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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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Conversation with a Star Wars (original trilogy) virgin

Yeah baby, I've just returned from the second viewing of Revenge of The Sith. Still an entertaining movie. Not entirely perfect, but a movie worthy of my enthusiasm and recommendation.

What I've forgot to mention in my previous entry was the fantastic performance of Ian Mcdiarmid as Emperor Palpatine. My my, what he gave was quite truly, an award-worthy performance. If anyone in SW3's going to get nominated for next year's Oscars, he has a good chance (but highly unlikely *sigh*). So yeah, you people can say all you want about Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Obi-Wan, but to me, the Emperor's by far the coolest character in the movie. Even one as manly as I would sway to the Dark Side immediately if I am convinced by him. Long live the Emperor.

(In the past, I always thought that the Emperor was pathetic, since he couldn't even kill Luke with his lightning powers in Return of the Jedi despite zapping the bloke for more than ten minutes. Of course, it occurred to me that he was TORTURING Luke, not attempting to kill him.)

Oh, and here's a conversation I had with a supposed 'film student' (some random guy introduced to me by a friend of mine) in cafetaria of my university today that left me very much perplexed.

Film student: Do you know that among all Star Wars movies, Episode 2 was the best?

Me: Huh? Attack of the Clones? That sucked, man.

Film student: It made lots and lots of money. It made the most money.

Me: Er. Actually, it made only 300 million. A New Hope (Episode 4) and Phantom Menace (Episode 1) both made more than 400 million each, man. In fact, the original Star Wars (Episode 4) remains the second all-time top-grossing movie behind Titanic while Phantom Menace, despite its crapness, is number four.

(note: I'm very into box-office figures ever since I was a child, so information like this are committed to memory.)

Film student: Hah! When the DVD of Attack of the Clones came out, it made 25 million!

Me: Oh, okay. (resumes eating and chatting with Justin)

(note: Being a non-confrontational guy, I, er, I didn't even know what was he talking about anymore.)

Moments later...

Film student: So, tell me, what actually happened in Episode 4 to 6?

Me: What? You've never seen the original Star Wars trilogy?

(note: Justin was interrupted from his eating as well)

Me: Hah! Well, the Empire was defeated. Oh, and Darth Vader is Luke's father. And Leia is Luke's twin sister.

Justin: You've just ruined the movie for him. That's wrong.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Swifty Reviews Star Wars Episode 3 In Excitement (And Gives His Flatmate Massive Props).

"So this is how liberty dies... to thunderous applause." - Padme Amidala


**THIS CONTAINS MINOR STAR WARS EPISODE 3 SPOILERS, BUT IF YOU ARE WELL-VERSED IN STAR WARS LORE, THEY AREN'T REALLY SPOILERS**

Yup, I've just came back from Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith moments ago. It was unexpected, I had the greatest flatmate in the world, and when I ran into him in university this afternoon, he handed a ticket to me for tonight. How much cooler can a flatmate be? Who else can wrestle the 'Flatmate of the Year' award from him when he's such a great and honourable man? He rocks, man! He is the greatest flatmate in the world!! Oh, wait, I'm repeating myself.

Remember how I was talking about Star Wars few entries ago?

Well, Episode 3 has just made me a believer again. What a wondrous film this is!

I've heard all kinds of reviews about it, while universally believed to be better than the prequels, some said that it's a piece of crap, and a guy (a fellow aspiring filmmaker I knew back in high school who is in UK now) I spoke to said that 'it's boring!!!', knowing that he's not into films that are character-driven or deep (to him, Lord of the Rings sucks, whilst stuff like Alexander rocks his world, or so I believe, I think, movies like Jerry Maguire are boring pieces of crap to him, whilst something like Win A Date With Tad Hamilton would be the most romantic thing ever to him, movies like Sideways and Lost In Translation are pretentious garbage to him, whilst Pearl Harbour was a movie that could have deserved an Oscar nomination... so yeah, you get what I mean about his film tastes, they are vastly different from mine), I had a feeling I might really enjoy the Star Wars Episode 3.

