Have been promoting my film The Drummer for the last two weeks in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Tonight (Monday) is the night of the premiere. Spent last week in Taiwan doing interviews day in day out.
My mother has been out with me traveling and promoting the film.
Today, Jaycee Chan, Sinje Lee and U Theatre did a promotional event at Metro City Plaza in Hong Kong. Because of the Typhoon in Taiwan which is where they were coming from, they were delayed for 9 hours. When they got to the venue, they were two hours late but still, they performed in their unbreakable and utterly dignified manner in front of the crowd. It was amazing to see and to have the Hong Kong audience to see them.
Cellist Trey Lee performed our theme music, The Drummer Sonata, in front of the huge crowd. It was mesmerizing to watch and listen to..
The story of The Drummer travels from Hong Kong to Taiwan, then back to Hong Kong. To make principal photography more cost effective though, we filmed all the scenes in Taiwan first, then came back to Hong Kong to film the rest.
We enjoyed relatively good weather in Taitung, Taiwan for the month and half we were there. Only occasional showers in the afternoons interrupted our work, which allowed the actors to practice drumming. We were lucky because as soon as we left Taiwan, two devastating typhoons hit Taitung. I’m sure our sets were destroyed before we had a chance to strike them.
When we moved back to Hong Kong, our first day of shooting was in the New Territories out on a green field. We flew all the U Theatre drummers to Hong Kong for that day, because that was the only day when all the actors needed for those scenes were available.
The day started with a “signal 3” typhoon, meaning a typhoon (the equivalent of a hurricane in the Pacific Ocean) was approaching but hadn’t reached the full blown “signal 8” yet. We went out to the location worried that we would be rained out and indeed we did! We had to stop every ten minutes or so to wait for the rain to pass. Sometimes, it just wouldn’t stop. The actors were all drenched and freezing cold because of the strong winds. Some took cover in our makeshift tents, some in the trucks.
I had to change the shots right on the spot because when I planned the shot list I did not factor in a severe storm! This was actually the ideal ambience for the scenes but to keep the costs down I specifically did not include an inclement weather.
The combination of the gusty winds and rain made it difficult to stage shots simply because the actors and crew could not hear me when the shots were set up, and then I couldn’t hear the actors’ dialogue in my headphones when the scenes were being filmed.
The typhoon strengthened as the day went on. Powerful winds and darker, more luminous clouds headed our way by mid afternoon. We knew that the extreme weather condition would add to the ambience of the scene and only hoped that the audio would be clear enough to use later.
The official typhoon level remained at 3 but in actuality it was a “signal 8” which would’ve meant that all schools would be closed and businesses were obliged to let their employees go home. Later on in the news we saw that some people were blown off their feet on the streets, and when we walked by Peking Road on our way to dinner with U Theatre, we had to meander around a street full of broken glass – apparently a big concrete block had flown across and smashed through the huge display window at Louis Vuitton.
The Hong Kong Observatory took a lot of heat for not hoisting the number 8 signal. Luckily for us that they didn’t, because if they had, we would’ve been obliged to shut the filming down.
We only had one day for all the actors to be together for that one scene, and were fortunate to have been able to finish the shoot. Like many other things that happened during the shoot, it became a blessing because we ended up spectacular images which added to the atmosphere of the scene. It would’ve cost a fortune to stage something like that ourselves. In the end, all seventy umbrellas we had were blown to pieces, and despite everyone being soaked in the freezing rain, nobody got sick except one person – a production intern!