Production of “Taiwan Trilogy,” billed as the biggest film project originated from Taiwan, has been put on indefinite hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and financial problems, the film’s director Wei Te-sheng (“Cape No. 7,” “Seedig Bale”) said on Monday.
Filming of the ambitious movie trilogy, that aimed to retell the history of Taiwan starting from 400 years ago, had already been suspended in May when the coronavirus finally hit the self-governed island. (Taiwan had managed to hold off the pandemic from the rest of the world for nearly 18 months.) Now the project will have to be refinanced.
The trilogy was expected to cost $157 million (NT$4.5 billion) to produce. It had raised over $3.4 million (NT$100 million) through crowdfunding and was being put together without government funding, thus relying on private sector funding. But now some of those private sector backers had dropped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s extremely difficult to complete the production of ‘Taiwan Trilogy’ when we don’t have our basic budget covered yet,” Wei said in a statement. “Around 70% of the budget is expected to be consumed during the production. Once we have started, we cannot stop any time we want. I cannot possibly raise funds while keeping the camera rolling. It is difficult to resume production under the current circumstances.”
The project has previously raised funds and money has been spent on pre-production such as field studies, historical research, art direction as well as set, make-up and costume design. Resources have also been spent on training of actors and animals, casting and preparation of action choreography and visual effects designs.
The disease outbreak would make the production harder too. Social distancing measures put a crimp on crowd scenes and large number of cast and crew on set. The production was also to have used cast and crew from overseas. But border controls mean they cannot easily travel to the island.
Additionally, recent floods and storms have also destroyed some of the set. Extreme weather costs must now be factored in for the remainder of the year and a half production schedule.
Wei insists that he has not given up on the project, but he is also considering an alternative that would see his original screenplays turned into three animated movies. An animated feature and a documentary were already part of the package and would have been released in 2024.