What can I say? I can't even freaking believe that Star Wars Episode 3 belongs to a trilogy that features shit flicks like Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones (though I tolerated PM more than AotC cos' despite it being a dumb kiddie flick, it had Darth Maul in it... AotC's romantic scenes left me traumatized for life). How can one movie from a trilogy seem THAT different from the others? I thought that George Lucas, greedy bastard and sellout he is, has completely lost touch with the tastes of modern society, that the concepts of coolness and badassness are totally foreign to him. But how the hell could Episode 3 be so cool and badass?

The movie simply soared as it turned very dark, so dark that I felt that a TRAGEDY was unfolding before me, something I have not felt in a Star Wars movie since watching Empire Strikes Back (my fave movie in the trilogy). Everything rang with emotional resonance, an experience absent in the previous two movies. While Attack of the Clones had its share of action scenes, they left me bored to tears because I wasn't too engaged with the characters and plot to bother with what were transpiring on screen, but Revenge of the Sith simply blew me away. At various parts of the movie, I was cheering and giggling, gasping and shaking my head in disbelief, 'whoa, that's so cool!' 'whoa! that's badass! what a bastard!' 'holy crap, this is insane, man!' are just some of the lines I murmured to my flatmate.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a movie without flaws. The 'romantic' scenes brought me memories of Attack of the Clones again, and yes, some dialogue are pretty stupid, and Hayden Christensen is pathetic until he converted to the Dark Side (when he did that, his lack of emoting and lines made him badass beyond belief). My most beloved Natalie Portman, fine actress she was in 'Garden State' (I didn't see Closer), was reduced to a 'flower vase' role (a Chinese term used for useless female roles meant only to react to the main male character).

When the transformation to Darth Vader was finally complete (come on, you should've known that the movie's entirely about this), with the black helmet clamping over the deformed head of Anakin Skywalker, I just felt that there was a strange sense of mythical quality about the whole thing and that I was witnessing something REALLY special. Come on man, this is the birth of the iconic Darth Vader that had been in our pop culture for the past three decades. Yes, that scene was mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. (Although... well, the first lines of Darth Vader, tragic to some... was kinda lackluster to me)

Ep 1 and Ep 2 ARE shit flicks, the biggest and most loyal Star Wars fans can say all they want about how these two are necessary, but all I can say is that, these two films are fortunate that Ep 3 made them look almost better. (After all, to show that Darth Vader was originally an annoying kid and whiny teen just made his transformation more awesome) Yeap, to me, the entire new SW trilogy is almost worth watching because of Episode 3.

One of the best movies of the year to me. It has my Swifty's Seal of Approval. Holy crap, man.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Bidding Farewell To Reggie Miller, NBA Legend

"Ah well, i've submitted my short film to Italy, how badass can that be? If i'm eligible for the competition, I'll be invited to Italy and get groped by Italian groupies who worship the very ground I stand on."

"Translation: You worship the very ground those Italian groupies stand and want to grope them."


Hehe, the above is a conversation between my cousin and I. I haven't exactly submitted 'Forced Labour' to the Eugenea Movie Movement (a relatively new film fest in Italy) yet, will be doing that tomorrow. That's the very first competition I'm submitting 'Forced Labour' to. Cool!

Anyway, back to some NBA news, haven't been mentioning anything much about the NBA these days cos' the Sixers have already been eliminated in the first round. But I have to say goodbye to this particular player who was sent to retirement after his team had been knocked off by the defending champs Detroit Pistons (... who eliminated the Sixers too... damn those bastards)

Reggie Miller, NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made, the greatest Indiana Pacers player ever, the best clutch shooter ever (I never really witnessed any of his heroics against the Knicks, but I can still remember vividly the three-pointer he made from the half-court in 2002's Game 7 against the NJ Nets to force overtime, that was nuts), will be retiring.

He was one of the earlier NBA players I could remember when I started watching NBA back in 1993, along with Jordan, Shaq and Barkley. I could still remember how I've always wanted to imitate his shooting form when I started playing basketball back when I was a kid. And now that he's gone, things will not be the same again. *sigh*

See ya, Uncle Reggie.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Swifty Talks Star Wars Episode 3 And Playstation 3.

