Corporate Video Production Services
So there we were, in the Grand Hotel in Taipei, using a child’s wading pool to catch the water our shirtless production manager was pouring down his back so we could get a light reading in the candle-lit room. Unexpectedly, the room service boy walked in and we could tell by his horrified expression that we had exceeded his wildest nightmares of gay-porno-Hollywood-weirdo-filmmakers abusing the sanctity of his beautiful hotel. Obviously, it was all just a cultural and technical misunderstanding, but we could tell by the fear in his eyes that he was ready to bolt for security. How we got to this point is an interesting story.
Back in 1995, Duty Free Shoppers asked The Association for a custom video production. We decided to create a spectacular wall of video that would captivate free-spending Japanese visitors and entice them into the DFS store. We were to spare no expense, which meant 35mm film, Taiwanese movie stars, fantastic locations, helicopter aerials, etc. We came up with a proposal to create a stunning visual montage of nightlife, high-end products, and, we were instructed, some golf.
Armed with an ambitious shooting script, I and our video production crew flew into Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, and took a shuttle to the Grand Hotel, a beautiful period piece constructed by the wife of Chang Kai-sheck as a monument to the greatness of Chinese culture. It really was lovely, evoking the glory of ancient China, and we used it as a set for several of our scenes.
But we found that location production in Taiwan promised to be supremely difficult. For one thing, few people spoke English and all of the street signs and store names were in Chinese characters. In Mexico, France, Italy, etc. you can kind of make yourself understood with a sort of Esperanto mix of all the languages. Also, the signs are readable, if not understandable, which honestly helps a lot. Not so in Taipei. We got so lost on our first cab sortie into town that we had to tell our driver to take us back to the hotel. When he obviously didn’t understand what we were saying, we knew we were in trouble. Finally we spotted the hotel and with much grunting and gesturing finally got him to deliver us to the door, empty handed but glad to be back. We realized we needed help. That’s when we lucked into the one person who turned what could have been a nightmare shoot into a dream: Alice Lim, our Chinese translator with the Scottish burr.
Alice worked at a commercial productions company in Taipei, and when we talked with her on the phone we couldn’t believe such a pure Scottish brogue could come out of what she referred to as a “Chinese Face”. We never did get used to that. She was of Chinese descent but grew up with her family in Glasgow before coming to Taiwan. She spoke Mandarin as fluently as English. We were completely lost without her. Fortunately, she was as familiar with film production as she was with the ins and outs of Taiwanese culture. So with Alice as our guide we proceeded with several weeks of relatively trouble-free production in and around Taiwan. That is, until the unfolding of the events described in the first part of this article.
The whole idea for that shot was to have a beautiful Chinese girl sensually bathing herself in a beautiful room full of antiques and candles. The model would only be seen from behind and only waist up, hence the kiddie wading pool to catch the water. The candles were lit, and as the makeup girl prepped our model in the bathroom, the production manager stripped down, assumed the position in the pool, and slowly poured some water down his back from a beautiful glass pitcher. We were getting the right f-stop when the room service boy walked in. His eyes instantly became three sizes larger and we all got the image that he was looking at. Of course there was no use saying, “No, no, it’s not what you think!” in English.
Fortunately, Alice popped out of the bathroom and quickly explained the situation, thereby averting an international incident and new low in American-Taiwanese relations. The shoot went on and the result was a spectacular asset to Duty Free Shoppers market development strategy. Gan bei, Alice, gan bei.