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 HKCinemagic 2

Statistics :
11630 Movies
19215 People
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12 DVD Reviews
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Interview Terence Yin: alive not dead artist
Hong Kong New blood 1/1 - Page 1
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
Date : 28/12/2008
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Conroy Chan Chi Chung
Jackie Chan
Willie Chan Chi Keung
Teddy Chen Tak Sum
Stephen Fung Tak Lun
Jenny Hu Yan Ni
Eric Tsang Chi Wai
Daniel Wu Yin Cho
Terence Yin Chi Wai
Yon Fan
Movies :
Gen X Cops
Hot War
New Police Story
Companies :
Shaw Brothers
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Page 2 : Typecast as a bad guy

Cinema is a media mostly based on image and, in many ways, it influences our perception of the real life actors. But appearances can be misleading. And usually, actors regularly playing the bad guys are the nicest persons you could ever meet face to face. This was indeed the case when we met Terence Yin. Yin has been in the industry more than 10 years now and has worked extensively, either on huge productions (New Police Story) or very low budget. Recently, he has been involved in the development of the website www.alivenotdead.com. Yin found a gap in his busy schedule to discuss with us his career and the future of the industry, in any shapes it can take.


HKCinemagic: Was you interest in acting fueled by your mother’s career, former Shaw Brothers movie star Jenny Hu?
Terence Yin: Yeah, that’s pretty much why I’m here. My parents were very encouraging for me to come back [to HK from the US] but I never thought of coming back on my own. I was working in HK in the summer, a summer internship, at the HK trade development council. And during that summer, I started to hang out with some of my parent’s old friends. One of them is Willie Chan who is Jackie Chan’s manager. And that’s pretty much it! I went dinner with them and he suggested to come back and try to be in the film industry. I never thought about it before. But I wanted to finish college first, that was the easiest choice to make. The next summer I came back to Hong Kong, I was around 19, I worked as an intern for Rock Records. After that summer, it became apparent I really did have the choice to come back. Because I was proposed a record contract from Rock and a management contract from Willie. I sat on that for another year and when I graduated I had a few contracts in my mail. I spent more time in the States and decided to come back. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but once you enter the industry, it becomes harder and harder to leave. I don’t know if that’s really my case but I’m still in it nowadays. My original plan was to come back and try for 3 years. They went very very quickly, 3 became 6, 6 became 9…
HKCinemagic: Some profiles I've read said you were a child in a few movies, do you remember which ones?
Terence Yin: I remember two of them. I think I was in three movies as a kid, post Shaw Brothers, with my parents. My father directed a movie in which I was in. Apparently, I was 5 years old and smocked a cigarette (laughs). I was in another movie in which Teddy Chen was involved too. Apparently, I was the worst child actor ever! Refusing to take any direction! Completely naughty! My parents back then were still working in the film industry, having friends in the industry, it just happened they would need a child and, as I was around, I would get involved.
HKCinemagic: You studied philosophy in Berkeley (California), why is that?
Terence Yin: Actually, I studied Rhetoric. But in a way, rhetoric is a kind of argumentative philosophy. In Asia, I tend to say I just studied philosophy because they don’t know what is rhetoric is.
HKCinemagic: Did you have any plans for your future after this degree?
Terence Yin: I was going to try business school. In the US system, it’s not required you go to business just after university. Actually, they prefer you to go out and get a job. And after three or four years, you go to business school. So I thought, in order to get work experience as a singer or an actor. It was not a childhood dream of mine but I discovered my passion for the job while working. I always knew what my parents did but never really grew up with it. I was too young when we were still in HK for me to really see that aspect of their life. In America, we lived a very normal and quiet kind of life. My parent’s main concern was that I was a pretty naughty child! They were very concerned I would not even go to university. But once I got into a decent university, they felt relieved.
HKCinemagic: You talked about this singing contract. Was it as part of a band or a solo project?
Terence Yin: I was a solo singer. Singing mando pop/alternative rock. There is a small contradiction there… I released an album in Taiwan in the year 2000. It did OK, not great but ok. But I decided not to continue with this label because I didn’t have the best experience. By that time, I had already done a few films so I thought maybe I should just focus on acting.

