“Always standing from a character’s point of view,” Interview with Touch of the Light Director Chang Jung-chi
(Written/ Chun-mu Ho, Photograph/ Darwinnis Lo, Video/Hermia Lin)
Chang Jung-chi’s first feature-length film, Touch of The Light, receives recognition from Taipei Film Festival and Busan International Film Festival.
Beginning his career as a documentary director, Chang Jung-chi finished his first feature-length film, Touch of the Light, which was awarded the Audience Choice Award at Taipei Film Festival. The female lead of the film, Sandrine Pinna, was awarded the Best Actress for her performance in the film. Touch of the Light was also nominated in the New Currents competition section at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), the biggest film festival in Asia.
When asked about the inspiration of the film, Chang reminisced the first time he met the male lead of his film, Huang Yu-hsiang. Back in 2005, Chang met Huang, a blind pianist who was then a senior in high school and was awarded The Third President Educational Award ceremony where Chang worked as a cameraman to document the event. “Huang looked completely different when he was playing the piano,” said Chang, who observed Huang’s daily life and pointed out that what seems to be easy and common for ordinary people may feel completely the opposite for blind people. It is this precise idea that inspires his creation. He then finished a short documentary, Overture, and a half-documentary, half-narrative short film, The End of the Tunnel, which won him the Best Short Film Award at Taipei Film Festival in 2008.
From short film to feature-length drama, Chang said the birth of Touch of the Light owes a debt of gratitude to Jettone Films director Wong Kar-wai and executive producer Rachel Chen and Peng Qihua. Wong praised Chang’s creativity and cinematography in The End of the Tunnel and encouraged him to aim for a larger scope by incorporating more characters. Encouraged and inspired, Chang continued to work on the story and finally finished the script of Touch of the Light. The film finished after two-year long’s production and filming was finished last November. The film will officially hit the silver screen in September.
Touch of the Light owes a debt of gratitude to Jettone Films renowned director Wong Kar-wai, and executive producer Peng Qihua and Rachel Chen. (Still courtesy of iFilm).
How can a blind perform in a film? Casting Huang Yu-hsiang as his main lead was a tough decision. Chang even doubted himself, after all, it is not like filming a documentary like Overture, where camera only captures the one single moment of an event, nor is it like filming The End of the Tunnel, where two cameras were at work to instantly capture actor’s natural reaction. Touch of the Light requires one camera repetitively and precisely captures the actor’s nuanced performance. Huang’s difficulty might cause changes in filming. But after trying with other actors, Chang still couldn’t let go of Huang’s natural, authentic performance. Chang then decided to pair him with his old cast, Sandrine Pinna whom he worked with in The End of the Tunnel.
“Yu-hsiang can only see very little light. He can not see but he certainly develops more in his other senses such as sound…in some ways, he can be very precise,” said Chang. He said Huang’s sensitivity to touch and hearing are doubly developed. After one single practice, Huang can pinpoint the precise location where he has to stand. For example, there was one scene in the film where Huang had to walk across the crossroad with his cane. The staff was worried about his performance, but after assistant director familiarized him with the location, he was able to locate where he was at the shooting.
Veteran actress, Lieh Lee (left), and first-time actor Huang Yu-hsiang (middle) play mother and son in Touch of the Light, weaving a sincere and touching story. (Still courtesy of iFilm)
“What needs to be overcome most is the way he expresses his feelings, which is very different from what we normally understand,” said Chang. Perhaps it is because Yu-hsiang never had the experience of being observed, watched, and he couldn’t have known what and how people express their emotions. “We had to communicate with him a lot and explain what kind of emotion and what kind of performance can be accessible by the audience,” said Chang. But after all, Huang is not a professional actor, “he has to show his real feelings,” said Chang. When Huang performs in the scene with Lee Lieh, it is her role as the mother that can catch Huang’s expression, reaction and eventually, their performance together reveals more nuanced sincerity and emotion.
The director and the cinematographer designs several scenes in Touch of the Light where many techniques such as shooting against the light and hand-held camera were used. (Stills courtesy of iFilm)
Besides, Chang told us that the staff created such a natural filming environment, he felt like an observer at the shooting, it is as if he was making a documentary and he was just documenting what had happened. “There is no need for sensational scenes because everything was natural. The set was there, the characters were right there,” said Chang. For example, the use of hand-held camera, scenes filmed against the light…all these follow the characters naturally. “Perhaps it is this position, standing from a character’s point of view and interacting with them, that adds up a sense of reality,” said Chang.
Even though Chang’s former projects such as My Football Summer (Documentary, co-directed with Yang Li-chou), Hocky! Go (Documentary) and Touch of the Light, all incorporate elements of inspiration, passion and dream, Chang said he did not know if he wanted that feeling of inspiration in his films. Perhaps he had worked on so many inspirational stories that it only came as natural. “I don’t know if I am that passionate, but I do believe I am very stubborn. I believe that if you want to continue your career in the film industry, you have to be very persistent,” said Chang. He suggested students who are determined to go into the film industry to be persistent and learn “how to express through images, let the images speak for you.” "And that will give you an opportunity to find your way."
About the Director
Chang Jung-chi was born in Taipei in 1980. He graduated from the Graduate School of Applied Media Arts at Taiwan University of Arts. He began working with video shooting since college and his work draws from his life experience. His directorial work, My Football Summer, received Golden Horse Award for Best Documentary in 2006, and in 2008, his short narrative film, The End of the Tunnel, received Best Short Film Award at Taipei Film Festival.
2011 Touch of the Light
2010 MayDay 3DNA (Concert Director)
2009 Hocky Go!
2006 My Football Summer
2008 The End of the Tunnel