出入虛實的大夢想家

徐嘉凱的「沉浸式娛樂」世界
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2020 / 1月

文‧蘇俐穎 圖‧SELF PICK


28歲的徐嘉凱始終很忙。

一頭往後梳的紳士髮型,鼻樑上一副徐志摩風格的圓框眼睛,不像同輩的人還在人生道路上迷惘,超齡的他,腦子總是轉得飛快,不論電影、哲學、社會,都自有一番見地。

15歲立志成為電影導演,為了圓夢,他的每一階段都步步為營。18歲進入台藝大廣電系就讀,23歲創業成立製片公司SELF PICK,拍攝網路短劇《Mr. Bartender》、《私室》,累積超過百萬點擊率。

2019年,更是意義非凡的一年。他的首部院線片,同時也是台灣第一部以區塊鏈作為主題的商戰電影《聖人大盜》,在十月正式上映,他也因此入圍第56屆金馬獎最佳新導演,耕耘多年,終於受到專業肯定。


 

小有名氣的他,回顧追夢過程,走來磕磕碰碰。

他心目中的終極藍圖,是打造出猶如迪士尼、環球樂園那樣,具有產業規模,能夠虛實整合,訴諸五感體驗的「沉浸式娛樂」世界。

剛創業時,曾向文化部申請補助,評審委員認為「夢想太大」,被打回票。

不屈不撓的他,先嘗試拍攝網劇《Mr. Bar­tender》,過程中曾向群眾募資,仍以失敗告終。

他不氣餒,先接了其他案子賺錢,再投入資金,不僅完成了作品,片場還被留下,當成酒吧持續經營至今。

「夢想這條路,我跪著走了好久,好不容易,卻才走到這裡。」這是為《聖人大盜》電影發起群眾募資時,徐嘉凱的自述。

雖然電影評價兩極,燒了5,000萬的拍片資金,台北的戲院卻只上映10天,票房慘澹。

但他敢夢、敢想、言而有信的態度,卻打動了許多人。一群熱情的年輕網友,自主發起「百刷」(觀賞百次)的挑戰,應援導演的夢想。

雖是不完美的商業片,卻點燃了每個人心中的一點什麼。

科技園區長大的孩子

徐嘉凱不像傳統的電影人。

他是文人魂、科技骨。雖然年輕,卻不像典型的「厭世代」,既擁有入世的關懷,又嫻熟於科技的技術,他借電影敘事的殼,從角色的口,吐露自己的心聲。

他也兼具感性的心與理性的腦袋,想說一個勇敢逐夢的故事,得先經過邏輯檢驗,沙盤推演,確認可行,才筆直推進。

會成為現在的樣子,實在不令人意外,在新竹科學園區長大的他,爸爸在工研院上班,媽媽在竹科管理局擔任管理職。尋常百姓人家,茶餘飯後聊的不外乎日常、時事,「在我們家,聊的都是晶圓廠、技術轉移、科技趨勢。」徐嘉凱回憶。

也因此,讓他自然而然地注意到,從美國矽谷興起的「零元創業」,還有中國的新媒體浪潮。「那時,我就覺得也許可以在台灣做一樣的事,未來有機會,可以因此拍一輩子的電影。」徐嘉凱說。

