Construction starts on film set in preparation for biggest production in Taiwan film history

Construction started September 1 on a film set to reproduce an indigenous settlement of the Siraya people from 400 years ago, in preparation for what is slated to become the biggest film production in Taiwan’s history.

Taiwan filmaker Wei Te-sheng, who previously wrote and directed blockbusters Cape No.7, and Seediq Bale: Warriors of the Rainbow, has undertaken a massive project in the form of a historical trilogy covering the Dutch colonial era in Taiwan in the early 17th century.

The trilogy will see a view of Taiwan’s history through the eyes of the indigenous population, the Dutch colonizers, and the ethnic Chinese immigrants at the time when the world came to Formosa, and Taiwan debuted on the world’s stage, according to the producer.

The production of the three films will include sets reproducing the Siraya settlement, and the Dutch-administered townships around Fort Zeelandia, and Fort Provintia.

At a ground-breaking ceremony and press conference, 47-year-old Wei said, “We are playing it for real, and we really can’t look back now.”

Wei said that he was “happy, but at the same time nervous,” now that construction has started on a film production he has been planning for 20 years, and that he hopes to reproduce an accurate copy of the Siraya tribe settlement from 400 years ago.

“I finished the script for Taiwan Trilogy in 2001, nearly 20 years ago. The story is told from three different but simultaneous perspectives. As a story about all Taiwanese people, it begins with Taiwan’s entry onto the world stage and the world setting foot on Taiwan’s soil, and depicts Taiwan’s cultural pluralism. In the Age of Discovery, this little island played an important role, containing many wonderful stories,” Wei writes on his Taiwan Trilogy website.

Shooting is planned to begin in August next year.

Production is expected to be wrapped up in 2023, and the first screening in 2024, marking 400 years since the establishment of the Dutch colony in today’s Tainan City in 1624.

As with Wei’s previous two major film productions, “Taiwan Trilogy” has broken records in terms of production costs. The production costs are estimated to be at least TW$4.5 billion – more than US$153 million.

It’s worth noting that Wei’s two previous blockbuster productions went considerably over-budget: however, Wei managed to cover costs, both by going into personal debt and receiving further external contributions. Wei’s movies also more than recouped costs, and made record profits for domestically produced films.

site of film set being constructed for first part of "Taiwan Trilogy."
Construction begins for a recreation of a Siraya settlement to be used as a film set for the first installation of “Taiwan Trilogy.” Picture: ARS Film Productions.

Casting

Almost all casting is completed for the first movie, United Daily News reported. Like Wei’s previous production, Seediq Bale, Wei will rely mainly on amateur actors.

Wei said that he had reached out to some of his previous collaborators, including Japanese actor Masatoshi Nagase, who starred in the film Kano, which Wei co-produced. Wei wanted Nagase to play the role of Yahei Hamada, a key historical figure in the Dutch era, and Nagase immediately responded “no problem.”

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, casting of foreign actors was done through video conferencing, Wei explained. Dutch-speaking actors were sourced who are well-known in Europe and have won awards, the filmmaker said. As for well-known Taiwanese actors, Wei said he won’t make an announcement until shooting time approaches next year.

Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chi-mai on location with filmaker Wei Te-sheng at a ground-breaking ceremony on set for first installation of “Taiwan Trilogy” September 1, 2020. Picture: ARS Film Productions.

Wei Te-sheng is seeking support via crowdfunding on his site https://taiwantrilogy.com/

Cover picture: ARS Film Productions.

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