Jennifer Jao is at the heart of many film-making conversations, both among locals and those concerning international productions. As vice chair and director of the Taipei Film Commission, Jao’s job makes her an eternal optimist. Inbound shoots have slowed due to the coronavirus travel restrictions, but the island stayed open for business and it remains innovative.
Variety: How has the Taiwan film and TV production industry survived (and flourished) through the COVID-19 crisis?
Jennifer Jao: Wear a mask! 2. Eat good food! Wearing a mask allows us to continue to live a free and normal life; constantly replenishing Taipei’s food allows us to continue to strive for a better life, stronger and more physically fit. This year, 26 restaurants in Taipei City have received Michelin stars, including one with 3 stars, six with 2 stars, and 19 with 1 star! So even if it is not for filming, with so many cheap and delicious food opportunities, and our beautiful scenery, you should come here?! Haha!
And seriously, Taiwan remained one of the few places still operating through 2020. Have many new productions come to Taiwan?
In previous years we’ve welcomed 120 feature and short films or TV films and series per year. This year there are about 70. So the total number of local and international film shoots has been reduced by 40%, much as we estimated.
Through the ‘International Co-production Plan’ TFC is cooperating with international partners in Singapore, Yamagata, Hokkaido, Los Angeles, Austria, France, the U.K., the Netherlands, and Netflix, HBO, etc. for movies, TV series, or TV shows.
The TFC and TAICCA seem to be reaching out to encourage international co-production. Please explain a little. What money is available?
Regarding TAICCA’s policy, I think it’s more polite to let them reply.
Aside from money, what aspects of Taiwan geography, culture are foreign film- and TV-makers most interested by?
I think top of the list is still those fascinating, distinctly-local, cultural characteristics. For example the colorful temples, arrays of delicious snacks at night markets, religious ceremonies full of local music, and so on. U.S. series ‘The Bachelor’ came to Taipei to shoot not long ago in September. Those things were exactly what they wanted to filmed – with the director controlling operations from the other side of the ocean!
Are international streaming platforms mostly good or mostly bad: bringing money and spreading Taiwan stories, or, are they booking all the crews and pushing up prices?
On balance, it is good thing. Streaming services have allowed more Taiwanese filmmakers to show their talents, have more opportunities to make films, have more income, and allow more audiences around the world to see their works. These markets have been difficult to develop on our own.