TaiwaneseAmerican.org’s Monica Chenglo chats with Chung Wei Huang, the director of Midnight Carnival, a new film project in the works. Her Kickstarter video caught our attention because of the sample film footage with a captivating storyline involving a Taiwanese girl who runs away from Taiwan and finds work at a carnival. Based off her personal life experience, the script reveals a flavor for what it’s like to chase after an “American Dream” from a youthful perspective. Above all, the film aims to discuss “gender, class, race, and cultural conflicts from a Taiwanese girl’s point of view.” Chung Wei shares the process of creating a film that is both balanced in intention and execution.
Monica: Thanks for being with us today! There is a lot that goes into creating a film. Where did the inspiration of the film Midnight Carnival spark from?
Chung Wei Huang: Of course! Among Taiwanese college students, it is a very popular option to spend the summer in America by applying for a special working visa, which in Taiwan is marketed as an experience of “American life”. I picked the carnival because the idea of a portable amusement park is beyond the understanding of someone from such a tiny island country. When I came to Philadelphia for graduate school in film, I mentioned this experience to some friends in Taiwan, and they had no idea such a thing like this existed. I guess this was the motivation for me to write this story.
M: Indeed, your motivation to share this story will reveal many unique perspectives. Are there any personal experiences that inspired certain themes for the film?
C: I actually had a very good time at the carnival. But I remembered the day when I went back home, an airport staff asked if I was visiting family. I said, “No, I worked at the carnival.” He laughed at me and said, “You are a carney?”. I asked what that meant, but he told me just to Google it when I got home. Now I understand how people have certain stereotypes of people working in the carnival. For me, it is very important in this film to represent how I see the carnival. I want to discuss gender, class, race, and cultural conflicts from a Taiwanese girl’s point of view.
M: Wow, thanks for sharing that. Can you give us a little taste of what Midnight Carnival is about?
C: It is about a teenage girl who wants something different to happen in her life, so she leaves Taiwan, finds work at the carnival in search of an adventure. However, she soon discovers that life is tougher than she imagined. Gradually, her view of the world is shaped by her interaction with other carnival workers who are not only from US but also from other countries.
M: That’s the beauty and power of film–the countless stories you can share. Yet, what are some difficulties of being a director of your own story?
C: It is really challenging actually. The first draft looks like it’s going to be a feature film. There are so many interesting people that I want to represent. I have to keep telling myself that this is not my diary, but a 15-minute short film. It took me a while to filter out a structure that works.
M: With all the time you have put in, I can just imagine how dynamic this film will be. Out of curiosity, what does it take to create this film you have envisioned? And how can people help?
C: There are two big challenges. My biggest decision is probably bringing the lead actress from Taiwan. I started casting in both the US and Taiwan even before I had the first draft completed. Our lead actress Tiffany is great! I decided to use her and then figure out the logistic and funding possibilities. The second challenge is the location. We sent out emails to all the carnivals around the area. And we only got one reply from a guy who was really friendly and willing to help. But, we didn’t want to interrupt his business too much, so that means it will be a lot of planning and shooting after-hours. This would add an extra cost for the production because of electricity and personnel to supervise us after carnival closing hours. It is complicated but the carnival adds so much to the cinematography. It is really worth it. So if people want to help us, please check out our Kickstarter page and consider giving us a donation. Any amount helps!
Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/55645668/midnight-carnival
M: We would love to help! For those interested, how can we connect with upcoming events?
C: We have a Facebook page. We will update the upcoming events there. The official website is on the way too!
M: Just for fun, do you have a favorite ride or carnival snack?
C: My favorite ride is always the roller-coaster. And my favorite food is funnel cake. When I worked at the carnival my friend managed to get a free plate of funnel cake from the food stand. That was the first time I saw a funnel cake, and I still associate it with my memory of working at the carnival.
M: Thank you for taking the time! Can’t wait to see this film.
C: You’re welcome! Hope to see you there, too!
Monica Chenglo is inspired to work towards cultivating a multicultural community through education and creative outlets. She will be attending San Jose State University for a Masters in Education with a Concentration in Speech Pathology this fall.