Heavenly Kings
HKCinemagic: But you've never completely given up on the idea, haven't you?
Terence Yin: Well, the Alive boys band thing was strictly for the film. The ironic thing is that if we had continued together as Alive, we would probably do OK. We would make quite a bit of money and we would have the chance to do some CDs but that’s not what we wanted. Through the Alive process, I decided we would push on www.alivenotdead.com. I find that to be more interesting, it makes me more driven than me going out to sing again only. I’m not gonna hold out that I may actually do that again in the near future but I only want to be with my friends and do it my way. Especially since the music industry is shifting with digital, mp3, everything. You can see the business model evolving. I’m interested in exploring how music can be promoted. If I do something again it’ll probably be in this direction.
HKCinemagic: But even with the evolution of the promotion system, music doesn’t necessarily make money.
Terence Yin: Yeah but it depends how closely you hold on to the notion that you have to make money from your recording either. To me that’s the big if. Part of the reason why the Alive project was so successful was we made music for free. We didn’t intend to make money from it anyway. That was a big reason why we were able to get so much attraction, to get so much media coverage. Even if we didn’t release a CD, stuffs like that, everybody heard our song. I’m interested in exploring that.
HKCinemagic: How did you get involved in Bishonen?
Terence Yin: Yon Fan knew my parents and knew I came back to Hong Kong to start working in the entertainment industry. He knew how I looked like and decided I was suitable for one of the roles and just contacted Willie and that was it.
HKCinemagic: Do you think Yon Fan used actors like yourself, Stephen Fung and Daniel Wu (all educated overseas) because you are more open-minded to play gay characters?
Terence Yin: I think it’s a combination of things. That had to do with it because you can’t make a gay film if you have any homophobia, it would show. I don’t have any issues in that department. In many ways, having an open mind is very important. The one thing I did like in Bishonen was that the subject of homosexuality was a matter of fact not the main subject. It was about the characters and what they were going to do emotionally. No time was spent on the fact they were homosexuals. Which I think is very important. I guess when you are first establishing a genre, you would have to establish it. So the first films having to deal with homosexuality would have homosexuality as their subject. But after the first wave, it has to move on and make it more about the characters. Yon Fan did that and I’m very proud I could be part of that.

Hot War
HKCinemagic: Weren’t you concerned about the impact it could have to establish your image as an actor? Obviously, some moviegoers may not be as open-minded as you are and it could have been a dangerous start or led to typecasting.
Terence Yin: I didn’t get typecast thanks to Bishonen but because of Hot War, my second film. I would not have gotten my role in Gen X Cops if there was not Hot War. But I never thought this way. It has probably to do with the fact that I’m pretty headstrong. But I never really intended to be an idol, I never carried myself like one, I didn’t act in films which portrayed me as the pretty boy idol type. It never interested me.
HKCinemagic: The movie is shot in many occasions in guerrilla style, how did you find this way of working?
Terence Yin: I had no experience at that point actually. I fairly spoke Cantonese, I spoke it but poorly. Never seen a film camera before and luckily the director was very patient with us, knowing we were all newcomers. I did the best I could. I didn’t have that many opportunities to work on such films; I wish I had more of those.

