth it. It really was just fucking worth it.

I got up to do the Q&A, hosted by Tobie Openshaw and a Taiwanese woman who was doing the Chinese-language part, and called Dean up there as well. We talked a bit about the film and answered some questions. I called the members of the cast and crew who were able to make it up to introduce themselves, and I felt so glad that at least some of the people who had worked so hard to help us finish the project were able to partake in the joy of showing it to the world, or at least our little corner of it.

We ran out of time, as the next movie was coming up, so we made our way over to the Red House Theater area for drinks and more talking. I felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders. “This is it,” Dean told me. “It’s done, it’s finished.”

As I got up to leave, much later that night, one of the people who had seen the film asked Dean to autograph his ticket stub. He gave the pen to me, and I signed it as well. The man looked at me and asked, “Did you play a part in the film?”

“I’d like to think I did,” I said. When I told him I was the director, he brightened up and gushed at how much he loved the movie, that he was a film buff and that he thought it better than most of the things in the theaters today. Now, I know there are many problems with the film, that in technical terms it’s a bit dated, but it was just great to hear that people liked it. So many people had spent so much time giving freely of their time and talents to make this thing happen; it was wonderful to be able to give at least some of that back.

Our second and final showing of the film will be this Wednesday, at 1 p.m., also at the Lux Theater in Ximending. I plan to take the afternoon off work and attend, though I don’t think there will be any activities like the q&a; it will just be a plain showing, but I hope that everyone who wasn’t able to make the Saturday showing can at least see the movie on Wednesday.

posted by Poagao at 11:27 am  
Dec 24 2013

Facebook, new site

My friend and co-worker Benson Chang was nice enough to step in and help us re-design the website, updating it with recent information, and it looks great. Benson also helped us with the Chinese subtitles with a nifty little program that made relatively quick work of it. I’d spent forever just doing the subtitles to Clay Soldiers, so I was relieved to know that we have better tools these days.

I also made a Facebook page for the film, and we’ve gotten quite a few Likes in just the few days it’s been up, which is nice. Dean is back in Canada visiting folks, and we’ve been on the lookout for various festivals to submit the film to. We’re also looking into another screening, as key players such as Dolly, Sandy and a few others weren’t able to make the last one due to work. I’ll post more about it when I know more myself.

In any case, Merry Christmas and thanks for sticking around!

posted by Poagao at 10:54 am  
Jul 19 2013

Private screening

We held a private screening of the movie last night at Chengchih University for friends, cast and crew who have generously donated their time and efforts to making the film. I barely made it in time, as we’d scheduled it for 7pm, and I only get off work at 6. Lots of people came, and as Dean and I talked a bit about the film beforehand, including apologies that it took so damn long, I could see some skeptical expressions in the audience. “Good lord, why did I come to see a nearly two-hour home movie,” some of them seemed to be thinking. Well, Gavin seemed to be thinking, anyway. So I shut up, Dean managed to start the projector, we sat down and watched. Paul Jackson arrived late, after his scene at the beginning, unfortunately, and Bill arrived with his girlfriend after we’d started, so I didn’t have a chance to explain to him how we’d cut nearly all of his lines! But there was nothing for it, and I still maintain that he has much greater screen presence this way, so I just sat and watched.

It always kind of surprises me that I can watch this film and still be interested and into the action, even after seeing it a million times. It was different this time, of course, it being a larger screen, with a real audience and all. Better, really, though the projection was too dark and fuzzy, and the speakers were rather crappy. Cockroaches were wandering about the floor in front of me, and I wondered if I should have sat in the back to better observe the audience’s reaction as well as avoid the insects.

But I could still hear reactions from the audience behind me; gasps, laughter and other exclamations. They seemed to be enjoying it, and we got an enthusiastic round of applause after the final scene when the credits rolled. After chatting a bit in the screening room, we retired to a nearby temple for some drinks and food, and talked some more. I was happy that Maurice, Paul Barlow, Azuma and Jane could be there, but unfortunately many other cast members couldn’t make it, e.g. Dolly and Sandy, who had to work, and of course Rowan, Josh, April and Alex, who are all out of the country.

