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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Final Thoughts On My Recently Completed Short Film, 'Forced Labour'.

Okay, I've just finished burning DVDs of 'Forced Labour' (my short film) a week ago, and I've also sent my submission to the Euganea Movie Movement 2005, a film festival in Italy couple of days ago. And now that my parents, my little sister and my grandma have seen it, I think it's time for me to give my second feature a proper send-off, and my thoughts regarding the entire experience. (my speech during the celebration party back then was too short)

Here's a summary of the 'Forced Labour', to those who don't know yet:

A violent fight erupts between two rival gangs in the middle of the night due to territorial disputes. However, they are all interrupted when one of the gang bosses, who is pregnant, has to go into labour. Martial arts, gunfighting and offbeat comedy ensue.

The story of 'Forced Labour' was developed on the 16th of February when Justin and I wanted to do something to submit to the Kurosawa Foundation Short Film Competition (its theme is 'life', so we thought doing something about a woman giving birth would be appropriate). The script itself is written on March, and shooting lasted from March to April. 'Forced Labour' was officially finished sometime during the last few days of April.

The final thing lasts for slightly more than 18 minutes (which is 8 minutes more than the 10 minutes I've originally intended), and in my opinion, surpasses 'A Boring Story' (my first work that's currently available on my site for free viewing) in many ways. I know that I've became a much better filmmaker throughout the development of the short film, and the best thing is that I managed to 'feel' that I was improving. Yeah, the experience had definitely been invaluable for me, and the growth I underwent whilst making 'Forced Labour' will be essential for my future in filmmaking.

'Forced Labour' is, more or less, my own method of giving people who accused me of being 'arty and pretentious' the finger. It gave me some satisfaction to show some people that, yes, I had made something like 'A Boring Story' last year, but I am pretty capable of making a comedic action movie (with some coolness) featuring gangsters that appeal more to the masses too. To stage my own action scenes, to play with camera angles (something I never really bothered with before I started making this!), to coordinate my actors, to find a way to deal with their ever-changing schedules so that I knew which scene to shoot
at the right time. Thinking back of what I've done, I still find myself rather amazed. Whoa.

But it's time for me to evaluate 'Forced Labour' in a more objective manner, so that I can point out the strengths and weaknesses of the short film that are really apparent to me. Regarding the strengths of 'Forced Labour'. Hmmm... some scenes have really good camera angles and nice-looking. Some of the posing shots are pretty cool, and judging from the reaction of some of my viewers, they think the same. And yes, some fighting scenes are choreographed pretty well. A colourful cast of characters (albeit underdeveloped) that seem to have plenty of potential for sequels, prequels and all manner of spin-offs.

But I don't think I really want to make something like this again. Seriously, this film, to put it bluntly, um... lacks substance, seeming more like a mindlessly entertaining action flick I usually disdain. There was supposed to be a 'message' or a 'meaning' that was meant to be conveyed in 'Forced Labour', but because the tone of the film became so drastically different from the script... everything just felt kinda wrong. Although I had wondered whether this had to do with most of my cast members' lack of experience in those non-fighting scenes, but I had a feeling that even if the finest Hollywood actor and actresses are given such a material to work with, there's not much they could do either. I am aware of the limitations of 'Forced Labour', that's why I didn't exactly take the gamble and submit it to every single short film competition and festival out there (the Euganea Movie Movement will be one, along with the Singapore Film Festival, other than that, I'll probably just submit it to something like Trasharama Agogo, which is Australia's Nastiest Touring Short Film Festival and Competition that features horror, sci-fi, bad-taste comedies, cheesy animations and other stuff like that... ahem... *cough*)

Despite supposedly being a black comedy, the humour in the film doesn't really work for that many people. And I'm not kidding, I have too many of my viewers sitting through some of the 'humour' scenes without cracking a smile, or knowing that the scene's meant to be 'funny'. I guess this pretty much reaffirms my belief that comedies are the hardest to make. Of course, I also think that 'Forced Labour' is something that will appeal more to the younger crowd. Let's take my sister for example, she who was never exactly that excited about 'A Boring Story' did enjoy 'Forced Labour', understanding most of the jokes, laughing at the right time, cheering at some of the fighting scenes. As for my parents and grandmother... um, dad was fighting hard to keep himself from dozing off, mom said that the whole thing's too long and draggy and that the pacing's totally off, and my grandmother, like all wonderfully nice grandmothers, did say something nice about my film despite her not understanding it much (she doesn't speak English).

I do agree with my mom's comments though, 'Forced Labour' could've been shorter (I wasn't decisive enough during the editing stages), and has a tighter pace (some fights shouldn't have lasted THAT long, and if the first fighting scene doesn't please the audience, they won't appreciate the next two that follow immediately after it). A few minutes snipped off will do 'Forced Labour' a lot of good. Unfortunately, I needed some scene to last long to match the length of the music I'm using from Justin's band. Music is a problem I have to remedy if I want to make something else in the future.

If I have to rate my own film, I will give it a 6.5 out of 10, while 'A Boring Story' gets a 6 out of 10 (but I believe 'A Boring Story' has the potential to be a better movie than 'Forced Labour' will ever be if I were to remake it).

Don't get me wrong, I might sound critical about 'Forced Labour', but I am very, very proud of it. I love my cast members very much for their enthusiasm and cooperation, and I think they were one of the main reasons that made me work harder on the film. Singling each and everyone of them out, and then saying different things to them will make this entry too long, so I won't attempt to do that (even though I've originally intended to do so), all they have to know is that they have my eternal gratitude.

For now, I will look forward to my next flick, which I think might be more 'arty', but I think it will be more personal for me, and no matter what, I will strive hard to make this better than my previous flicks. I still need some time finding my own 'voice' as a filmmaker. Bought a magazine called 'Australian Digital Video' for a hefty sum of 25 bucks today, after skimming through it, I realize there is still much for me to learn.