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December, 9, 2016

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Back to basics

The combination of a Chinese director and the story of a betelnut girl may at first seem incongruous. By bringing this uniquely Taiwanese subculture into the spotlight, rising director Tony Xue (薛賢堅) hopes to create a universal connection with his audiences. Read on to get to know more about director Xue and his newly-released "Betelnut Girls" (櫥窗人生).

The China Post: Where did the idea for a plot centered on betelnut girls come from?

Tony Xue: I met some betelnut girls by chance and, after chatting with them, I found them quite different from how the general public or media usually perceives them. Each of them had their own story and were genuine and down-to-earth, so I wanted to tell a story based on this and also on how we are often blinded by stereotypes that we hold toward others or certain professions.

The China Post: Can you share a little about working with lead actress Peggy Tseng (曾珮瑜) and actor Paul Hsu (許騰介)? What sort of characteristics did you have in mind when casting for the roles of Jen (許麗珍) and Wei (林康偉)?

Tony Xue: While writing the script, I imagined Jen with both a tough personality and a tender heart, as she is faced with her own issues, making her seem more real to audiences. I saw Tseng portray Teresa Teng (鄧麗君) in one of the short films of "10+10" for the Golden Horse Film Festival one year and she came to mind again. For Hsu, I was watching some television entertainment shows for background research on Taiwan, and his image aligned with Wei as a mild, timid person, the kind that would be pushed around.

The China Post: It is often said that animals and children are the most challenging actors to deal with on set. Was this the case while filming with Hsu's dog Po-pi (破皮) and child star Adigu Chiu (邱辰恩)?

Tony Xue: I must say that Chiu is extremely gifted for someone his age. He has his own methods when it comes to acting. I asked him how he prepared himself for the teary scenes, and he said he would think about his grandpa and his dog that are both gone. As for Po-pi, we had to control him with food, and Shiba Inus tend to get curious easily. It might have taken some time to get him to focus, but the results were rewarding as well.

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