Discover Taiwan

The name is Samson Ellis.

Samson Ellis

Samson Ellis, Formosa TV editor-in-chief.

The Taipei resident has lends his voice as English commentary to the Formosa TV’s news, and writes a number of documentaries for the ever popular Discovery Channel.  This time, Ellis is proud to assist in Discovery’s program in present stories from Taiwan, to the world.

Stories We Share:

Ellis never takes for granted a good story, the stranger or unique it is, the better.  Taiwan, certainly, holds its share.

“Do you remember the exploding sperm whale?” he says.

The exploding sperm whale that stopped the traffic (photo is taken prior to the incident).

The exploding sperm whale that stopped the traffic (photo is taken prior to the incident).

Ellis, when he’s not writing or doing a voice-over, he is known as FTV’s (FTV, 民視) editor-in-chief of English news.  The editor fondly recalls the situation from when the station covered the story: the 17m-long, 50-tonne sperm whale that died after being stranded on a beach.  After loading the gigantic corpse onto a truck to make through the local roads, it seems as if all on a spontaneous moment – its body bursted open while passing through the city of Tainan, bringing the traffic to a screeching halt in witness as the corpse splattered onto cars and passersby with blood and guts.

“Stuff like that — that’s Taiwan,” he says in a laugh.

As he fondly recalls like jaw-dropping stories, he goes on to explain how he has been known to explore on the many hidden tales within Taiwan.  In December 2008, he has documented a series of one-hour documentaries, aired on Discovery.

Discovering Discovery:

Just as so, there are no exploding animals in “Unknown Taiwan,” a program provided by the Discovery Channel (solely based on Taiwan), however the series that makes any lover of Taiwan history and culture proud, offers enough intrigue to engage all viewers, internationally.  In one of many episodes, it speaks of Tamsui: two historians are out on a mission to discover what was behind the fable of the secret tunnels, which began from the Dutch-built Fort San Domingo (紅毛城), and extends outward to Keelung.

>>>Interesting fact:  Fort San Domingo is the birthplace of the first Chinese-English Dictionary.<<<

Map of the Izu Islands, of which is the centre of the Devils Sea (aka the Formosa Sea).

Map of the Izu Islands, of which is the centre of The Devil's Sea (aka The Formosa Triangle).

One other episode looks into the picturesque coastline of the Penghu islands: the site of many a maritime disasters and plane crashes, however entertains the existence of what is oddly too familiar to the dumbfounded unique phenomen, that is the Bermuda Triangle, within the island’s ocean water territories.   (Please refer to: The Devil’s Sea, aka, The Formosa Triangle, located off Japan’s coastline, in a region of the Pacific.)

Beyond the TV:

As a scriptwriter, Ellis’ dedication lays in the honour of hilighting the events from Taiwan, with an Universal appeal.

“When you’re writing for the Discovery Channel especially, you’ve always got to be thinking, okay, why should some guy in Mexico be watching this?”  Ellis continues in his enthusiasm, “You’re really writing for a global international audience, so that’s always on your mind.”

The series unfolds the captivating story of one Japanese pilot, born and raised in Hualien, served as the Imperial Japanese army’s airforce squadron, secretly stationed in Taiwan as a mission during the World War II.  Before the pilot could deploy on his mission, a kamikaze raid, the war had justly come to an end.  This episode documents the pilot’s return to his childhood home and school in Hualien.

>>>A read on [another] pilot’s kamikaze mission.<<<

In addition to gaining further respect and deep appreciation in Taiwan’s recent colonial history and Aboriginal roots, Ellis has to says that he enjoyed most the “craft” aspect of making the documentaries: it creates narratives that could “really sustain people, and people from anywhere, for an hour.”

The idea of being able to hold the attention of the media masses brought him back to basics as he worked with the Taiwanese production companies, commissioned by the Discovery Channel program and the Government Information Office to produce the shows.

>>>Other more recent Discovery documentaries on Taiwan include Prisoners-Of-War (POW), and Kaohsiung.  <<<

In Ellis’ words, ‘Unknown Taiwan’ marks the first that Discovery had a writer involved in the primary stages of its programs, produced by local production houses.  He further continues and states of one presented challenge in assisting the production companies ‘think‘ in terms of a global audience.

“I was very adamant — okay, you need a lot of maps [in the shows].  First of all, you need to tell people where the hell Taiwan is — a lot of people aren’t going to know where Taiwan is,” he explains.

“You’re trying to reach out to people who aren’t interested in Taiwan with an interesting story about Taiwan. So you’ve got to give lots of basic information, stuff like what were the Japanese doing [here]?” he says.

The Development:

Having taken one year abroad in the National Taiwan Normal University, it has since encouraged Ellis to return to Taiwan toward the end of 2001.  With the intention to hold residency for one year, he ended up working at the ‘English daily Taiwan News’ before finally settleing at FTV.

What had took his heart at FTV, was the fast-paced and intense environment that he needed, found refuge in the television newsroom.

“It’s never boring, every day’s different — there’s just so many possibilities, especially when you’ve got to condense everything into a small show,” he said. “You’ve got to be so succinct, there’s no room, there’s no time and there’s no space for any extraneous information and so writing for TV is a real skill…it’s one I didn’t appreciate when I went there [FTV].”

Though the shows they provide may not be as appealing as an international news program, the local organizations, however have taken notice.  In recent years, the program has been nominated for a number of awards.

Fun Taiwan, with host,

"Fun Taiwan" host,Janet Hsieh makes a speech and presentation in Taiwan.

Today, Ellis continues in his work with Discovery, he writes for the channel’s Fun Taiwan (瘋台灣), in collaboration with friend and the Fun Taiwan’s host, Janet Hsieh (謝怡芬).  Of most recent projects, he is working on a documentary to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/21 earthquake (Chi-Chi was rebuilt two years later).

>>>For disection of the 9/21 event, please refer through this link.  <<<

At the end of the interview, he comments on his love in the passion of his work and the busy life, “I know myself … if I didn’t do it, I’d be sitting at home watching TV.”

>>>Related stories:
Taiwanese people in Discovery’s documentaries;
Discover releases another program, “Portrait: Taiwan“…  <<<

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~ by Lan on 2008 TueUTC2009-02-10T14:05:19+00:00. 15.

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