• Harlow in Monte Carlo

Why I Love Trump

The title is pretty self-explanatory and inflammatory. But please, hear me out before you rush to judgement. I always strived to achieve a 'on reflection' kind of nostalgic vibe for the openers of my writing. So for this post, which is a retelling of the most unfortunate event of my career, I wanted to open it with this…

Something happened to me last year.

A little bit about myself - back in 2019 I was a college student studying filmmaking in Taipei. I was not a fan of the film industry in my hometown (honestly there is none), and I had been bellyaching about it incessantly. I disliked my fellow classmates, I didn’t partake in any of our school’s productions. And it’s not just the school ppl that I held a grudge against, it was all filmmakers in Taiwan that I couldn’t deal with.

One day, upon returning home from a trip to Scotland with a friend, I decided to make a film. I simply had been dillydallying for too long, and I also just fell out of love with an Australian filmmaker at the time. I was heartsick and lost. I needed a creative outlet. And above all this, I wanted to prove to my ex who told me I would never make it in Hollywood that I would.

Let me hit the 'pause' button of my narrative for a minute and talk about something else here. Something famously called “the American Dream” by a group of wise proponents.

The Hollywood version of the American Dream in modern time basically says that everyone can be the next James Franco or Emma Stone. Everyone can start out waiting tables while attending auditions. At one point you will get discovered, and before you know it, you are accosted by reporters and glitz and glamour at the Vanity Fair after party after you win at the Oscars. Before you know it, the world is celebrating you, Academy Award winning Filmmaker. The best part is you don’t even stay posted on how the world is spinning around you anymore. You stay in your Bel-Air estate. You stay rich, untouchable. Hot.

When Harvey Weinstein was brought down in late 2017/early 2018, people thought it was the end of a certain kind of Hollywood fairy tale. What they didn’t realize was by asserting this, they were saying Weinstein was a fairy tale. And you know what? He was. Once upon a time the women in this business could work their way up by sleeping with the right person. I am really saying this to my detriment. Once upon a time attractive women in Hollywood could--would--forsake their dignity for aspirations, fame. When that scenario was deemed repugnant thanks to Weinstein, so was the fairy tale itself. The American Dream once really existed in the likes of Marilyn Monroe, 1960s and all that. But the dream itself has since become no more than a mirage.

So what happened when someone as naive as I was back in 2019 wanted to live the American Dream, after such dream was apparently gone? What happened when you had no background and were desperate to find someone to produce your first movie?

Say hello to the money-grubbing group of the American film industry.

Note that I didn’t use the term Hollywood here. Biased or not, I don’t think those goons are on par with the real professionals in Hollywood. And as much as the event I’m about to recount takes a mental toll on me, at the end of the day I still gravitate toward Hollywood. I don’t want that fondness of mine toward Hollywood to ever be taken away from me.

Something happened to me last May when I wrapped the filming of my first project, a short film whose budget exceeded that of most, if not all, Sundance-winning feature films of the past decade. I exported a final cut of it, and that’s when I predictably went berserk on the Taiwan-based production house I had been working with up until that point. I never really liked them to begin with. Let’s just say they couldn’t even spell their own English names right and yet they wanted to help with my film, one that I targeted English-speaking audience with.

As a result I left the Taiwanese crew when the film was halfway through post production. I then started to contact some California-based production companies to finalize the rest of the post production. I sent out dozens of e-mails and (go figure) Facebook messages. I was desperate. I wanted to get the rest of the post production done before June ended, and it was already mid-May when I began my hunt for new production companies. I was desperate—note that this is the second time I used the word desperate, because it was exactly what led to the fatal mistake I was about to make.

Here goes—I was desperate and so I proposed a ridiculously large amount of money to those producers for just the post production of my short film. It was an insanely large amount even for the whole production of that film, let alone just for the post production (minus editing, which was done by me), which was the case. It was an amount that any sane person would know better than to accept.

None but four producers replied to my messages. Two of them seemed to reply only out of politeness, the third one was one of the producers that sat on my ex’s last movie. And that’s when I made the biggest mistake of my career. I chose to worked with the fourth one—a middle-aged director/producer whose whole life was dedicated to making subpar cheap horror flicks and who would later con me out of two-third of my film’s production money.

