We endeavored to explore the process, history, & taste of Taiwan’s infamous narcotic delight; the betel nut.

This video was shockingly simple to shoot. There was a huge drag in post. More on that later.

betel nut vendor

I had wanted to shoot something about Betel Nut for a while; it’s something that one encounters all

over the place in more blue-collar areas of Taiwan, such as the town I’m in, Kaohsiung 高雄市. I was struggling for an “in,” though and that’s where Tom Conway comes in, who helped out immensely on this video. The idea was to frame it as a taste-testing with some relevant historical and contextual information. We began shooting and as always, the remarkable openness and

friendliness of the Taiwanese people that we encountered was a remarkable factor. Rose, our fixer/translator speaks fluent English/Taiwanese/Mandarin and warmed the folks interviewed in the video right up. We just showed up at the betel nut stand in the video on a Sunday afternoon totally unannounced and couldn’t have gotten a more welcoming response. The lovely lady in the video talked to use for over an hour about business, history & process, all as if she had been expecting a camera crew to drop in on her all day. The gentleman who chews the betel nut for us in the video was also happy to chat with us, and actually seemed pretty grateful to us, as we were supplying him with some betel and snacks, which was the whole reason why he was out and about in the first place.

I shot this on my beloved Canon T2i with hacked magic lantern firmware (don’t leave home without it,) canon 50mm 1.8mm & an 18-55mm stock lens which I promise to stop using when it stops being super-useful : P For audio I brought out 2 Sky lavs but I think I used  the Sennheiser MKE 400 for pretty much everything. We only used a bounce board for light. I don’t want to even get into how we pulled off the jib shot. Let’s just say that my wallet’s still sore!

Unfortunately there was a huge lag in post-production because we shot this right before summer break and have been working extended hours and been without our translator. If there are translation issues, that should be laid solely at my feet, I put this out now because I couldn’t wait any longer!


Tom Conway
Sean O’Connor

Photography & Editing:
Sean O’Connor

Rose Sullivan

The (incredibly kind) owner of the Betel Nut stand featured in the video is located here: http://goo.gl/maps/Lr75e

Alison Campbell
Tami Lynn Layman
Adam Milczarek
Rose Sullivan
Jackie Tan

The music in this video is used under a Creative Commons license.

“Jazz Hooves” by Nick Pingry aka NoLongerAnon – http://soundcloud.com/nolongeranon

“Canon and Gigue in D Major for 3 violins” Performed by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Originally Composed by Johann Pachelbel.

Related posts:

  1. In search of the Taiwanese Oyster Omelette 蚵仔煎
  2. Mists crawling over Yushan Mountain, Taiwan (玉山)
  3. Yanshui Fireworks Festival (鹽水蜂炮): Bottle Rocket Orgy
  4. Destiny in a Dragon: The Dragon Boat Races of Kaohsiung
  5. Yanshui Fireworks Festival(鹽水蜂炮): a Scorched History


SerenaApril 26, 2014 5:18 pm

Hi there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone!
Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
Keep up the fantastic work!

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