The world of T.C. Wang

Salon Films celebrates its 50th year

HONG KONG -- Fifty years ago, an independent movie producer named Ray Stark saw the potential of turning the Broadway play "The World of Suzie Wong" into a movie.

He went to Hong Kong and found cinematographer and equipment rental owner T.C. Wang. They bonded; the movie became a hit; Stark rose to the ranks of moguldom and Wang's Salon Films became the go-to destination for Hollywood productions shot in Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and then China.

During the course of half a century, the equipment rental and production company grew in size, acquiring the latest equipment from the U.S. and opening offices in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and China, its operation overseen by Wang and his sons Charles and Fred.

"The relationships my father built with stateside filmmakers were the foundation for our development," says Fred Wang, noting that the company initially started as a photo shop in 1949 before turning to equipment rental and production half a century ago. "American studios came to us when they shot in Asia -- not just in Hong Kong, but in Japan, China, Vietnam or the Philippines."

Salon quickly learned the importance not only of securing good equipment, but also the kind of equipment Americans used.

"At that time," Wang notes of the company's early days, "the equipment used in Asia was different from that in the U.S., so we bought ours from America."

Wang, now the company's chairman, took part in the equipment acquisition and learned about the latest filmmaking technology when he went to USC in the late 1960s. He returned to Hong Kong after graduation, bringing with him a wealth of technical knowledge.

Since then, the company has provided equipment, logistics and crew for the location shooting of such movies as "The Deer Hunter" (1977), "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1983, in Macau), "Platoon" (1985, in the Philippines), "Rush Hour" and its sequel (1998 and 2001) and "Entrapment" (1999, in Malaysia).

It has also worked on television programs including "The Shirley MacLaine Show" (1971), "Hawaii Five-O" (1976), "Shogun" (1979, in Japan), "Dallas" (1985) and "Noble House" (1986), which featured a dramatic setpiece landslide that toppled a Hong Kong residential high-rise.

" 'Shogun' stood out in my mind because it was shot in Japan, with an American production team," Wang says. "The Americans have a distinct shooting style, while the Japanese have their habits. We as Hong Kong people are accustomed to both Eastern and Western cultures."

Salon is now playing matchmaker in lining up studios, talent agencies and production houses across Asia for co-productions, such as the Asia Alliance coalition announced last year between Japan's entertainment conglomerate Yoshimoto Kogyo, Taiwan's Zoom Hunt and Singapore's MediaCorp. Raintree Pictures.

"We've been matchmaking for the last 50 years," Wang says. "We'll continue to play this role."