雖沒像自己的哥哥那樣,一路追求頂尖成績,拿獎學金出國,進入一流的科技廠工作,但科技始終與他相依相存。

我心有所愛,不忍世界傾敗

看過《聖人大盜》的人,應該都會對電影裡,針對資本主義、經濟體系、權力遊戲等議題,尖銳的提問與辯詰,留下鮮明的印象。

像極了羅智成的詩句:「我心有所愛╱不忍世界傾敗」,這是少年老成、憂國憂民的徐嘉凱,借影中人的自問自答。

他說,他太愛台灣,過去有過幾次可以赴海外發展的大好機會,但不知怎地,他始終離不開。因為愛,他留了下來,也因為愛,才對台灣有所期待。

「但這份愛與離不開,到最後難免有失望。所以才大聲疾呼。」他說。

他又說,按照最原始的劇本,台詞還要更劍拔弩張,是經過兩位監製的修潤,才收斂了起來,「如果按照那樣去拍攝,說不定我就會冠上『憤青』的頭銜。」他開玩笑地說。

區塊鏈獻策,台灣首部商戰電影

徐嘉凱與他創造出來的電影主角尹子翔的歷程,若合符節。

年紀輕輕的創業家,面對不近完美的世界,想用次世代的虛擬貨幣,翻轉僵固的體制,創造出去中心化的新世界。

才落幕不久的金馬獎,獲頒最佳劇情影片的《陽光普照》,導演鍾孟宏的得獎致詞,說進了徐嘉凱的心,「每個人在拍電影的過程中,都遇到了非常非常多的苦難,我相信我吃的苦絕對沒有在下吃得多。但台灣就是這個樣子,沒有人拿刀子、拿著槍抵著你的頭、壓著你的脖子說要拍電影,這是我們喜歡做的工作。」

為了拍電影,絕大多數的台灣電影人,只有一條路可走。先向政府爭取為數不多的輔導金,有了這筆資金作為後盾,再以此吸引到其他投資人。因為錢不會太多,只好拍藝術片,加上藝術片能拿獎,才好作政府的績效。

「但沒有商業,也沒有活水,這要怎麼活下去?」雖然不像劇中的尹子翔,是野心勃勃的新創家,但他也想改變矢志一輩子投入的電影產業。

為此,籌拍《聖人大盜》的期間,他首開先例,結合區塊鏈技術,發行加密貨幣SELF(自元幣),並且用這套貨幣對外募資。

這樣一來,既可以吸引到不同類型的投資人,同時加深了觀眾與電影的互動,創造出更多行銷空間,產業也才有了改變的機會。

因此,《聖人大盜》不僅成了台灣電影史上第一部區塊鏈主題的電影,也是第一部實際運用區塊鏈作募資的電影,就猶如劇情的現實衍生。

至於,為什麼是區塊鏈?「區塊鏈是一種具有人文精神的科技統整技術,結合了密碼學、網路、邏輯,不算是一種新科技的發明。」徐嘉凱說明。

因為他預見了未來世界的金融體系,現實與虛擬將顛倒翻轉。「在過去,只有現實世界的蒙娜麗莎有價值,網路上的蒙娜麗莎沒有價值;在未來,會變成網路上的東西才值錢,現實的東西不值錢。」他這樣想。

尤其當2020年以後,5G時代來臨,行動支付系統不再需要中介的支付商,在這個不可逆的過程中,「錢會變不見,區塊鏈扮演一個重要的角色,它是結算的機制,也是網路驗證的方式。」

經過層層推敲,區塊鏈是最可行的解答,也成為通往遠大夢想,最可行的方式。

歡迎來到,共感體驗的世界!

採訪的這一日,我們相約在台北瑞安街上的SELF OASIS(綠洲)。

這間酒吧,也是徐嘉凱的物業之一。如今的他,名下已擁有三間公司、兩家酒吧。

但這不只是為了成就他的野心,更是為了兌現與影迷的諾言。

踏入酒吧,明眼人一下子就可以發現,在角落一隅,造型肖似「S」的大型裝置藝術,正是在《聖人大盜》片中,屢次登場的重要道具。

不僅這裡,在他的另一間酒吧SELF Bar(私室),一整面眼熟的酒牆,是電影中尹子翔(曹晏豪)與徐菁(賴雅妍)多次上演對手戲的重要場景。

打從一開始,就不打算開「一片公司」的徐嘉凱,把每一部作品、每一間公司、每一家店,都當成放入宏大藍圖裡的一片片拼圖。

在傳統的產業模式,片子拍完就拍完,公司隨之解散,事後頂多賣賣授權,沒有後續,「如果當時《海角七號》有規劃好,片場留下來,可以把場景變成音樂祭的舞台。」徐嘉凱舉例,「只要搭配好產業方向、策略與群眾脈絡,那很多東西,都可以有延續性。」

說穿了這件事一點兒也不新鮮,迪士尼、環球影城都在做類似的事。先產出原創性的影視作品,再來有涵蓋食衣住行育樂、五感體驗的空間場域,還有周邊商品,從線上到線下,彼此互為所用,帶入現金流,加上房地產與相關物業的投資,形成完整的產業生態系──只是在台灣,從來沒有人做過。

