Monday, April 9, 2012

Taiwan Oyster Director and Producer to Attend Opening

Mark Jarrett, director of The Taiwan Oyster
Mark and Mitchell Jarrett, director and producer of The Taiwan Oyster, will arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday night in advance of the film's Asian premier as the Opening Film of the 2012 Urban Nomad Film Fest on Thursday (4/12). If anyone is wondering if there is a back story connecting The Taiwan Oyster and Urban Nomad, there most certainly is. Urban Nomad founders Sean Scanlan and Dave Frazier knew Oyster director Mark Jarrett when he lived in Taichung between 1999 and 2001. We remember Mark driving a shuttle bus to the first ever rave in Kenting, a Taiwanese pickup truck - or was it a van? - that departed irregularly from Spring Scream, back when that music festival was a the Liufu Ranch at the foot of the big knife-shaped mountain that overlooks the Kenting seaside. It may not have been the best conceived of all plans, and you could say Mark's new movie, The Taiwan Oyster, is a reflection of those kinds of manic quests that he experienced while on this island. We certainly recognized it as such.

The three leads from The Taiwan Oyster
In the pre-Nomad days, Frazier and Scanlan hooked up with Mark in Taichung for a 24-hour playwriting project, in which three or four groups wrote, rehearsed and put on short plays within the span of a single day. We were also vaguely aware that Mark was doing something he called the Taiwan Oyster, a literary magazine perhaps, or a creative film group. We weren't really sure. At the first Urban Nomad in 2002, we showed a couple of short films produced under the "Taiwan Oyster" heading.
Then when Mark produced a full length feature of that name a decade later, it just felt right. For us, the film captures a sense of the wild, unrestrained and rootless lives of hard partying English teachers who lived in the city of Taichung ten or fifteen years ago. But we also think a lot of others, ranging from old Taiwan hands to general Taiwanese audiences, will relate to this film and find something of their own lives in it. We're truly delighted to debut it in Taiwan (and for that matter Asia). 

But enough of what we think. Here's Mark Jarrett's director's statement. Get it straight from the horses mouth:

Since experiencing a 7.8 magnitude earthquake there early in the morning on September 21st, 1999, Taiwan has been tattooed on my psyche. For years it's served as my band camp, boot camp, and romantic Neverland.  
I thought about setting a script on the island for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2007, as I began reading As I Lay Dying while attending my elder brother's wedding in Piedras Negras, Mexico, that I actually set about writing it. Moved by the themes, humor and language in the Faulkner novel, I started incubating a loose idea about a road film set in Taiwan that touched on similar ideas of land, blood, place, and disappointment.  
I contacted writing partner Jordan Heimer and we got to work on outlining a story. In the early stages, we modeled the character arcs on those of Henry IV parts I and II (in particular, Falstaff and Prince Hal). However, as our characters Simon and Darin took form (during a week's sabbatical in Culebra, Puerto Rico, in which we angered our then girlfriends by our constant character debates, overall drunkenness, and gratuitous backgammon play), we moved further and further away from the Shakespearian seed.  
My brother Mitch (who also spent time in Taiwan) joined our writing team shortly after we returned from Puerto Rico. Mitch and I had lost two first cousins (both under the age of 25) in the span of a year, so death was close and present in both of our lives at the time. As a result, we knew we wanted ruminations on untimely death to play a central, driving theme in the story. 
The final polishes on the script came after Mitchell and I visited Taiwan during the Spring of 2010 for a location scout. He and I rented a small blue truck and drove around the island, scouting locations and using the truck's covered bed as a “tent.” Besieged by visits from angry ghosts (that must have attached to us during our morgue scouts), but welcomed by everyone else we came across, our last observations were made and put to paper.  
Micro(scopic) budget productions are nothing new, given the recent advances in technology. This past fall, upon hearing about our filmmaking process in Taiwan, a friend commented over soup dumplings, "So… what you guys are doing is like the Punk Rock version of filmmaking." His statement, I feel, is apropos not just to our project, but to what's happening across the ultra-low budget, true indie world. 
This type of filmmaking requires hard living and hard working; roots and raw story telling; dedication and stout wills. We didn't sacrifice scope for money. We didn't limit ourselves to a one location scenario. Instead, we took a band of talented, raw, free-spirited individuals on the road and pounded out a rudely, magical collaboration.  
A day before principal photography began, while standing on the rooftop finishing warm beers with the sun starting to show in the sky over a yellow hazed Taipei, Billy, our lead actor, told me that all we needed were 1,000 miracles . . . and we might have a chance at making a decent movie. The day after we finished shooting – dirty, road weary, and once again polishing off a bottle of green label Taiwan Beer on the roof - we joked that all we needed now were 999 more miracles.  
The project has been blessed during its entire journey. Blessed by crew, actors, musicians, family, friends, and supporters. We're looking forward to sharing it with people. We feel it’s a touching little picture that manages to capture a small slice of the Taiwan ex-pat experience and breathe realistic life, heart, and spirit into it. We've got a lot of skin, blood and love in this thing. Everyone who had anything to do with it does. The woes, wounds, and joys of Punk Rock filmmaking I guess...

- Mark Jarrett, February 2012