Magazine article Metro Magazine

'I Make Films I Feel Proud Of': Peggy Chiao and the New Chinese Cinema

Magazine article Metro Magazine

'I Make Films I Feel Proud Of': Peggy Chiao and the New Chinese Cinema

Article excerpt

PEGGY Chiao Hsiung-ping is one of the most internationally prominent producers of Chinese cinema, though she has played many roles in the film industry. She initially studied journalism in Taiwan before going to the United States and taking up postgraduate studies in cinema. She returned to Taiwan in the early 1980s to become one of the most important critics at the time when the Taiwanese new wave was gathering force. Through the Taiwan Film Centre she became a major figure in the marketing of Chinese cinema around the world. She moved into screenwriting and producing through her company Arclight Films. Her recent producing credits include Mirror Image (2000), Betelnut Beauty (2001), Beijing Bicycle (2001), Blue Gate Crossing (2002) and Green Hat (2004). In August 2005 she was a guest of the Brisbane International Film Festival where she attended screenings of Gu Changwei's Peacock (2004), a film she is marketing internationally. The following conversation took place at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane.

You're best known as a producer but your company Arclight is involved in a range of activities now with Peacock and Li Shaohong's film Stolen Life. What was the nature of your involvement with these films?

Actually it is not Arclight Films. We have two functions in our office. One part of our activities involves dealing with a lot of international relations for different filmmakers who have problems with language or relationships with film festivals and other institutions. The Taiwan Film Centre is also involved in activities such as bringing foreign teachers, professors, and professionals to Taiwan for workshops and master classes. And we do publications too. Arclight Films is mainly a production house. So we have two functions, quite separate, but we recently used Arclight Films to work on the international marketing for Peacock, which would normally be the part of Taiwan Film Centre's activities. This is because the mainland Chinese are very conscious about the word Taiwan, because of the political connotations of the Taiwan independence movement. They avoid having the word Taiwan appear on anything. So we used the name Arclight Films, although actually it's a function of the Taiwan Film Centre. It sounds a little confusing but it's really simple.

You've mentioned that your production activities are increasingly centred on mainland China. What are the factors driving that?

First of all I think it's the major talent, the kind of atmosphere. It's more like the burgeoning of Taiwan's new wave in the early 1980s. At that time the Taiwan government was handling the whole situation in a very crude way. Facing the threat of HK commercial cinema, the government brought in a subsidy program. Some good filmmakers such as Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang had the chance to have their films released under no investment situation. Then for a long while, the government handed the money to the right filmmakers to help them through the coldest winter without money problems. Because the government gave money without any review afterwards, it seemed like a very easy way out for many people. Many young directors and rising directors wanted the money and claimed that you shouldn't give money only to the established directors, you should give money to us too, you know, the young people need to keep up [laughing]. Then, of course, a lot of distributors only wanted the money. Greedy distributors and really corrupt people would use filmmaking as a front to get the funding. For instance the government might give them ten million NT for one film, and they would put five million in their pocket and give the other five million to the filmmaker. So the system had a lot of problems because with that kind of money you cannot make good films. It was a kind of a vicious circle where you start with a small budget and not so much talent as a filmmaker, and you make bad films, and those films sit on the shelves without a chance to be in the theatres. …

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