Story by James S. Kim
Taiwan is more than just a land flowing with milk tea, honey boba and night markets. A team of filmmakers behind the short film Picture Taipei is aiming to change that view and showcase the city for what it is-a beautiful, bustling, artsy city with its features prime for young folk to discover and experience.
After filming for four weeks in March, the film is in post-production, and the cast and crew are taking to Kickstarter to ask for help in finishing a passion project that took them overseas on a fulfilling journey of their own.
Picture Taipei is a love letter to the city through the eyes of Aimee, a Los Angeles native whose life is stale in areas where it isn’t falling apart-there’s no viable future in her dead end job, and she catches her boyfriend cheating.
Aimee sees an article on Buzzfeed, “26 Remarkable Places for Solo Travel,” which had Taipei, Taiwan as the top result. On a whim, she quits her job and books a ticket to Taipei, and her journey to rediscovering herself begins as she meets new friends and goes through a series of adventures.
“I think people become more prescient when they’re traveling,” says Aileen Xu, who stars as Aimee. “When you’re going about your day-to-day life, most of us are on auto-pilot. We can’t help it, we don’t realize what’s really around you.
“When you travel the world, it really becomes more beautiful,” she continues. “You’re paying more attention to it, seeing the world with fresh eyes and learning more about yourself and how to live an authentic life.”
The story went through many rewrites as director Jason Poon and the team all contributed their own voices and experiences. Whatever adventures Aimee goes through, however, would still be against the backdrop of Taipei.
“The story could have taken place anywhere, but we really wanted to highlight Taipei,” Xu explains. “It’s such a young, cool, artsy city. It’s the ‘Portland of Asia’-not flashy like Shanghai or Tokyo, but very muted and hip with an interesting culture.”
Production took place over four weeks when the team traveled to Taipei earlier this year. Xu described it as a “surreal” but amazing experience, despite uncertainties with the budget and navigating legal obstacles with the Taipei Film Commission. But as with Aimee, the trip was not without its lasting memories.
“The four weeks in March was probably my favorite and most memorable travel experience ever,” Xu says. “[We were] going for a purpose, not just wandering around. We were going there to work, to meet people and work with actual Taiwanese filmmakers and create something we could be proud of.”
Proceeds from the Kickstarter campaign will go towards covering post-production and remaining production costs, including editing, marketing film festival fees, equipment rentals and location fees. The minimum goal of $15,000 won’t cover everything, but the hope is to raise enough to cover as much as possible.
You can follow the latest Picture Taipei updates on their Facebook page.
Aileen Xu is a singer, songwriter and producer who currently runs Lavendaire, a video blog series on YouTube where she addresses topics such as personal growth and lifestyle design. Picture Taipei was something right up her alley-through Lavendaire, Xu shares weekly bits of inspiration on becoming your best self and the steps to making it happen. You can view her videos on her Picture Taipei experience below.
Director Jason Poon has worked with hip-hop artists including Snoop Dogg, Xzibit and Kendrick Lamar and international brands like Adidas, Red Bull and Nike. On YouTube, Poon has worked with the Fung Brothers (even collaborating on their “Bobalife” music video, where Xu makes an appearance as a singer), and his other videos have highlighted the Chinese community in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley. His “Night Market” series in 2013 was themed around Taiwanese-style night markets.
Director of Photography Andy Chen is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600. He has worked on many different types of media, including short films Emma and I (2013), The Wheels Keep on Turning (2013), From the Outside Looking In (2014) and Exhale (2015). They have all premiered at the Cannes Film Festival over the last three years.
Producer Marc Liu was still a student at University of Southern California in 2009 when he cast then-freshman Xu as the lead singer in a culture night musical production. Since graduating, Liu founded Third Estate Media, a film production company, in 2009 and joined clothing line Akufuncture in 2013. Through the years, he kept in touch with Liu, supporting her Lavendaire work, and when Picture Taipei began coming together, he didn’t have to look far for a lead actor.
Executive Producer Samuel Wang is a designer and entrepreneur who started Akufuncture in 2009. He has been honored by the Los Angeles Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles chapter of Taiwanese American Professionals. Wang is passionate about his Taiwanese roots and bridging the gap between L.A. and Taipei.
All photos courtesy of the Picture Taipei Kickstarter