雖然無法像財力雄厚的大集團,一次到位,但善用網際網路、加密貨幣,就擁有打開未來之門的鑰匙。

用區塊鏈做群眾募資,這件事並不複雜,「簡單來說,就是我寫了一份合約,放在鏈上,叫作『我想跟大家一起共創一個市值一億美金的沉浸式娛樂生態系。』」徐嘉凱說。

由他名下公司發行SELF,藉由募資,吸引認同理念的人購買。他負責兌現合約內容,一步步把產業做起來,想辦法從票房、場景、版權,創造出未來市值超過一億美金的產業生態系。

這是一環扣著一環的。依徐嘉凱的想像,源頭的故事內容,將依拍片進度,一點一點做深、做大,《聖人大盜》只是三部曲的首部,它既可以獨立觀賞,又可以與其他作品互相呼應;至於分散在各地的片場,轉換成商業用途,觀眾前往消費,就像在遊歷拆解版的都市影城。

已有太多人對徐嘉凱說過,他的夢想太大、太難,他坦言有壓力,卻不曾想過後退。

「如果覺得是對的、可行的,那就去做!不然,活著要幹嘛?」「如果人活著,註定會死,你要等死,還是要用力的活著?」他鏗鏘有力地反問。

就像在《聖人大盜》中引用的文字,雖是舉步維艱,卻義無反顧:

「人生來是為行動的,就像火總向上騰,石頭總是下落。對人來說,一無行動,也就等於他並不存在。」──伏爾泰

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EN

Straddling Fiction and Reality

Jack Hsu’s Immersive Entertainment

Lynn Su /photos courtesy of SELF PICK /tr. by Scott Williams

Jack Hsu is always busy.

Still just 28 years old, with hair combed back on top and cut short on the sides, a pair of round, Hsu-Chih-mo-style glasses on his nose, he doesn’t carry himself in the tentative way of so many people of his age. He has a quick mind, a well-developed perspective on film, philo­sophy, and society, and a manner that suggests a maturity beyond his years.

Hsu resolved to become a film director at age 15, and immediately began working method­ically towards that end. He enrolled in the Department of Radio and Television at National Taiwan University of Arts at 18, and founded his own production company at 23. That company, SELF PICK, has since generated more than a million views for its online dramas Mr. Bartender and The Bar.

Last year was especially significant for Hsu in that it marked the release of his first feature film, The Last Thieves. The movie also happened to be Taiwan’s first to take corporate warfare involving blockchain technology as its subject. Released in October 2019, the film earned Hsu the professional recognition that he had been working towards, including a Best New Director nomination from the 56th Golden Horse Awards.


 

Having achieved some degree of renown, Hsu talks to us about his dream and the bumpy road he has been treading to bring it to fruition.

He says his ultimate goal is to create an “immersive entertainment” world on the scale of Disney or Uni­versal Studios, one that combines the real and the fictional into a complete sensory experience.

But when he first started his company and applied for a Ministry of Culture grant, his application was rejected for pursuing “too big a dream.”

Still committed to his goal, he attempted to film the web drama Mr. Bartender using what turned out to be a failed effort at crowdfunding.

Undeterred, he completed Mr. Bartender using money he made from other projects. Following the end of filming, he also chose to retain the set, which he continues to operate as a real-world bar.

“I’ve been following the path of my dream for a long time,” wrote Hsu in the introduction to his crowd­funding campaign for The Last Thieves. Getting here hasn’t been easy.”

The NT$50 million film divided critics, and sold few tickets during its short ten-day run in Taipei theaters.

But Hsu’s dream, daring and passion moved many people. A group of enthusiastic young netizens even started a “hundred watch-throughs” challenge to show their support for the director’s vision.

Though not a commercial success, the film has sparked a fire in many viewers’ hearts.

An indestructible love

People who have seen The Last Thieves know that the film interrogates issues surrounding capitalism, economic systems and power games.

Hsu, who cares deeply about his country and its people, speaks through his characters in a way that recalls a line from a Luo Chi-cheng poem: “I couldn’t bear to let the world defeat / The love in my heart.”

Hsu says he loves Taiwan and can’t bring himself to leave in spite of great opportunities to pursue his career abroad. His love keeps him here, while also creating expecta­tions of Taiwan.

“Ultimately, this love and this inability to leave have given rise to disappointment. That’s why I’m trying to get people’s attention.”

He adds that the dialogue in the original script was even more biting, but says that the two executive produ­cers dialed it back during their edits. “If we’d shot it as it was originally written, I may well have been labeled an ‘angry youth,’” jokes Hsu.

