Welcome a new Taiwanese youth themed film
Writer: Erny Suzira
Author-director Neal Wu and Hong Kong actress Cherry Ngan.
Plenty of popular Chinese teenage rom-com novels have been successfully adapted for the screen, and now the newly released Taiwanese romance drama, "At Café 6", joins the club.
The movie is dubbed by the media as part of the "Taiwanese Youth Trilogy" along with the two other huge Taiwanese hits, "You are the Apple of My Eye" and "Our Times", and it seems that the movie may also be on its way to becoming a big hit!
The teenage romance comedy was directed by best-selling author Neal Wu, also known as Hiyawu, based on his novel of the same name.
Starring a new generation of actors, Dong Zijian, Cherry Ngan, Po Hung-lin and Nini Ou-yang as main leads, the movie is about four high schoolers who struggle with their commitments toward love after going their separate ways since graduation.
Recently, director Neal Wu and his led star Cherry Ngan visited Malaysia to promote the movie and here's what they had to say.
The director and actress talk about "At Café 6" at Walnut Café & Bar.
Cinema Online: Neal, you have a lot of other famous novels, but why did you decide to adapt this one into a movie?
Neal: Because when I wrote the book in 2006, I already dreamt of one day adapting the book into either a movie or a TV series, which is why I have long prepared the work needed to make this dream a reality.
Another reason is because the story was voted by readers as the "Most Wanted Chinese Book-to-Movies Adaptation" in 2014, so I guess it was meant to be, and now the movie is finally out!
When you found out that you could adapt this book into a movie, what are the difficulties that you faced?
Neal: When I learned that I can adapt the book into a movie, I know that I had to make a lot of compromises because it is impossible to fit everything into a movie, so some parts of the novel had to be cut out or changed. So these are the common difficulties for a book-to-movie adaptation that one would face.
After directing the movie, how was it different from writing the book?
Neal: Writing the book requires only me – my own manpower because I basically did everything myself, but directing a movie requires help from other people like the cast and crew, as you need to discuss about the execution of certain scenes so that everything is perfect, because it is impossible for me to do everything by myself. Every single phase of the movie will require cooperation from all parties.
Cherry, when you received the script for the movie, did you feel that you had to star in this movie no matter what?
"At Café 6" is Neal Wu's directorial debut.
: Well, when I received the script the first thing that I would look for is what kind of character I would be playing. As long as she's not someone hateful, then I'm willing to do it.
So when I read the script, I realised that my character is exactly how I wanted her to be. But then, I also found out that throughout the film, the director will kind of change the personality of the character, so the outcome turns out to be slightly different.
I heard from the director that you gave a lot of input and suggestion into your character and script, but do you think this would have made one feel annoyed or uncomfortable especially since it's your first time working with them?
: I never thought about any of this, I guess it's because I have always been a straightforward person.
So far all of the other directors are able to accept me for who I am, thankfully, and they don't see me as someone annoying.
Neal, when you've given the cast a certain character to play with a certain appearance or personality, how do you feel when some of them decide to give it a little tweak?
Cherry Ngan is a Hong-Kong born actress.
: It's fine because I don't limit the character to have a certain set of personality traits. There's always an ambiguous space to allow the cast to interpret their role so that their acting can improve.
When working with Cherry, was there any moment where she overdid her character or any part of her performance which surprised you?
: There was this one scene where I needed Cherry to hold back her tears to the point that it will make the audience feel her pain. So I spent a lot of time discussing and explaining the part with Cherry so that she can deliver it properly, but I was wrong to do that. I thought that as long she takes out 30 percent of the sad emotion, then the scene would be perfect. But when I watched the scene on screen I regretted my action, and felt that I should've let her cry more because the impact would've been larger.
Since this is a Taiwanese movie, a lot of people are concerned about your accent since you're not Taiwanese. Did you feel pressured by this?
The discusses about certain scenes of the movie.
: At first, I did. But the director kept reminding us that as an actor, we should first focus on our acting and not bother with the accent so much. If there is any obvious mispronunciation, we can always alter it afterwards.
Although that's what the director said, deep down we're still worried about that because Dong Zijian and I have the most scenes in the movie, and he is from Beijing while I'm from Hong Kong, so we have to find that balance between our accent so that it doesn't sound so obvious, because our original accent with Taiwan Mandarin can be very different.
You and the other main cast of this movie are considered fairly new in this industry, so how is the relationship between all of you since you all are kind of around the same age? Were there any ice-breaking sessions during the film shoot?
: We are all very close to each other. I feel like among all of us, I'm probably the one who doesn't need to have any ice-breaking session in place since I've always been an extremely outgoing person, and I guess that's why I like acting in the first place, because you have to be friendly and sociable with other actors, only then you can work together.
Now that the movie has been released and the reception is quite good, would you consider directing more movies after this?
: I'm not sure. I guess I would want to wait a while longer and see the box office performance of it. And if everyone really likes it, maybe they can vote for my other books to be adapted into movies, then maybe I can continue direct movies or have other directors do it for me. We'll see!
"At Café 6" is now showing in cinemas.
Cinema Online, 17 July 2016