Now, I suppose everyone could have been really good actors (haha!), but most seemed really impressed with the movie. Surprised, even, that not only was it a real movie, but that it was entertaining. People were surprised that it didn’t feel nearly as long as it was (or as they feared it would). It was most reassuring, and I’d say this screening was a success, even though the temple guy tried to stiff us on the bill afterwards.

In other news, we’re in the process of applying for the Golden Horse festival and competition. I’m not entirely sure of our chances, being such a radically different film from anything else there, but technically, it qualifies as a Taiwanese film, and I’d hope that the organizers could see the potential in including such a film in the festival. A friend of mine, an art professor down in Kaohsiung, has done some wonderful artwork for us, and he graced us with his presence at the screening. Another friend and co-worker of mine is working on the subtitles, and another on the website, which I will talk about more when we’re further on.

Actually, when my co-worker was working on the subtitles in the cubicle next to mine at work yesterday, he popped his head up and said, “Hey, this is really good!” I looked over at his screen to see which part he was doing, but all I could see was waveforms. He wasn’t watching the film, just listening to the audio. So I suppose it would make a good radio play as well! Heh.

posted by Poagao at 10:37 pm  
Jul 02 2013

A small meeting

Dean and I met with the Taipei Film Commission people today; not the bigwigs, who were busy, but a couple of people in their office. After they eventually managed to find a laptop capable of showing a DVD (something I’d think would be rather handy at a film commission), we sat down and watched the movie on the tiny screen with the tinny speakers of the Asus they’d brought in. I didn’t even think they would want to see the whole thing, just verify that it’s a real movie, but they did. Much of the time they appeared to like it, being on the edge of their seats despite the poor viewing experience.

Afterwards, however, they didn’t seem too optimistic about our chances of local distribution. Taiwan, they said, only deals in arthouse films, with a smattering of slapstick comedy. What about Hollywood action films? I wondered. “They love those,” I was told, “provided they are from Hollywood.” One major problem with our film is that we don’t have any big, well-known stars.

Still, they said they would help us look around, so we’ll see what happens. We’ll hold a private screening for cast and crew in a couple of weeks, in any case, and should any movie company reps happen to slip in the side door, well, so be it.

Ten years ago today, Lady X: Episode 5, the second and final of our original episodes, went live on the website. Don’t bother looking for the Lady X competition site; it’s long gone. Time flies.

posted by Poagao at 10:50 am  
Jun 26 2013


So the film’s done. The soundtrack’s locked in, the titles and credits are finalized. It took a lot of hard work, but it’s done.

So where is it? Well, now we enter the “middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition” that is distribution. I went over to the Taipei Film Commission off the Dunhua traffic circle last week and showed them the trailer I cut, and they seemed quite excited. “Why didn’t you apply for grants while you were filming?” they asked, incredulously.

In any case, they want to see the finished product, so they can help arrange meetings with local film companies to discuss distribution, so we’re planning to meet with them some time next week to give them a look. We’re also planning to submit it to the Golden Horse Film Festival; I think people would enjoy it if it does manage somehow to get in. The next Taipei Film Festival is next year, so we’re too late for that or Urban Nomad, alas, but there might be other festivals to submit it to. We still need to put subtitles on it, but I know a guy who can do that. Otherwise, it’s done.

Done. Done, I say! Done done done. Man, it feels so good to type that word.


posted by Poagao at 10:52 pm  
Jul 25 2011

Still here

So. It’s been a few years since my last post here. Back then, the movie was all done except for the soundtrack. Not much to report on that front. I did make a new trailer for the old film:

We’re going to make some posters as well, just for fun. Retro style, of course.

The barber video I talked about in the last post failed due to a technical error. I’ve made a handful of vacation videos over the last few years: France, Spain, Tokyo II, Laos, Malaysia, Xiamen, etc. I’ve been working two jobs during the day for the last year or so and haven’t made much progress in filmmaking otherwise. Dean went back to Canada after he finished his master’s degree. He lived and worked in Montreal and Vancouver for a while before coming back to Taiwan a while back. He’s living in Taipei now and working on his PhD.

Over the long period of inactivity, the blog was infected with something, and I had to hire someone to clean it up for me and update things.

