The Student News Site of Taipei American School




From Taipei to Hollywood: a life that’s Almost Perfect

TAS again after 25 yeras: TAS alum Bertha Pan (left) returns to TAS for a Tiger TV interview with Brandon Lee (right).
TAS again after 25 yeras: TAS alum Bertha Pan (left) returns to TAS for a Tiger TV interview with Brandon Le (right).

Twenty five years ago, Bertha Pan walked the halls of TAS, never expecting that one day she would see her films hit the big screens all around world.

On September 12, the award-winning writer, director and producer revisited TAS. In a special Q&A session for TAS students, held in the Anni Lu Lecture Hall, Pan shared her personal experiences in film-making, detailing some of the ins-and-outs of the arduous process involved in making a movie.

As a child, Pan attended several different schools, which proved to be good training for making character-driven movies. “In each new environment, I observed the people and surroundings to figure out how to best fit in,” she said. In high school, she took a summer job at a concert management agency, where her “first gig” was translating Whitney Houston’s contract into Chinese. She added that she “wasn’t very studious” and once ended up on academic probation, giving hope to students who aren’t made for school.

Pan studied at Boston University, but had no idea what she wanted to pursue. She serendipitously discovered a hidden passion for film-making when a friend urged her to enroll in a cinematography class. “I just happened to be in the right place, at the right time.” With the Asian market booming, American film and production companies eagerly sought out Chinese clients, but had few or no bilingual employees. This gave Pan her edge. Working at a New York film company, Pan closed deals worth “more digits than I knew how to count.”

Realizing that film-making encompassed all her interests—visual arts, music, philosophy, photography, languages, psychology and traveling—Pan enrolled in Columbia’s film school “to learn the craft of screenwriting.” There, she obtained a Master’s degree in Directing.

Her first feature film, Face, premiered at the 2002 Sundance Festival. The movie depicts intergenerational culture clashes and stars Golden Horse Award winner Bai Ling (Star Wars Episode III, Nixon, Anna and the King). Face received rave reviews from the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune as well as Entertainment Weekly.

Almost Perfect, Pan’s most recent film, is a romantic comedy about finding love at age 34 and learning that relationships don’t always have to be complicated. Vanessa Sung, a hardworking career woman, meets her perfect man just as her family starts to fall apart. She is forced to juggle all the craziness within her family while building a new relationship with her boyfriend.

It stars former Miss Teen USA Kelly Hu in the role of Vanessa. The Hollywood Reporter praised the film’s strong acting performances, “particularly the casting of Hu.” Almost Perfect also features veteran actress Tina Chen, the first Asian female in a leading role to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award (1970), as well as TAS alumnus Christina Chang (’89), who has appeared in CSI and Desperate Housewives.

Pan’s films have garnered numerous awards, including the Polo Ralph Lauren Award for Best Screenplay for Face. Currently, she has a sports movie in pre-production and will direct the southern comedy, The Tiger Ate the Snow.

So what’s her secret to success? Her advice to aspiring film makers and writers is, “don’t just look at the world through ‘your little phones,’ those are just derivatives of life. Go out and experience life, because the most compelling stories are found in the real world, right in front of you.”

Almost Perfect is now screening in movie theaters in Taiwan.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All THE BLUE & GOLD Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *