I get interesting gigs here in Taiwan, and since I already can tell this is going to be a series I’ve decided to go with the format “I Get Interesting Gigs” (Name of Gig in ellipses, in this case Follow Alana). I can already tell the little SEO / Readability widget is going to bitch about this. Fine. Every time I look at that damned thing, Henry Miller’s ghost moans louder.
But read on if you like. Or skip right down to the videos, if you’re more visually inclined.
A few months back I got an email through my day job at MyTaiwanTour from a production company here in Taiwan that does a TV program called Follow Alana.
The long and short of it was that they wanted me to act as on-camera tour guide to the host, a beautiful and charming young woman called Alana who’s made a name for herself here in Taiwan doing a travel program despite the fact that Alana, who is technically speaking Taiwanese, can neither speak nor understand Chinese.
There are sound medical reasons for Alana’s unique state of being, and clicking here will open up a new browser window for the story I did about her for Taiwan Scene Magazine (the aforementioned day job) that’ll explain everything.
Suffice to say, she’s an interesting person.
I was initially too busy to do take the gig, so there wound up being a lot of back and forth. One of the things Alana’s production company was interested in using me for (besides I assume my good looks) was my expertise in Taiwan as a writer and my experience cycling around the island. There was some back and forth through email. I threw out a few ideas, they through out a few ideas, and in the end they decided me that they wanted to use me for their show in which Alana goes to Hsinchu. This turned out to kind of make sense, because while Hsinchu isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when I think of Bicycling in Taiwan, It was one of the first places in Taiwan where I lived for any length of time, so even though this was way back in the 1990’s, I can make the claim to know the place.
So after some more back and forth and trying to align schedules, we set a date to head down to Hsinchu to film the show for a Saturday in March. The day turned out to be unusually chilly for spring in Taiwan, chilly enough to warrant both of us dressing for the weather. Alana wearing a puffy sort of ski jacket, and me being the apparently excellent boyfriend I am, wearing my girlfriend’s hand-knit woolen pink hat with pigtail tassels, along with a long-sleeve black shirt and purple sweatshirt vest.
As we got closer to Hsinchu, the weather turned uglier, and by the time we arrived there a cold rain was falling. The director made the call to film the segment out of sequence.
Whereas in the episode we ride around exploring coastal Hsinchu before stopping off after lunch at a factory making traditional rice noodles for an impromptu cooking lesson, in reality we did the noodle part first.
A good time was had by all, everything came out fine, and I learned that making rice noodles from scratch was way more complicated an endeavor than you might imagine.
But when we finished the noodle segment, even though it was still early afternoon, the weather was still pretty foul. Filming the cycling sequence just wasn’t going to happen that day. The production team asked me if I was willing to come back to do it later in the week, and being already committed, I said sure.
A few days later I got a text saying that the shoot had been rescheduled for Wednesday, and that it was vitally important that I wear exactly the same clothing as I’d worn on Saturday.
This is where it gets interesting, because on Wednesday morning I left my Taipei apartment wearing the same sweatshirt and ski hat combination under full tropical sunshine at like 7:30 AM. By the time we got to Hsinchu, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty degrees Fahrenheit.
I met up with Alana on the coast, where we would start off by picking up a few bicycles for basically a half-day of cycling along the ocean. It was definitely no longer puffy ski-type jacket and woolen hat weather, yet to maintain appearances, we had no choice but to shoot all of our scenes that day wearing the same clothes we’d worn inside the noodle factory.
We wound up cycling under the hot sun in ski wear into the early afternoon, when we switched to kite flying. (I’d brought my own kite, about which I am extremely proud.)
Shooting a travel segment isn’t exactly what you might imagine; it isn’t like we were just doing our own thing while being filmed. There was a whole lot of “Ride up that hill again, but this time tell Alana about the Mangroves” and “Let’s try riding that road again, only this time you need to be on Alana’s right side so we get a better shot.“
For Alana (a stone-cold professional) it was just another day at the office. For me, not so much. Every time we stopped to get new directions, I took off the knit hat and unzipped the sweatshirt. The production crew were pretty cool about it.
A few days ago I got two files from the production company, the first a promo that’s currently running on Taiwan TV for the segment:
And the second, a four-minute clip they cut together for me:
Finally, a few months later, and *voila* ~ the full episode.
(For the record, I have no idea where they got the idea that my nickname was “Windchaser” – though the kite is my own.)