Trista di Genova
The China Post
Damon Chang, 28, has produced three feature films including Gary Busey triller “Halletsville,” “Meet the Bulldogs” (MTV) and was co-producer of the 2005 Mrs. America Pageant. He is currently in Taiwan directing a film about a prodigal “Taiwan daughter.”
With the working title “Concubine’s Son and His Long-lost Daughter,” it’s a true story, a docudrama about a Taiwanese Hollywood actress who grew up in America and returns to Asia to explore her mysterious past.
Camille, with her “new” family in Shanghai.
“It’s amazing the way the documentary worked out — her dad is so interesting. And it turns out her grandma is the second wife of a famous Taiwanese businessman,” said Chang in an interview with The China Post, although the family name is withheld.
The story is about Camille Chen, who was raised in the U.S. but born in Taiwan.
“All she knew about her past is at the age of two, her mom took her to the U.S., to Houston, Texas. Her mother has never returned to Taiwan nor spoken to her father since,” Chang explains.
As Chen grew older, she starred in commercials until she started getting larger roles, such as “Studio 60,” a drama by Aaron Sorkin (of “West Wing” fame) starring Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet, where she was cast as one of the show’s regulars. Currently, she is starring in “Meteor” with Christopher Lloyd, Jason Alexander and Ernie Hudson.
“I’ve known [Chen] for a few years now, we’re almost like brother and sister,” Chang says of the actress. “We met after college at Wake Forest University, when I was producing in Austin, Texas. We became friends, then roommates in Hollywood.”
In the documentary, Camille tells of being seven and waking up to cook her breakfast for her mom and sending her off to the flower shop. Then she would go to school with the housekey tied around her neck, come home, lock the door while waiting for dinner from the local Chinese take-out.
“Her mother was pretty tough, too, working as hard as she could for her young daughter and family. When they were in Houston, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and drove herself to and from her own chemotherapy sessions,” describes Chang.
All the while, in Taiwan, Camille’s father (who named himself Ringo) embarked on an interesting “self-journey” of his own, Chang said. After their divorce, Ringo (the third son of the second wife) ran away from his wealthy father and became a sailor on an oil rig from Taiwan to Iraq. During five years on the boat, he met, wed, and divorced his second wife. Back in Taiwan five years later, he met, wed, and divorced his third and fourth wives, having only a son with the third. Then, running again, Ringo went to Shanghai where he met and is now married to his fifth wife, with whom heís had another son. He is also currently raising his first son (from the third wife) with their family.
In the U.S., Camille had no knowledge of any of this. For 27 years, she was just raised “American.”
“When I asked about [Camille’s] father, she would say, “I have no idea where he is.” But imagine the emotional issues to go through. Growing up, she was always a mother to her friends, looking out for them and taking care of them. In L.A., she would even cook food for the homeless during the holiday. But anytime someone would ask her about herself, she’d get so nervous and closed. It took her three years of therapy to just realize that she has male/daddy issues. She always dated white guys, and had two, now three serious boyfriends. As soon as they got to the point of buying a ring, she fled.”
“Super-talented, super-confused, and by mere coincidence is about to come back to Taiwan on her own to meet the entire side of her dad’s family,” Chang remarked. “Super-unready. That’s what our documentary is about.”
In a random meeting, Ringo has dinner with one of Camille’s uncles (on first wife’s side), his daughter and her American/Taiwanese boyfriend. Over drinks, Ringo is chatting with the boyfriend, also from Houston, and mentions in passing he has a daughter in Houston whom he hasn’t seen in 25 years.
“The boyfriend boldly states he knows every Asian girl in Houston School District. And since Camille is already well-known at this point, it’s easy to connect the dots,” Chang said.
After that, the boyfriend and Camille’s cousin promise to find Camille on their upcoming trip to he U.S. and put her in touch with her long-lost family in Taiwan.
“You gotta realize the shock when Camille finds out about her dad’s side. This documentary really explores her father, who is an exceptional story himself, and the bond between father and daughter. Incredibly charming, smart, intelligent, he sang in the military band, and is just as emotionally troubled as his daughter. Camille took one look at him and said, ‘Now, I know where I’m from.’ But it wasn’t until we sat down and interviewed him, in front of Camille, did we learn on camera, that he was a sailor and had five wives. This is obviously a psychological lineage down from his own father, who took two wives.”
The documentary is funded by Chang, and now in editing/post-production. Heís looking for bridge funding and a top-notch editor and animator for the final edit, to complete the film by year’s end to submit to festivals and distribute internationally.
Chang is confident the project will be a great success. “This documentary is intended for the Asian audience, but its appeal is wide, because the story’s so universal; it links lost families, Asian and ABC culture, the entertainment world where we interviewed James Mao and the producer of popular Asian Travel show “Fun Taiwan” (hosted by Janet Hsieh) with Camille; and of course, the emotional journey of a long-lost daughter finding her father,” he said.
Along with the documentary, Chang’s in Taiwan setting up e-learning sites for learning English and Chinese, teacherjames.com, and launching teacherjameschi.com. His email: firstname.lastname@example.org.