Success a miracle, says director Ko

GETTING into Hollywood might be viewed as the pinnacle of every film- maker's career, but it is something that Taiwanese author and film-maker Giddens Ko is nonchalant about.

"Why must we go international? We should just do whatever makes us happy," said the 33-year-old in Mandarin during an interview with my paper on Sunday.

He said: "I wouldn't force myself to write something that caters to a market for the sake of entering it... After all, how can we make something that can beat Hollywood?"

Ko's debut film, You Are The Apple Of My Eye, which is based on his autobiographical novel of the same name, was a massive box-office hit in Taiwan and Hong Kong. In Singapore, the rom-com has earned more than $1.35 million as of Sunday. It opened on Nov 10, and has outgrossed films such as Secret and Lust, Caution.

The film also nabbed four nominations for the upcoming Golden Horse Awards, including a best-new-director nomination.

The film and book, which was published in June 2006, is a bittersweet look at the high-school years of student Ko Ching-teng (played by newbie Ko Chen-tung) and his group of buddies, all of whom have a crush on pretty and studious Shen Chia-yi (Michelle Chen).

Ko, who has published more than 60 novels, short stories and comics, was in town over the weekend to attend the ongoing BookFest, where he held two autograph sessions.

Better known by his pen name Jiubadao (or Nine Knives), the man told my paper that he expected the movie to be popular in Taiwan as he believed he made a good movie. But successes in other countries were "miracles".

The change from best-selling author to first-time film director has not been easy for Ko, who confessed that he finds film- making exhausting.

Writing a book requires only three months to complete, with publicity taking one to two weeks, he noted.

Making a movie, however, can take three or more years, with no end in sight to publicity demands and promotional activities, if your film is popular.

"But this type of success is something one doesn't get easily, so I cannot complain," he added quickly with a smile.

Still, Ko said he is going back to his first love after promotional activities for the movie are over. He plans on taking at least a year off to immerse himself in writing. He isn't ruling out another movie, though.

"I hope the time (I spend on writing) will allow me to forget the success I had, so I won't be influenced by what other people say about this movie and (their demands that I) make a second one that is exactly the same," he said.

Inevitably, he was asked about the real-life Shen.

Ko revealed that the two keep in touch. She called him last week and promised to let him know her thoughts on the film, he said.

She had already read his book and penned a long letter to him after, in which she thanked him for writing about their story, which made her feel special.

And how does his current girlfriend of six years - a woman whom he got to know after she wrote him a letter as a fan of his books - feel about seeing the movie about his high-school love?

She was initially jealous, said Ko.

"She kept pinching me while watching the movie, but I just kept telling her that I love her and that she is prettier and cuter," he joked.

For more my paper stories click here.