A common case of identity crisis

Pineapple 菠蘿 is a coming-of-age web series that explores cultural identity in Hong Kong, primarily against the backdrop of an international school.

The story follows a group of students—Michelle (Sognia Xiao), Winston (Ho Long Lee), and Stella (J Lou)—as they prepare for the annual fashion show at their prestigious international school. Meanwhile, Chinese-American Popstar Amber (Hana Wu) goes on a journey of self-discovery amidst trouble with the media centered around her cultural identity.

You can find the full synopsis on the Pineapple 菠蘿 official website here.

Pineapple 菠蘿 is a story for anyone who has ever felt out of place, and about the realization that “home” is something you define for yourself.”

Pineapple 菠蘿 official website

The series premiered November 2018 on the official Facebook page, where you can now find the full list of their episodes (ten in total). A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege to talk with Co-creators Jane Chow and Peter Rafe about the series and the work put into it.

 

How did this project come about? What sparked the idea for this project?

In her sophomore year of university, Jane started watching Skam, a Norwegian teen drama web series. At first, the thought it was just “another high school drama,” but found the story to be relatable, diving into the lives of the characters.

She wanted to create something like that, to explore cultural upbringing. With Peter on board, the two set out to make a series about the cultural division in Hong Kong between local schools (which primarily speak in Cantonese) and international schools (which speak in English).

Both Peter and Jane felt stagnant in their school work and internships, but they were “itching to create, to tell a story that meant something to them.”

 

In preparation for the project, were there any major concerns pre-production or “bumps in the road” during production?

Still in school, the two “put the project above everything.” It was tough juggling school, internships, work, and the web series. As Peter mentioned, when you combine the episodes, the series is as long as a feature film.

Especially as students, money was and always is a big factor and something to take into account. A lot could go wrong, and unexpected circumstances can hit the best of us. So, calculating and setting up a contingency budget may be a good idea, they explained.

On top of that, Peter and Jane were producing from different countries. While they are based in Los Angeles, California, the series was shot in Hong Kong. So there were a lot of phone calls, auditions happened over Skype, and sacrifices to their social lives were made.

When the big moment arrived, and it was time to debut their series, things didn’t go as smoothly as they would have liked. They chose Facebook as their platform of choice because it’s accessible and “free for people [the web series] would resonate with.”

Facebook, however, was a bit underdeveloped as a video platform. There were limited video options and virtually no such thing as “related videos.” You couldn’t jump from one episode straight into another.

Then, when episode nine wouldn’t appear in the video library, they were at a loss. Because Facebook doesn’t have a customer service phone number or email, their only option was to “report” the issue. Facebook, unfortunately, never got back to them, but Jane and Peter eventually figured things out.

In short, Peter’s advice to anyone thinking about a similar project: “Go in knowing it’ll be hard, and it’s ten times harder.”

 

What was the best part about working on the series?

Through the power of the internet, Jane and Peter were able to meet and connect with new people. They brought together a talented crew with members from Hong Kong, the United States, the Philippines, and India.

Everyone was so patient, Jane explained, as the timeline for production sometimes had to be pushed back. In the end, friendships were formed. There was even a mention of attending a birthday party for one composer’s cat.

 

So what now?

Together, their hope is that the series connects with people. It was their first major project, but they are extremely proud of it, as they should be. They hope to inspire people to tell the stories they want to tell, to not to wait around for someone else.

 

About the co-creators

Peter
Peter’s goal is to be a screenwriter… and to be able to pay rent. He wants to work on projects that dive into topics that aren’t talked about enough.

Peter’s goal is to be a screenwriter… and to be able to pay rent. He wants to work on projects that dive into topics that aren’t talked about enough.

Growing up biracial and living with the Asian side of his family, there were times he felt alienated. He mentioned times when people thought he was a family friend rather than a part of the family.

Was it the end of the world? No.

“But just because something isn’t the end of the world doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Jane
Jane, on the other hand, wants to be a director. Working on Pineapple 菠蘿 showed her how much she loves working with actors. As a filmmaker, she wants to keep telling stories that “matter to us, that draw from our experiences.”

She, at first, attended a local school in Hong Kong but later transferred an international school. She saw the division and stereotypes first-hand. Entering high school only added another cultural identity layer to figure out.

Working in film, Jane wants to be specific and personal, trusting that people will relate to her messages.

*You can read more about Peter and Jane here.

 

Want to read about more projects like Pineapple 菠蘿? Click the Follow button below to stay up to date on the great work other creatives are doing!

 

***All photos courtesy of Jane Chow.

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