High-end production finds its *radius
By : Jamie Madge (www.sourceecreative.com)
The production powerhouse tells us how its renowned commercial and feature film output and perfectionist culture is conquering Asia.
You don't last for 30 years in the filmmaking business without knowing your stuff. In 1986, two of the most formidable producers in Taiwan - Wei-Yen Yu and Hua-Kun Chang – decided to team up and create *radius. Decades of feature film success followed, including 'Yi Yi' (winner of the Cannes Festival Best Director Award) and 'City of Sadness' (winner of the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival). The next step, in 2001… commercials.
Being one of the country's leading production companies for commercials and features doesn't come easily, so a robust and respectable company ethos was needed. For *radius' Wei-Yen Yu, the attitude is clear: "We believe in honest and solid work." "Our Chinese name means 'field' in English," he explains, "so philosophically, we see ourselves as a field of farmers and each person has something to offer. Some of us grow mangos, others grow tea. As a company we value the role that each and every person contributes to this field."
This ideology of the company members all being in the same field is maintained in the structure of commitment in *radius – "Within our culture," he elaborates, "we consider each team member a partner, so every person on our team holds a share of the company." With this allegiance in place, the assets of the team come into the fore, leading to what Wei-Yen considers the company's spe-cialty – "Creative thinking put into smart planning and logistics."
The ability to balance said smart planning and logistics lies at the heart of *radius' renowned capa-bility when it comes to high-end, logistically challenging spots. "Clients mainly seek us out for large scale jobs that have to shoot internationally," Executive Producer Shawn Lee remarks, "or for pro-jects that require international collaborations to shoot in our local markets."
It's the combination of stand-alone production jobs alongside production service collaborations that has allowed the company to refine its expertise in managing complicated shoots. "We do production service jobs as well as projects that come direct from agency and clients," clarifies Lee, "so we do have a roster of directors, albeit from around the world." One glance at the list of collaborators show a company in rude health, with celebrated outfits like Bandits, Smuggler, H.S.I., RSA, MJZ, Garlic, Czar, Stink , Radical Media, Soda Films, Good Oil and Exit Films clamouring to work with them.
With an output that includes "about half and half" domestic to international-facing projects, *radius has to consider disparate audiences for each of their films. However, the difference in global work, according to Shaun, isn't so apparent: "In terms of style, the globalization of commerce has the multi-conglomerates align their brand image to be mostly consistent worldwide – so we don't find much of a difference on that level." But for more local markets? "Certainly, the difference would be more noticeable for the local brands, as each Asian market is different. Humour seems to be the main staple of films in Thailand but in Taiwan you'd find more emotional or sentimental films. We can create either."
As far as international work is concerned, *radius isn't short of projects, but the region could always do with more. "It would be great to see more international productions coming here," Lee observes. "We have the infrastructure and the support. I've been in the production industry for 25 years now and consider Taiwan to be one of the most film friendly places to shoot."
Indeed, when working with visiting collaborators, it's *radius' innate knowledge of the area, and ex-perience with international productions, which keeps the production running smoothly. "A lot of it is based on relations here," he notes, "so in some circumstances, when you need a quick fix like an 'on the spot and on the day' location change, then it really helps to know this place and the people like the back of your hand… to get out from under a sudden grave! Producers in Taiwan (I'm sure I'm not the only one) are able to find a quick fix on the spot, whereas if you were shooting elsewhere in Asia you may very well need to postpone your shoot."
"Another worthy detail," he adds, "is that we are able to assist feature film productions in attaining government grants of up to one million US dollars if part or all of the production is shot here in Tai-wan. Films such as Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi', Luc Besson's 'Lucy' and Martin Scorsese's 'Silence' (cur-rently shooting), and John Woo's 'The Crossing' have all received funding. We're currently in dis-cussions about a project with Roland Emmerich's team."
It's unsurprising that with such commercial success comes growth, and never is this more clear than with *radius' expansion plans – bringing their local expertise and industry know-how to Asia at large. "Currently we work and are known throughout the China region," he explains, "but we now find ourselves in the process of branching out in key markets within Asia as well. After a good test run in 2014, *radius Indonesia and *radius Thailand are close to officially launching."
With global prospects looming and large-scale projects being par-for-the-course, it's nice to see that, in essence, *radius are still simply a production company gratified by their output. "We're proud of every job," Lee explains, "because we know we put in an honest effort and cherish each oppor-tunity and experience to work with new crews from around the world."
"We feel it's a gift to share with the many people involved. Friendships are forged. Memories shared. Knowledge is passed on."
"This is the seed of our pride."