Basically, this is just to say that we’re still here.

posted by Poagao at 2:45 am  
Jun 09 2009


I got up at 5 a.m. this morning to go shoot my barber. Why is he worth shooting? Hard to say; he’s a barber because it’s the family business and his parents handed over the reigns of the shop to him, and he has a wife and kids to take care of. In the mornings, however, he works for the EPA spraying disinfectant around various parts of Guandu and Beitou. It seemed like an interesting combination, so I decided to do a little video of him, a mini documentary. I’d been thinking of trying something like that, and I happened to be getting a haircut at the time, so it just followed.

The people at the little office underneath the highway bridge, however, weren’t too happy to see me. They instantly went into full paranoid mode and told me I could shoot the little garbage huts. My barber, however, waved all of these warnings aside. I interviewed him in front of the spraying truck, and then we went out to a series of places, where I got footage of him doing his job. It was interesting. People would come up to the sprayers on the street and ask them to do their basements or alleys, and the sprayers would always comply. Maybe it was because I was there with my camera.

Eventually the crew got used to me and relaxed a bit. I don’t plan to make anything big out of this; it’s more of an exercise than anything else. I borrowed a friend’s Sony handycan, which worked ok, especially as I didn’t have a tripod. The next and final shoot will be at the barbershop itself one evening when I can find some time, and then I’ll glue it together and see what, if anything, I’ve got.

After we wrapped up this morning, though, I got a feeling that I haven’t had in a good while, though, the feeling that I’d actually done something. Maybe it’s not a big huge project, but it’s something. It felt good.

posted by Poagao at 5:44 am  
May 13 2009


Not much has happened since the last post six months ago. I know, not the most exciting thing to read. I haven’t done anything but a couple of travel videos in the time since. Darrell is still working on the sound, and he expects to be working on it until the end of the year. After he gets all the dialog synced up he will hand it back to me for some final editing before he puts the music in.

In the meantime, I have a couple of ideas in my head for another project, a bit smaller than the last one and something I hope I can really sink my teeth into. A local project that takes advantage of the resources at hand here in Taiwan instead of trying to depict other places, a Taiwanese story with local actors. Something more intimate. Something I can get my head around, in other words. I’m not sure what camera I would use to shoot such a project, as my DVX100 can’t produce HD video. I have a Canon 5DII that can, but only at 30fps, and the production capabilities are limited without major investment in supporting equipment. I might make some music videos with the 5D just to see how it works.

But it’s not necessary to decide things like that at this point. Right now I just want to sketch out the story, fill in the details and make sure it’s not just a tale I want to tell, but a tale I can tell. I’m thinking a cast of maybe a dozen at most, limited to a handful of locations, all in Taipei. A small story with a big impact. Something I can tweak and manage. But I’m still working it out.

posted by Poagao at 11:40 pm  
Dec 20 2008


Darrell just left my apartment, the final edit of the film copied onto his portable harddrive. That’s it, basically. The film is comfortably under the two hour mark, and is pretty much as far along as I could get it. I could tinker with it forever, of course, and digital technology has made that all too easy (much to the consternation of film music composers everywhere, Darrell says), at least easier than in the days of film, where, when a film was cut, it was actually cut, and bits of frames were difficult to put back in.

In any case, I think there is a point where further editing only makes a movie worse. After a long period of time looking at the same scenes, the editor becomes tired, and any change appears better, fresher and more interesting than the original edition he’s seen so many times. Too great a familiarity with the project makes it almost incomprehensible to people who haven’t seen it before (see the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies for an illustration of this). I may have reached that point a while ago, but although no film is perfect and could always be made better, there is a point when a project must move on, and for me, that point is, if not several months or even years ago, at least now.

Now that I’ve relinquished the project into Darrell’s able hands, the only thing remaining for us to do is color correction, opening and closing credits, and of course promotional materials such as a kick-ass trailer, posters, viral marketing, and film festival research. I will need to revamp the website to reflect the current state of things as well. But I’m done with the editing, which is the main thing. Done! I say. Done, really, with the film, at least while I’m still in my 30’s.

Now I’m off to Japan for a few days to unwind and decompress. It’s been a long haul; thanks for your patience. We’re almost there.

posted by Poagao at 11:46 pm  
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