Well, what can I say? The entire world's gripped by Star Wars fever, and I was seriously naive back then to think that I would actually stand a chance in getting a ticket without making advance bookings. I ended up not going for the movie cos' most of my friends are busy today, and I'm still busy burning 'Forced Labour' DVDs (that's the title of the short film I've just made, to those who had just started reading my blog).

After watching the news, I realized that there's no way I'll be able to watch Episode 3 at all during these few days since there are shitloads of people who had set up camp outside the theaters. Damn, there are even some chicks who were wearing that Princess Leia bikini slave outfit too. Argh, should've made some reservations last month.

The problem is, I wasn't excited with it at all last month. Bloody hell, how could I be excited when the first two movies of the prequel have destroyed my appetite so completely for anything related to Star Wars? How could I be excited when George Lucas had proven that he's... well, he's really not that good of a director? (guy was only responsible for directing A New Hope, he didn't direct the awesome Empire Strikes Back and the less-awesome-but-still-classic-despite-the-Ewoks Return of the Jedi)

Then, the positive reviews started emerging at Rottentomatoes.com, to my surprise. Of course, obviously, the last two movies have lowered expectations so much that Revenge of the Sith, despite being only marginally better, seemed like a classic to everyone. But whatever it is, I'll go see it. I've been swept off by the hype.

So, PS3's been announced during E3. Goddamn, I didn't even had the chance to touch my PS2 that much since I bought it during Christmas 2003. *sigh* My relationship with my PS2 is just like a short, passionate relationship that never seemed long enough as compared to my long, tender relationship with PS1, that managed to accompany me for six years (from 1997 to 2003). Damn, PS3's coming out too soon, and I'm really not very excited about it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pondering The Future Of My Film Career

I am still attempting to burn 'Forced Labour' onto a DVD so that I can submit it to various (obscure) European film festivals out there. Despite the fact that this short film's been completed, I think this is just the beginning of everything. I will now see how it will fare in festivals, competitions and such. ('Forced Labour' probably has a better chance in Europe and Asia, I think, though I might still submit it to some Australian film festivals if possible)

Even so, I'm already making preparations for my next film project, which will be a more intimate, sentimental piece that will take a much shorter time to complete (since there will only be two people in the cast). But that is something I'll think about when study break arrives. I'm in the last three weeks of the semester, two of my three main university assignments have been submitted, so I gotta concentrate on the last one too.

'A Boring Story', my very first short film I made last year, which I've just uploaded couple of days ago on my site is receiving some rather positive reviews from the forums I'm advertising. I'm seriously surprised by this. The reason why I put it onto my site is because I knew that it isn't good enough to be submitted to competitions anymore, thus it's easier for free viewing. But the kind words I'm receiving these days are rather flattering. It's a pity I didn't know that much about camera work and editing back then, so the video quality is really mediocre, everything looks very washed out, the colour's really messed up etc.

This happened recently, but I've just came to a realization that I'll probably become a much better filmmaker than as a writer in the long run. Seriously. I know I've always been an egoistic bastard who brags non-stop about his own deeds, but I really felt that I seem more talented in filmmaking than writing. Writing is something I've been doing since I was 13, and after the tons of fanfics and other random stuff I've written throughout the years, I know that I'm probably an above-average writer right now, thanks to my sense of humour, wit, and cynicism. I do enjoy writing very much, and I can articulate myself rather well.

However, I think it is my filmmaking skills that will separate me from the others. I know that no matter how I try, how hard I practice, I might end up being just a good writer, but I can't really see the limits of my potential as a filmmaker yet. Writing is just something that comes more naturally to the likes of Justin, or Alex (Alanded), but it doesn't come that naturally to me compared to filmmaking. When I viewed Forced Labour, I am more amazed with it than I do with most of my own writing stuff, after all, I've never actually touched a camcorder, or use an editing software until last July! And the whole thing's just my second attempt in filmmaking! Sure, it has its flaws, but I don't remember doing anything this special when I wrote my second fanfic or anything.

Perhaps this has to do with the fact that being a filmmaker has been my ambition since I was a child, and that writing has merely been something i picked up during my early teens (and honestly, I began writing by writing everything in script format, mostly hoping that it can aid me in filmmaking in the future, just that I got so much into writing since then that I ended up forgetting that it was meant to be an additional skill I wanted to develop to aid me in making films).

Maybe my writing career is diluted by the fact that I spent too much time writing fanfics instead of original works. No matter how good you are in writing fanfics, you just can't seem to maximise your own potential that much as compared to writing an original work. I was eager for an audience, thus I wrote fanfics, knowing that it will have a built-in audience, but now, I am regretful of what I did, because I know that many of these people will probably not give a rat's ass about my non-fanfic writing endeavours. They'll rather see me wrie another new Slam Dunk fanfic, than an original work, or make a short film. *sigh*

Sunday, May 15, 2005

'A Boring Story' Returns!

Yes! I've finally uploaded 'A Boring Story' onto my site, the 5-minute short film I made last year for a competition.

Feel free to view it and rate it!

It was my first attempt in filmmaking, so I wasn't as good as I am now, besides, the whole thing was done in just 12 hours. Anyway, to view 'A Boring Story', just click here!!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Retiring soon from fanfiction. Planning next short film projects.

Seriously, this blog of mine deserves more updating. After all, how could a soon-to-be legendary filmmaker like yours truly ignore his blog like this? But then, I've never really been the type who writes diaries.

My Personal Life
Soooo, what is there for me to say? I am currently working on my emarketing assignment where I have to analyze certain Malaysian websites, point out their strengths and weaknesses in both their designs and methods of marketing, blah blah. Now, is this what you guys want to listen? Me whining about my university work?

I would really mention more about my private life, but it's way too private for me to write about anyway. I mean, sheesh, I do crave attention, but I crave attention for my WORKS, not my own life! Of course, knowing that I will be a celebrity someday, I might face the prospect of having my personal life exposed to millions around the world some day.

Oh, the pain.

My Writing Progress
As I'll be swamped with more and more university works, I doubt I'll have time to write anything. So, to you Slam Dunk: Inside Stuff fans out there (I wonder how many remaining ones do I have now?), sorry, but I doubt I can complete the next chapter that soon, just give me a couple of weeks. I'm eager to finish this damned thing once and for all, considering the bloody fact that I'm getting SICK AND TIRED of writing fanfics. I mean, sheesh, I'm 21 this year, man, I'm EMBARRASSED to tell people the fact that I write anime fanfics. (even though I dare to say that my writings in Slam Dunk: Inside Stuff's last few chapters far surpass anything some generic Yaoi-hungry fangirl in fanfiction.net could come up with) It's quite a waste to see so much work spent on a mere fanfiction when I should be working on something original instead.

It's even sadder to know that some people will refuse to read my original works once I stop writing fanfiction.

But there IS a possibility that the sequel of the semi-biographical '14 Days' will be coming up soon on my site. So, yeah, to you naysayers and non-supporters of my original works, TAKE THAT!

My Filmmaking Progress
Forced Labour is done. I'll look for some obscure European film festivals to submit this to.

A DVD is in the works as well.

Other than that, I will not be working on my next project until next semester. It could be:

(a) an ambitious, impressionistic (something like 'Un Chien Andalou'... go google about this film and you'll know what I'm talking about) take on 'The Romance of the 3 Kingdoms' (or any Chinese folklore)

(b) an offensive and inaccurate biopic of a former South East Asian leader I refuse to name here that features crude humour and such. Very LOOOOW budget.

(c) A romance mood piece that's very atmospheric. Shows my emotional, romantic, sentimental side. Haaah.

Monday, May 09, 2005

FORCED LABOUR done, picking up the pieces of my life.

Many things have happened. Forced Labour's complete, I've just finished making an 'outtakes' feature for the upcoming DVD, and also, I threw a party to celebrate the completion of this movie two nights ago.

Besides that, trailers of 'Forced Labour' are available at http://www.swiftyworks.com

I'm currently suffering from post-creativity depression. Feeling kinda empty that I ain't doing anything anymore after working on the short film for more than 2 months.

Uuuurgh.
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