Taiwan’s first “business war” movie

Hsu and his film’s protagonist, Yin Tzu-hsiang, are birds of a feather.

Yin is a young entrepreneur facing an imperfect world. He wants to use a second-generation virtual currency to overturn an inflexible system and create a decentralized world.

Most of Taiwan’s filmmakers follow a well-worn path to getting their films made: they apply to the government for one of its few grants, and then, with this money in hand, seek out other investors. Their relative lack of funding limits their movie-making to art-house fare, a choice that is reinforced by the fact that art-house movies win awards, which makes the government look good.

“But how can the industry survive without business and capital flows?” Though Hsu isn’t quite as ambitious as his protagonist, he does want to transform the Taiwanese film industry in which he has vowed to spend his career.

With that in mind, he tried something new while working on the preproduction for The Last Thieves: issuing a crypto­currency called SELF and using it to raise funds for the film.

The approach enabled the filmmakers to attract a different kind of investor, while also deepening the connection between the film and its audience, opening up new marketing opportunities, and providing the film industry with a chance to change.

The initiative meant that The Last Thieves was not only the first Taiwanese movie to take blockchain technology as its subject, but also the first to actually use the tech for fundraising. It was as if the film’s script shaped reality.

A world of shared experiences

Our interview with Hsu takes place at SELF Oasis, a bar on Taipei’s Rui’an Street.

It is just one of Hsu’s ventures, which include three companies and two bars.

But his goal with the bar isn’t simply the achievement of his ambitions. It’s also about fulfilling a promise to film lovers.

Sharp-eyed fans of The Last Thieves will immediately spot the S-shaped artwork in a corner of the bar: it was an important prop in the movie.

SELF, Hsu’s other bar, will also be familiar to fans of the film: protagonists Yin Tzu-hsiang (Yen Tsao) and Hsu Ching (Megan Lai) performed many of their scenes together inside its walls.

Hsu never intended to start up companies aimed at making a single movie. His every work, company and bar fits into a larger blueprint.

Under the industry’s usual business model, once a company finishes making a film, it is dissolved. At most, the company continues to manage the film’s rights. “If the producers of Cape No. 7 had planned for it, they could have used the film’s sets for music festivals after the ­movie’s theatrical run. If you properly establish the [production] company’s direction, strategy and target audience, you can keep many things running after the film is complete.”

It’s not like this is a new idea. Studios such as Disney and Universal do much the same thing. They first make an original film, then create all kinds of spinoff products and sensory experiences connected to the film. Each of these elements reinforces the others and creates revenue streams for the company. Meanwhile, real-estate and other investments turn it into a complete business eco­system. But no one in Taiwan has pursued this model.

The companies in Taiwan’s film industry don’t have the financial resources to do this all at once, but they may be able to unlock the future by making effective use of the Internet and cryptocurrencies.

Using the blockchain for crowdfunding isn’t difficult. Hsu says: “Basically, I wrote up an agreement and put it on the chain. It said, ‘I want to work with you all to create an immersive entertainment ecosystem with a market value of US$100 million.’”

Hsu issued SELF through one of his companies, enticing like-minded people to buy the cryptocurrency to fund the film, and then began working towards fulfilling his commitment. He has been building the venture step by step ever since, finding ways to use box-office receipts, filming locations and rights to create a corpor­ate ecosystem that will be worth more than US$100 million in the future.

Each link in this business chain connects to the next. As Hsu explains it, the process begins with the original story, which is broadened and expanded by its trans­lation to film. He sees The Last Thieves as the first film of a trilogy, each film of which can be enjoyed individually or in relation to the others. Meanwhile, his conversion of filming locations into businesses creates a sort of deconstructed urban multiplex that moviegoers can “tour” and interact with, transforming them from viewers into consumers.

Many people have told Hsu that he’s too ambitious, that what he hopes to achieve is too difficult. But for all that he admits that he’s under pressure, he’s never considered giving up.

“If you think something is right and feasible, then do it! Otherwise, what are you living for?” asks Hsu. “Every­thing that lives is going to die. Do you want to sit around waiting to die, or throw yourself into living?”

Progress may be difficult, but we’re duty-bound not to give up. To that point, the film quotes Voltaire:

“Man is made for action, just as fire rises and stones fall. For a man, not acting is the same as not existing.” 

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