When Gideon Welles first arrived at Pinglin, a mountainous village outside of Taipei, in 2015, all he thought about was learning the art of tea-farming. The idea of turning the lush mountains into the birthplace of his first movie definitely had not crossed his mind.

However, when he returned with his friend Pratik Suketu and befriended local farmers at Dahuwei Village, Welles and Suketu decided to quit their respective jobs in 2016, start their company Black Dragon Movie Corp with two other business partners, and begin to shoot their first feature film in Pinglin. Their film At Road’s End tells a story about a young female photographer’s quest to save her village after discovering that a factory caused the spread of a mysterious sickness among villagers.

When asked about what made Pinglin the right place for At Road’s End, Welles attributed to both the enthusiastic support of the local community and the secludedness of the location.

“When we first told them about our idea to shoot a movie in the countryside, the people of Dahuwei Village immediately backed us,” said Welles. “And with only a lonely mountain road in and out, the village is secluded from the weekend motorists of Pinglin’s main street and holds a rustic charm that is hard to find elsewhere.”

With the generous support of the local community, Welles and Suketu gained access to farmlands as well as an old house, which was eventually turned into a movie set. Hoping to incorporate real-life incidents of gross negligence and corruption into their film, Welles and Suketu also wanted the story to have a connection to Taiwan. That was when their executive producer, Belinda Hsieh, brought up the notorious “RCA (Radio Corporation of America) incident” in Taoyuan County to them, where the corporation contaminated groundwater and caused countless local residents to be diagnosed with terminal cancer. After thorough research and several attempts, they blended this environmental disaster into their script.

“Choosing this particular story was key, because it worked well to tie up the film’s story and message which, while a universal theme, is also inherently Taiwanese,” said Welles. “We hope to start a conversation about corporate responsibility, the power of individual determination, and the world we want to live in.”

To Welles and Suketu, the passion and commitment of their cast are what made producing their first film in Taiwan so worthwhile. While shooting a film in a language and work culture different from what they’re used to has been new to both of them, timely assistance from their multicultural crew helped them get through the language barrier and other challenges.

“We were fortunate enough to find a cast and crew whose passion, ambition, and commitment went above and beyond,” said Welles. “I believe that is the unique opportunity of filmmaking in Taiwan, as there are stories to be found in every little nook and cranny, and you can always count on your team to face challenges head-on.”

Even though Welles and Suketu both went to film schools, they agreed that the experience of producing At Road’s End has taught them more than any of the classes that they have taken before since they had to deal with unexpected situations on their own throughout the production process. As they look to finish post-production and prepare for participating in film festivals in 2018, they also plan to continue explore ways to introduce stories in Taiwan to the world.

“We know there is an abundance of stories all over Taiwan,” said Welles. “So we want to celebrate the richness by pioneering a business model that can bring those stories to global audiences and benefit the film industry here.”

Ultimately, Welles and Suketu hope Black Dragon Movie Corp can become part of the evolving trend of film production that focuses on the exchange of different methods, values and narratives.

Want to help Welles, Suketu and their team to achieve their dream? Check out their crowdfunding campaign for At Road’s End on Indiegogo and show your support by backing them.

 

William Yang

William is a freelance writer and photographer based in Taiwan, with a passion for human rights and storytelling. He holds a Master of Journalism degree from Temple University, and has extensive experiences interning at global NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Mercy Corps.