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Taiwanese Assistant Director Rules With Velvet Fist
First Assistant Director Cara Chiu from Taiwan wows the crew and cast of an indie film with her strong yet gentle approach to filmmaking.
Cara Chiu recently served as the First Assistant Director for the Indie film “The Pathetically Cheap Adventures of Xtra-Man,” shot in the fall of ’09 in Los Angeles. Her story is most interesting in itself, as she comes from Taiwan and not only had to grapple with a second language, but also with keeping the production running smoothly, which is sometimes very difficult, but essential with an extremely limited budget (the company isn't called Pathetically Cheap Adventures for nothing). Since the Script Person bowed out at the last minute, Cara also had to make notes so they wouldn’t miss a shooting angle or what is called “coverage”
Members of the cast and crew uniformly agreed that Cara ruled with a velvet fist. She had a gentle toughness that kept things rolling for those action-packed ten days of shooting. On most movie sets, the First AD wouldn’t think of holding a prop cloud as Xtra-Man and Lois Lame flew by; or picking up a stuffed animal and sitting in a large basket for the whole take. In one scene Cara even helped the lead actor change out of four costumes on a single take. (In the finished film, she can be seen scooting away from that particular scene.)
When contacted in Taiwan to make some comments for an article, she wrote: “It was a pathetically cheap adventure of American dream to me. Carl was the first director I worked with in Hollywood. He gave me courage moving to LA. I decided to go in two days. Dumped my stuff into my old car and got a GPS on the way to LA. It was all I had. Driving alone for 8 hours. I was afraid and hesitated, worry about not giving my good work. After meeting with Carl, I knew I had to help him. He's full of passion with filmmaking, although we just got little budget for this feature film. I saw his dream and his passion cheered every crew persistently carry through the work to the end. It was an important lesson to me.
Making film can be very difficult and unpredictable. As long as I have a dream in my heart, even ‘pathetically cheap’ can be come true. Now, I'm still pursuing my dream in Taiwan, another side of Hollywood. Looking forward to have another adventure with all of you again. ”
She had the hardest time pronouncing “Adrian,” the lead actor’s name. It always came out “Andree.” The cast/crew ribbed her about it. Adrian: “She kept us on schedule. She was on board to do anything, I'm sure she wasn't expecting to be in the movie as much as she was. She was like another main character the amount of time she was helping out on screen.”
Director of Photography, Skye Borgman, remarked that she called the production sound guy Evan – “EEvan.” And Borgman added “She might be in more scenes of the film than the director (she played the cat, the corn cob, multiple clouds, cape wiggler).”
On-set photographer Cathy Lafever comments: “I remember how welcome Cara made me feel during my first time on a film set. Her attitude was always positive and she was so willing to do anything to help the production, like duck walking over and over as a cloud, and allowing a photo of her face to be on that funny cardboard extra.“
Cara I-Chen Chiu clearly has had a velvet beginning to her film career. Perhaps there will be a bigger budget next time.
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Pathetically Cheap Adventures, LLC was formed by Mary Lewallen and Carl Darchuk to provide alternatives to movies that are simply old and recycled. Entertainment plain and silly is the wave of the future!