When I first moved home after three years abroad, I bought a red notebook at Target and took it with me to the first writing group meeting with my friend. Red was a bold color, for a bold new start. I had been chomping at the bit for those three years, and now that I was back in LA I was ready to charge ahead as a filmmaker.
And I did. My red notebook holds fragments of all the extraordinary projects I’ve been a part of in the past three years. Just fragments, mind, because I am terrible at documentation: a starstruck account of the time I heated up soup for Margot Robbie (what am I saying, she heated up her own soup; I just sheepishly offered it to her), “I think this offer is a Chris Nolan project?!?!” scribbled in an illegible scrawl for plausible deniability, a shot list for the first personal project I’d ever shot with a crew sprawled across three pages.
The other day, I finished the notebook and immediately flipped to the front to reread my first entry: a litmus test of change. When this book was crisp and empty, I had just come home from one grand adventure. And I had to laugh, because guess what had been circling my thoughts just as I’d turned the last page? Fantasies of another long stay abroad.
Like, say, a year in Taipei.
I took these photos two years ago on my first trip back to Taiwan in eight years. At the time, I didn’t have any real plans, just a strong urge to go. During those two weeks, I wandered around and took photos as I had done in so many European cities, wrangling privately with the fact that Taipei wasn’t showing up the way I wanted it to in my photos.
It wasn’t really showing up the way I’d imagined beyond the camera either.
“It was beautiful. Like one of those game shows – everyone from my childhood popped up one by one. And yet it doesn’t feel like home; it feels like a kind of ancestral land where I’m in love with a culture that doesn’t really exist. My Russia has gone.” – Regina Spektor
Taipei is a city that I know and don’t know, a city built on memories and hearsay, as though the architects had been playing a game of Telephone. Chinese Whispers, as they say.
I’m neither tourist nor native. My knowledge is selective: I know what to do when the gates of hell open and the ghosts come out for the summer, but not when the trash truck pulls up the street blaring its MIDI Für Elise anthem. Which kind of trash goes in which bag? We didn’t cover that in Chinese school. I speak Chinese fluently, but I can’t exactly do linguistic somersaults with it the way I can with English. For someone who relies so heavily on puns, it’s daunting to think I literally won’t have my wits about me. How will people like me if I don’t have my puns? 😭
But I’ll have my camera. My camera has always been my handshake, my antennae, my alchemical formula for turning the strange into the familiar. So I’ll be documenting my year with a series of video diaries. Wrangling publicly with the gap between the Taipei in my head and the one made of smog and concrete, the one where shopkeepers give you the stink eye for taking a pair of shoes a bit too far on a test run, the one where I could walk right past someone who’s known my dad since he was in diapers and be none the wiser.
From trips to the market as the city wakes, to the clicking of a gecko in the rafters, to the steam wafting off a soup dumpling, I want to capture it all.
And I want you to come along for the ride. It’s free, it’ll be weird and wonderful and strange, and someone’s gotta hear those unused puns. And really, you’re getting the better deal out of this. You get all the fun without the humidity or mosquitos. I’m the one walking around like a sumo wrestler to avoid thigh chafe.
Now boarding: Youtube & IGTV