We were in the city of Tainan, Taiwan shooting stories for our "Magic of Taiwan" doc when we were asked to shoot a dedication ceremony in a local temple. It turned out to be Koxinga's shrine and the ceremony was to bless a model of a 17th century junk that was to be built from scratch. The mayor at the time heard we were there and asked if we would be interested in shooting a documentary following the construction of the Junk. Back home in Seattle Sigal decided that the story needed more than just the construction angle so we decided to combine the story of Koxinga who used junks like that to defeat the dutch and kick them out of Taiwan.
We submitted the bid and then told that Nat Geo in Taipei were also interested in the project. The city wanted us to combine our bid with them and they accepted our offer. My Partner, Sigal, began writing the script. Our Managing producer from Nat Geo would be May - Yi Lee. And so it began...
Even though not much was known about Koxinga in the west, Taiwan, China, Japan and the Netherlands knew all about him. He was one of those few characters in history that was revered for different reasons in three out of the four. The Dutch, however, had a very different historical view of the monster that defeated them in Taiwan. Research was key to Sigal's script as well as the delicate negotiations with Nat Geo office in Taipei and the city of office of Tainan. It was to our benefit that we had Johnson Hu, a local journalist and guide in Taiwan, as our in-country producer. We had worked with him on two previous projects. The first was a Fantastic Festivals episode on Chinese New Year celebrations in Taiwan and the second was an episode of "The Magic of" series. He was an invaluable asset and a great friend. We were lucky he was part of our production team.
It would take the city of Tainan and it's visionary mayor two years to research, plan and build the historical junk. In the doc, we follow this process from start to finish. Marc and Sigal did multiple trips to Taiwan, as well as China, Japan, London and Israel. To cover the shipbuilding in Tainan they hired a local videographer whose footage would be used throughout the doc. They decided they would need a knowledgable host who would have an on camera role. Through Sigal's research she came across British historian Jonathan Clements, who had published a book about Koxinga's life. He had previously done some on camera work and was accepted by Nat Geo to work with us. He also became an invaluable asset.