The thought did take a while to grow on me. I had a pretty standard upbringing - grew up in the suburbs near New York, studied actuarial science in Cornell. Working as an IT Manager in New York during 911 has got me redefining my priorities, so I decided to pursue my college dreams and went off to become an actor. Initially I began with producing martial arts films, which was way harder than I would have ever imagined. But everything has its reasons, and through this experience I got a better grasp of film editing, and even found myself rubbing shoulders with other film makers in the city.
It was family that pulled me out to Hong Kong. Although I am of a Chinese root and spoke a bit of Cantonese, I never lived in Hong Kong before, and I was totally intrigued by how the expats and the wealthy families here lived, which I would say is probably the blueprint of Supercapitalist. I worked with CNN as a producer here for several years, where I fine tuned my writing skills as well as gained my local media connections.
A year before the global financial crisis caught on, I was inspired by Matt Damon, who as an actor wrote Good Will Hunting, and began writing the script for Supercapitalist. I would say each step I took basically led to the other. If I never began pursuing my dreams as an actor, I would never be where I am now. So if there is one take home message from this interview, it would be to follow your heart and turn your dreams to reality.
How much of the script reflects the reality?
I hang out with bankers a lot, so I got to know their interests and lifestyles pretty well. I visited hedge funds back in New York, and enlisted Young Cho, a college friend who also happens to be an ex-Citibank trader, to help construct an accurate financial plot that is complicated enough even for bankers to follow. After all, it is those who work in the financial industry who is usually most interested in watching financial thrillers, so I can’t have a dead simple plot that everyone with a teeny bit of financial knowledge can see right through. There were lots of bankers who happily read my script and gave loads of constructive comments as to what was feasible and what was just right down silly.
Of course I did a lot of reading on my own, including books like the Ugly Americans: the True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys who raided the Asian Markets for Millions, the Hedge Hunters: Hedge Fund Masters on the Rewards, the Risk, and the Reckoning, as well as the Hedgehogging. Although I am not a trader myself, I do try my best and actively seeks to understand the situation. I don’t believe you have to be in the industry to be able to write about the industry. Everyone is capable of doing anything, as long as they put their minds to it.
News and mass media don’t always do the bankers justice. Honestly, the stuff they do is necessary for the society, and if any recent graduates want to join the banking industry, it should be because they are genuinely interested and passionate about the work, rather than simply for the money or the lifestyle. They must realise that, as a banker, their every action will have serious consequences. My favourite type of movie is actually super hero movies rather than financial ones like Wallstreet: Money Never Sleeps. I reckon having lots of money is like possessing super hero powers – you have to use it with good intentions, because with great power comes great responsibility.
What is it like working with the big names? Any juicy behind-the-scenes you would like to share?
It was certainly very exciting to be working with celebrated actors from Hong Kong and America, like Linus Roache, Michael Park, Richard Ng, and Kenneth Tsang. It honestly surprised me how, though they are globally renowned, they are still willing to read their roles and are genuinely down to earth people who are just really passionate about acting. We also had Quentin Wong, Eugene Kang, and Vietnamese star Kathy Uyen on our team, and I must say, our whole cast just came by as if godsend. Usually filmmakers would think of who they want and who they can get first before everything else, but in our case it was more like finding the person who fits the character in our script, and almost everyone we have on our cast are friends of friends whom we just met and, after casual chats, decided they fit the bill.
Unfortunately I don’t have much behind-the-scenes to share, because I always had to be in control of the set and dealing with nitty gritty issues that just keep popping up, so I reckon I had less fun than everybody else! Working with acting coach Jeanne Hartman helped me with a lot of things ahead of our filming schedule, especially on interpreting the other side of Connor Lee, Supercapitalist’s leading character, who is totally unlike me. I am more like Connor before his transformation, a bit innocent and not too attached to the luxuries in life, so acting that part out is practically like being myself. After his arrival in Hong Kong, however, required a significant amount of work. Being Asian, acting for me is almost like studying for a test - I work very, very hard to capture what we exactly wanted.
We are super excited to see Supercapitalist landing upon an American distribution deal and due to be released at cinemas around the country in the coming summer, so we will be busy touring the States then. After which, the movie will hold its premiere at Hong Kong and other Asian countries in the coming fall, so watch out for that!
The reason I wrote the script and produced it end-to-end was because I wanted a chance to act. I went through the risk of producing a movie because I desperately sought to act with well-respected actors, to learn from their experience and grow as an actor myself. Life for me is about taking the right risks and hopes to see the results exceeding my expectations, so after our Supercapitalist touring ends, I will continue to pursue my career in acting and look for my next break.
That would be the Yellow Door Kitchen in Central. Much like Supercapitalist, the outlook of this restaurant is rather modest as well, so people don’t usually have high expectations of it, but after their first try, they would find themselves pleasantly surprised by a great combo of good food and good value.
If you had a day on hand, where would you spend it?
I would be caught jogging on Bowen Road. It is there where I work most efficiently - that is the place where I get most of my thinking done, especially during my evening runs. Highly recommended for anyone with a writer’s block!