Let me hit another pause button and add a personal note. My favorite quote is from the CW series Dynasty, the casino scene in which Sammy Jo said to Steven “All I know is if you bet on yourself, you can never lose.” I believe in hard work as much as I believe in my own talent. So when it comes to the production of my film, as unwise as it sounds, I honestly don’t care about the money aspect. I don’t care how much it made me a fool by spending this much money on just a short film, or by letting literally every person involved in the making of the film take advantage of me, who was an easy target—I was naive, not really that young but young in this business, and I was, again, naive. I don’t care what others said about my oblivion money-wise. I bet on myself, and I will always bet on myself. It is that simple.

In this sense, what led to my self-blame afterward wasn’t that I wasted this much money (trust me it’s a lot. I’m not being dramatic here but if I tell you the amount of money I wired that middle-aged dude, you will want to report the crime on my behalf. As to why I didn’t sue him, it’s the same reason Taylor Swift didn’t bury the hatchet with Kanye: Why should I risk my Visa due to a lawsuit--even if I am the plaintiff--when this fucktard was the one on the wrong?). I don’t regret betting that much money on myself. What kills me is the thought that I chose poorly with this producer (I’ll call him “M” henceforth), while with that money I could easily hire an award-winning production team to make a feature film for me. The irony being that M was actually more hard-working or loyal than most filmmakers I knew. He was just not famous.

Oh and he was also greedy. In out first Skype meeting, M slyly talked me into wiring him the whole bunch of money upfront, the ridiculously huge amount I had naively proposed. Instead of pointing out there was ABSOLUTELY no way that the post production of my short film would cost even one-tenth of that amount, he made it sound like it would. He never sent me a budget breakdown. I got an invoice from the color house later which showed the color and conform cost merely one-thousandth of the money I wired him. He never told me where more than ninety-nine percent of that money went. He took it all, and just like that I became the stupid girl who got conned because she was too stupid. Just like that I became the exact version of the person your first-grade teacher warned you not to be.

I met M in person during a weeklong color and sound mix session at the said color house in Glendale. I remember, vividly, my first impression toward him. Have you ever got the feeling that on reflection, I should have seen the red flags from that first encounter? He was paunchy. To this day I’m still nonplussed about how come he looked trim on my laptop when we Skyped but overweight in real life. Besides his protruding stomach—which looked really sad by the way, considering how both his IMDb and Wiki pictures (why a unknown filmmaker like him even has a Wiki page is beyond my knowledge) showed him at an apparently younger age, with no such protruding stomach—I didn’t take too much notice of his appearance. He was just not a good-looking guy. And he also looked old. I mean he was old, but he looked even older than his age.

Regarding the red flags surrounding M, that protruding stomach of his is the easiest one off the top of my head. I never trusted people who looked like they hadn't worked out in a decade, so I’m still flabbergasted by how my judgement was so obviously off the whole time I worked with M. Back then I was just so naive, such a simple-minded girl, that I turned a blind eye to everything that screamed “something is off about this guy.”

And I paid hugely for my mistake. It is a trauma that I don’t think I can ever overcome. What’s funny is I am still 22-year-old, the way I was at the time I met M, but it’s like I have been to hell and back. I realized I would never be the same person after this chapter of my life. I now hold a very different perspective toward life. It is really pathetic. All my friends are enjoying their vivacious young life while I feel like I was already dead by making that mistake. I am a frazzled 22-year-old, bereft of trust, joy, and curiosity. I have become this sad woman that everyone tends to avoid.

I want to enjoy my life. I want to fall in love with someone. I want to get nominated an Oscar one day and walk the red carpet with the love of my life. (Fuck I’m literally tearing up typing this.) There are so many things I want to achieve, but at the same time I feel like I have already seen the worst in humanity. It’s funny, because on reflection if I hadn’t focused so much on M’s unattractive outlook, maybe I would notice the glint in his eyes that was always there whenever he talked to me. I later realized those were the eyes of a greedy man coveting something he never had throughout the forty-seven years of his life. Something called money. Something I so naively gave away.

I unfriended M on Facebook a while ago. I couldn’t bear to be reminded how idiotic I was each time his posts popped up on my feed. And he posted a lot, mainly about how much he hated Donald Trump.

And that’s why I love Trump now.

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