The Teenage Psychic Hits Global Market

By Chan Meng-hin(陳明憲), Chen Ching-wen(陳靖文), Hsu Yu-shan(許毓珊),
Liu Chia-yu(劉家瑜), Lam Tsz-ching(林梓晴), Chuang Li-cheng(莊立誠)


The Teenage Psychic Tells Taiwan’s story

The Teenage Psychic(通靈少女) took Taiwan, and even Asia, by storm after being broadcasted by PTS (Public Television Service) and HBO Asia (Home Box Office Asia) on April 2. Alex Hsieh(謝孟儒), the executive producer of Fun Planet(靠北星球), said the main reason for The Teenage Psychic’s success is its wonderful interpretation of Taiwan’s culture.

The Teenage Psychic presents many facets of Taiwanese culture and one of them is siu-kiann(收驚). Photo/Chan Meng-hin(陳明憲)

Hsieh believed The Teenage Psychic acts as a reminder of other Taiwanese producers. He said, “We don’t need to produce specific works to meet one’s flavor. Instead, we should focus on Taiwanese culture, to tell our own stories in the best way we can. As such, other investors will invest capital and resources to your masterpieces eventually.” The Teenage Psychic is supported with capital and resources by a Singapore company, HBO Asia. This also enables the drama series to be broadcasted in 23 countries in Asia, and become a blockbuster.

Other than culture, Hsieh brought up two more reasons for the success of The Teenage Psychic. The first is the coordination of the cast and characters. The cast interpreted the characteristics, thoughts, behaviors so naturally that they pulled in the audience to feel in their shoes. The next one is the selection of venues. The crew has certainly made a thorough analysis on the choice of venues, which adds credits to the drama as certain plots are presented in real-life venues.

It’s common for people to worship their gods which comfort and soothe their souls. Photo/Chan Meng-hin (陳明憲)

Lei Tat-weng(李達榮), a junior in National Taiwan University of Physical Education and Sport, said that once he started watching the drama, he can’t stop and finished watching the entire drama of six episodes in one day. He said that the drama reminded him of his high-school days, the dilemma of having to make decisions and choices, and many familiar aspects of Taiwanese culture.

The main character, Hsieh Ya-chen(謝雅真)has a supernatural ability which is a “destiny” for her to serve in the temple. In the drama, there are lots of plots of Hsieh making decisions, to choose between her high school life and her “destiny.” Lei believed that a 16-year-old student should have her own life, to go through her school life before serving as a Xian-gu(仙姑)– a medium between humans and other realms of beings. However, Lei is still satisfied with the tragic ending as regrets will stay longer in his mind and enable him to make a thorough self-reflection.

People are queuing for siu-kiann(收驚)which is a traditional therapy in Taiwan. Photo/Chan Meng-hin (陳明憲)

Hsieh also pointed out two common genres of drama that audiences love the most. The first one is non-fiction, through which the audience will identify themselves with the character and view things from his / her perspective. The other is innovative topics, which have never been discussed before, such as the supernatural and psychic ability. The Teenage Psychic comprises both, consequently making a splash in Asia.

The Taoist priest is offering siu-kiann(收驚) to a lady to comfort her soul. Photo/Chan Meng-hin (陳明憲)

It is impossible to satisfy one’s desire as it is unlimited. Therefore, instead of wasting time in producing works to meet others’ demands, it is necessary to focus on the strengths of Taiwan, its culture as well as nature, and to make films that represent Taiwan.

Analysis of the drama fever and the reasons for its success

The Teenage Psychic is also popular worldwide. How can a Taiwanese television station produce a drama with an international television so successfully?

Public Television Service Foundation usually produces one-act drama with about 6 episodes. Photo/ Hsu Yu-shan (許毓珊)

Hu Xin-ping (胡心平), deputy director of Public Television Service’s Marketing Department, said, “Every episode of The Teenage Psychic is about 45 minutes. We made a long-time discussion with HBO Asia about what is the topic that we wanted to address: is it the coming-of-age of young girls or the temple culture, or is it about supernatural powers?” Marketing to 23 areas that have different culture and languages, how to find the common theme that can be accepted by people in all these 23 areas? Public Television Service spent lots of time discussing with HBO Asia about these questions.

How to let the foreigners accept the Taiwanese drama? Take Korean drama W(兩個世界)for example, the Olympic opening and medical issues are the cross-cultural elements that Westerners can understand easily. “Drama is like a social movement, Shaudi Wang(王小棣)director of The Teenage Psychic,” said. Wu Chih-yu(巫知諭), writer/ researcher and producer of the “Guess who?” Program Department of Public Television Service Foundation said that they want to transfer the positive value and put some criticism(批判性)into their dramas. Not only love story, but more things that can represent nowadays Taiwanese conditions and specific topics have been expressed in the plot.

How did Public Television Service Foundation and HBO Asia promote The Teenage Psychic? They used many ways to give this drama high publicity, such as issuing press releases regularly, posting ads on the bus stations and visiting campuses to make students know about the drama. The production team advertised this drama to some students majoring in drama and  theater, as many of them desire to know how a young director had cooperated with an international production team.

Taiwanese temple culture is abundant in The Teenage Psychic. Photo/ Hsu Yu-shan (許毓珊)

On the other hand, HBO is a cable television, which held activities to help promote The Teenage Psychic. The production team also published the story in monthly magazines to increase exposure. “We had been raising the profile of The Teenage Psychic for about10 months before it was released, we also expected our publicity period will last until the end of May this year,” said Hu. They will watch the big data after every promotional campaign ended, in order to understand audiences’ preference and the effects of the campaigns. When it comes to the plan of cooperation with an international company, Wu said it will be a trend that more and more Taiwanese TV companies follow. They want to try to cooperate with Netflix(網飛), a company that offers the service of DVD renting in many countries.

Stories You Cannot See through The Teenage Psychic

“I think PTS and HBO Asia —  these two platforms — nourish our drama creation in Taiwan,” said Ho Huai-song(何懷嵩), associate professor of the Department of Radio, TV and Film at Shih Hsin University. “As HBO Asia offers a different market, the value of The Teenage Psychic is enlarged and PTS gets a wider feedback. Such a success shows that we receive a nice feedback overseas. It also shows that our drama has proved the value of international co-production, with its own charm for the international market.”

Hsieh Ya-chen(謝雅真), the main character in The Teenage Psychic, is inspired by Sophia, the person who changed her religion to Islam and does not have to serve for ghosts anymore in the real world. Photo/ Liu Chia-yu (劉家瑜)

“Compared with regular drama series, Mini-series is short, delicate and easy to get close to the audience,” Ho said. He believes that mini-series drama has blossomed because the network channels have increased and the way of living has changed. It is an excellent media that coincide with the feature of international themes.

With the success of, we could absorb lots of advantages from it, such as the filming techniques, the working system and even the marketing. The audience is looking forward to seeing Taiwan’s drama makes a splash again, hoping that the drama industry will keep making progress and rise to a new level.