Gen X Cops
HKCinemagic: Does it mean you think it was the best way for you to get a foot in the industry?
Terence Yin: I guess it was a treat; most people don’t get this kind of opportunity in their first gig. I’m very thankful to Yon Fan, he was so patient and so willing to spend time and energy to explain things, to give you the space to get comfortable. A first time actor make a lot of mistakes, the presence of the camera may affect the tone of your voice, you’re not sure of yourself… And I had no training whatsoever. Without a director like Yon Fan I’m not sure I would have made it.
HKCinemagic: Do you think the introduction of a new generation of oversea-educated actors had an impact on the industry?
Terence Yin: Amongst the four guys of Bishonen, three of us are still doing films so in that sense that movie launched several careers. Stephen Fung already had made a few films before; he entered the industry a couple of years before me and Daniel Wu.
HKCinemagic: Still, it’s this one which made a real first impact.
Terence Yin: It’s because it was his first good film. He did some commercial films before Bishonen and he was the lead. In that sense, the film helped him a lot.
HKCinemagic: But do you think your involvement, as a member of this new generation raised overseas, changed the industry or did you just follow the wake of your elders?
Terence Yin: I don’t think we changed the industry; we were too new about how this industry worked for that. Bishonen launched a few new guys and it just happened the movie was very well received in Hong Kong. Critically. It wasn’t a commercial success. We went to different films festivals in Taiwan, Japan… Now, ten years after Bishonen, we are still here. Now we may have the self awareness and the knowledge about the industry to try to instill something new. We may not change everything, we may not have the power to make it but we’d like to fix some things. For example, we would like the industry to have more diversity. And you don’t do that by just finding new acting talents. What’s more important are the director and the scriptwriter. Someone who care about Hong Kong and want to make films in Hong Kong. In our small way, we want to push that, we want to create opportunities for younger directors with good education background. To find opportunities for them to come back to Hong Kong. Maybe this way we can start a new wave for the industry.
HKCinemagic: This way is very similar to what Eric Tsang has been doing.
Terence Yin: It’s somebody we all very much respect. Throughout his career, with UFO or other companies, it’s all based on giving new talent a chance and creating films that are good. Eric Tsang has been in the industry for so much longer and thus there are more things he can do. The most important is that there are people in the industry who are ready to do their part. It’s necessary. In any film industry there are people who won’t be involved by passion, or for any reasons which are not to make good films. But it is the people who really care, or at least try to care, that need to be encouraged!
HKCinemagic: The industry has always been based on obvious commercialism. Do you think it can change in part?
Terence Yin: Commercial filmmaking is not about innovation but about following safe models. There is always a place for that. The problem is that there are not enough new models which are being tried in the new market to demonstrate to the people who are doing commercial films that there are other ways to do commercial success. That’s why, to me, those new films must be encouraged, no matter how you do it, you have to continue to make films that are out of the box. Because without those people, things won’t change and you’ll get the same films you had for the last 15 years. In Hong Kong, in the last 15 years or so, most of the films fall in long time guidelines of Hong Kong filmmaking. For me, there are several new things happening which are very interesting: HD, digitalization… Distribution is very different now because of digitalization and it makes a movie much cheaper to produce. And it’s the perfect playground for independent filmmakers. The advent of new technology, internet is becoming more and more matured… Internet and TV will merge, it will then become all about Video on Demand (VOD), all this type of interactive thing. We are at the crossroad now. Taking advantage of these things, how do we move forward to promote and nurture independent filmmaking in Hong Kong? That’s something I hold pretty close in my heart. As long as I stay active in the industry, I’ll always try to push that direction.

Metade Fumaca
HKCinemagic: Wouldn’t you like to try it, but as a director this time?
Terence Yin: I’m not ready, maybe in a long future. There are many ways to direct a film. It is not hard if you have the right skilled people around you. But I need more knowledge to feel comfortable to actually direct something. There are a lot of things which will have to happen before.
HKCinemagic: Do you think your education overseas is an asset to evolve in the industry?
Terence Yin: For most of us who were educated abroad, there’s gonna be cultural differences we will experience. Especially as an actor, it becomes more and more acute. Because so much of what you communicate on screen, the way you perform your character, stuffs like that, it has to fit the cultural expectations of that place. So for us, the biggest challenge is to overcome the cultural deficiencies. It’ll always be a challenge for us.
HKCinemagic: Do you still feel this pressure nowadays?
Terence Yin: Oh yeah, I’m fluent in mandarin and Cantonese, and I’ve acted in both languages for various characters. The difference between me and a local actor is not just language but also all the things which go with it, attitudes and references. I’ve been in Hong Kong for 10 years, I’m pretty familiar how Hong Kong people interact and stuffs like that but am I the same as a local person? And the same goes when I am in China, working in Mandarin. There are still cultural differences. It’s just a matter of time, paying attention to that and finding ways to overcome that.
HKCinemagic: Did you realize all these things when you started your career in the industry? Were you aware of it and aware of the need to overcome it?
Terence Yin: No, it’s something I understand now. After doing a number of films, you start to understand what filmmaking should be, how acting is done… This is what I know. And I’m sure if you ask actors with similar backgrounds as me, they would probably tell you the same things.
HKCinemagic: We know you are friend with other actors who have been raised overseas like Daniel Wu or Conroy Chan. How did this friendship managed to survive in this very competitive industry?
Terence Yin: It is true that sometimes, for actors of the same generation, it’s hard for them to be friends because of the competition. But for me that was never really an issue because I believe everybody is walking their own paths. I don’t think backstabbing or stuffs like takes you that far in the long run. Like in any industry, relationships make the difference, and how you nurture those relations, when you work with people. It’s how your nurture those relationships that gonna help sustain your reputation and make things easier for you. And you may be remembered for other projects. And everybody is gonna do that differently.
HKCinemagic: It’s not the usual way most the Hong Kong people think… Competion is extremely valued here.
Terence Yin: Yeah, but I really think this kind of mentality makes you miss the bigger picture. Maybe in that sense, we are really different. But, in my opinion, when you are entirely driven by self interest, it hurts the scene as a whole. You don’t need everybody to be like that but if the vast majority of people are, that becomes a problem. Especially when the context is bad too, like the recent situation of the industry.
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Page 2 : Typecast as a bad guy

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