Writer’s Game: Bringing Taiwanese Dramas to the World

Mei Kuo / Photography Jimmy Lin / Translation Scott Williams

Taiwanese screenwriters have been going all out over the past two years, with television shows such as Gold Leaf and The World Between Us attracting large audiences and creating buzz. Taiwan is generally recognized as having the most liberal and democratic creative environment in the Chinese-speaking world. Public institutions and private companies are now working together to improve the business model of the television and film industry. The goal is to create original Chinese content that can compete in the international market and attract more international audiences.

Television and film industry in Taiwan It has evolved over the years. Taiwan’s cinemas and television screens of the 1960s were adaptations of Chong Yao’s romance novels, and nearly everyone born in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s has youthful memories of their favorite Chong Yao adaptations. I have. As cross-strait ties opened up in the 1980s, Taiwanese studios traveled to China to shoot Chan’s productions, and television stations became dependent on buying overseas dramas to fill their schedules. . Interestingly, this gave the studio an opportunity to focus on Taiwan-centric themes, resulting in more diverse subject matter.

Subsequent shows made a strong impression on audiences, including one immigrant-themed and one featuring a glove puppet show. Fiery Thunderbolt is a great example. The show’s over-the-top plot and dialogue sparked heated debate and established a large audience for works depicting local culture.

Courtesy of Rosebud Productions

A scene from the movie “Amazing Grace of Sigma”
Idol show ignites golden age

Around this time, idols and school dramas also emerged. The Taiwanese idol drama “Meteor Garden,” based on the Japanese manga “Hana Yori Dango,” has set a new TV viewership record in Taiwan. After being licensed to broadcasters in several Asian countries, the show ushered in a golden age of idol dramas in Taiwan.

Golden Bell Award-winning screenwriter and current president of the Taiwan Writers Association, Woo Luo Ying said that as Taiwanese idol dramas became more popular in Asia, other Asian countries developed their own television and film industries. and said it surpassed Taiwan.

Television and film are not only a means of expressing ideas, but also a medium for transmitting local culture to the world. In recent years, the government has created a “national team” for Taiwan’s television and film, using forward-looking digital infrastructure programs and other government resources to support the industry.

As this was happening, the international over-the-top (OTT) media services that entered Taiwan in 2016 began to dominate the funding and production of Taiwanese productions. Working with the film community to create a miniseries based on temple culture, The Teenage Psychic, Netflix purchased the worldwide rights to the TV show Light the Night. Seedy part of Taipei. During that time, various government agencies provided grants to support the production of Gold Leaf and The World Between Us. This fusion of public and private capital has brought hope that Taiwan’s television and film could see good times again.


Courtesy of Rosebud Productions

Golden Bell Award-winning screenwriter Wu Luo-ying’s The Amazing Grace of Σ, a fictional cult TV series, is her first to put the script at the heart of the production. Wu was also involved in planning, directing, and promoting the show.
Development of screenwriters

Hugh Lee, a late stage actor and film director, once said: Writers are the driving force behind these stories. How do they motivate and make them attractive?

“A screenwriter must love to tell stories. The moment I come up with a good story and imagine the audience enjoying it, I get excited,” said TV show Wo de Yeman Qianjin (“I Savage Daughter”) veteran writer Wang Wei.

Wu Ruoying, who won Best Screenplay for the series The Hospital, expanded his skill set by also participating in writing, filming and promoting 2022’s Amazing Grace of Sigma. In addition to her work on television, Luo has been teaching screenwriting at Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA) and National Taiwan University for the last few years, imparting her real-world experience.

The day we interviewed Wu, she and her students were busy brainstorming a script about a 30-year-old female gang boss running her gang.

According to Wu, her scriptwriting classes begin by introducing students to basic character building, plot and story, structure and outline, and the “beginning, conflict and resolution” of a three-act script. A vibrant story is expected, culminating in students creating their own script. To write a compelling script, a student must be able to draw on a wealth of life experience and conduct her research in the field.

She cites her own series The Hospital, which centers around doctors competing with each other for power and prestige, as an example. She was only 32 when she started, but she was married, divorced, diagnosed with cancer, and already a mother of two. These experiences added depth to Shaw’s portrayal of medical practice, the meaning of life, and caring for others. “Why don’t people work first and then go back to school and study?” she wonders.

Taiwan now uses multiple channels to support the projects of screenwriters and producers. For example, the Ministry of Culture (MOC) holds a script competition and offers grants to produce both short and feature films. Similarly, the Taipei and Kaohsiung city governments also hold script competitions and provide subsidies for filming in their respective cities. In short, many forums exist where writers can express themselves.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) started its activities in November 2019. The group will work with the MOC to flexibly channel capital from the National Development Fund and the private sector into film, animation, and television production to support the rise of Taiwan’s content industry. Chen Jia-yi, a TNUA graduate student who received a grant to produce a short film titled Dear Me, said: This is an advantage over China and South Korea. ”

To preserve the talent of screenwriters and protect the rights of professionals in the field, organizations such as the Taiwan Screenwriters Association, MOC, and the Taipei Art Creators Union have drafted model contracts for performing arts writers and directors. Did. These contracts, introduced in 2022, set standards for working hours, remuneration and copyright ownership for writers, choreographers and directors in hopes of improving working conditions in the industry.

Wu Luo-ying teaches at the National Taipei University of the Arts and shares his experience as a screenwriter.
find an international audience

Talent is being nurtured and international platforms are pouring capital into local productions, but it remains to be seen if this energy will sustain.

Wang Wei said Taiwanese productions will face international competition and big-budget productions once they enter the international market. If you want to appeal to international audiences, you have to produce works with themes, stories and production values ​​that resonate with them.

In 2022, TAICCA invited US’s Imagine Entertainment and Asia’s Sixty Percent Productions to launch Emerge, a Chinese original content development program. In this program, producers and writers share their development experiences and perspectives in the international market. The goal of this program is to spur the development of Taiwan’s commercial production model, and to work with Taiwanese scriptwriter students to develop Chinese language that has commercial potential and can attract the attention of international audiences. to encourage the creation of original content for

HBO Asia Vice President of Programming and Production Andrew Chin said in a 2017 interview with Punchline Magazine:If these are strong enough, you can build a bridge [cultural] Remove obstacles and guide your audience through the story. ”

After watching GAGA, Untold Herstory, and Salute, Taiwanese novelist and screenwriter Li Yuan (better known as Xiao Ye) wrote on his Facebook page that since the industry “woke up,” Taiwanese cinema has He said he has come a long way. He went on to praise the innovative thinking of the local industry and his efforts to break through in new ways.

Wu Luo-ying says Taiwan is known for having the most free and democratic society in the Chinese-speaking world and having the fewest restrictions on what the television and film industries can portray. Now that we are actively leading the industry to the international stage, the industry is freed from its dependence on the domestic market and is able to develop a broader audience and a wider range of themes. , Taiwan’s television and film industry has the potential to become truly international.”


This article was originally published in Taiwan the original article here.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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