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My Short Films

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Colonel Sanders dressed up as Neon Genesis Evangelion's Eva-01

Taken at the KFC restaurant near the Seijogakuen-Mae Station 成城学園前駅 when I was on the way to Toho Studios yesterday.

Colonel Sanders dressed up as Eva 01


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Odd dream from an afternoon nap

I always seem to get the weirdest dreams from afternoon naps, I think. Just like moments ago, when I unknowingly slip into a nap while watching something and dreamed of someone who had plagued my mind for the past few weeks.

We were both seated in a colourfully decorated bedroom that conjured memories of Amelie or Wes Anderson films, and I handed her a pile of papers, most of them rumpled. They were ugly sketches of random places, I assumed they were drawn by myself due to their ugliness.

"Just some places I wanted to bring you to. For now I let you feel their essence!" I said grandly and without a single hint of self-awareness.

Her hands shuffling through the papers, she studied the pitiful drawings closely.

"Maybe I should paint over them." She said.

"Go ahead." I said.

Moments later she fell asleep with the pile of papers lying next to her. The wind blew, and some scattered away. I went off to pick them up.

She was awake again and asked whether I wanted to meet some of her friends.

I nodded.

We were then seated at a long dining table. A bunch of loud, boisterous dudes sat together with us, their faces a combination of random people I knew from high school, since I felt that they were vaguely familiar.

Everyone was in the middle of a conversation. They laughed over something.

I woke up and felt the warm afternoon sun of Tokyo shining through my window, accompanied by the sound of rustling leaves.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Brief visit at Toho Studios, and foreshadowing Tsuyoshi Kusanagi's arrest

So yes, I've totally buried myself into the post-production of my film, KINGYO, in the past week, managing to find my stride again, rediscovering the excitement I had for the project through editing (hate to find that spark when you were separated from it for so long!), experimenting more with the possibilities of split screens.

Being a production bigger than initially expected (well, my Japanese team thought it was quite a small project, but to me, it's huge) the post-production of KINGYO is much more complicated than any of my previous works. Aside from the complexities of editing a film shot simultaneously with two cameras, we also had our sound engineer guy, Torigoe, to do the sound mixing. And at the same time, I'm also seeking Slavek Kowalewski's help for the music (samples of his works here, good stuff).

Now, back to the sound mixing... since extensive work has to be done, we are supposed to be going to Toho Studios to do it! (Apparently my uni lab has our own personal editing room there...) Yesterday morning, Maiko the Producer brought Torigoe the sound guy and I to the place so that he could have a look at the facilities in the lab needed for him to work his magic.

Maiko and I took the train there first and waited for Torigoe at a Starbucks nearby. Somehow as we chatted, our conversation veered towards the 2002 film YOMIGAERI, a well-regarded film that I wasn't too fond of. Maiko was also non-fan, saying that the film was really just a star vehicle for SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi.



But then, she conceded that Kusanagi was probably the best, or most versatile actor in the group, and had the nicest off-screen persona. I didn't really like Kusanagi's foray in big-budget blockbusters (JAPAN SINKS! comes to mind), though I was really impressed by his performance in the 2004 J-dorama, Boku to kanojo to kanojo no ikiru michi (僕と彼女と彼女の生きる道).

Anyway, Torigoe came, and we then headed to the Toho Studios. I was more than a little excited when I was there. Especially when I saw this on the wall of a building:

Building wall at Toho studio


And there's even a statue of Godzilla too.

Godzilla statue at Toho studio


We then went to check out the editing room, to make sure everything's fine when we start to do our sound mixing over the weekend. Here's a blurry pic I took.

Editing room in Toho studio


Later Torigoe went online and checked the news, then he exclaimed something in Japanese.

Maiko also exclaimed something in Japanese. They both seemed excited.

"What? What's going on?" I asked.

"Kusanagi Tsuyoshi just got arrested!" Maiko said.

... for public display of loud drunken nudity.

Such a big deal that it's national news, and Fuji TV even built a model of the neighbourhood around the park where he got arrested.

Already, the guy's being dropped off from commercials, TV appearances etc. This is as bad as the Edison Chen photo scandal... considering the consequences that Kusanagi's facing now in the wake of his arrest, I wonder what would really happened to Edison Chen if he's Japanese.

There was a shot in my film, KINGYO, where the two main characters walk past a huge poster of SMAP in Akihabara. It was suggested to me that the shot should be removed for fear of copyright infringement. Although I was slightly bemused, I did it anyway since that 5 second shot didn't really add much to the story and wouldn't really be a 'major compromise of my artistic integrity' (haha). Actually, I shortened the shot instead of removing it completely, cutting it right when the corner of that poster is shown, sign of my own rebellion and cheekiness. What a pity though, come to think of it now, that shot in my film would have been a perfect encapsulation of a particular moment in time (... when things were still all right for Kusanagi).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back in Tokyo, back to editing KINGYO

Kudou Amane as The Wife in Kingyo


I've returned to Tokyo since Sunday night. It's been a hectic few days. I actually had a film shoot in Klang on Saturday and had managed to do another quick short film with the help of Lesly and Han, that film was an experiment with the Nikon D90, which I saw Ming Jin and Lesly used for their short film, THAT DAY WE WOKE UP. To be able to complete another short film, what a joy!

Yet now that I've returned to editing KINGYO, my poor Japanese short film that I've left in the can since January (and did a bit of editing late February during my one-week stint in Tokyo), I find myself having some problems trying to work on it. Being separated from the project for so long is one reason, I think it also had to do with my involvement in so many other productions since KINGYO. Since my KINGYO shoot, I've done:

- The editing of THAT DAY WE WOKE UP, a short film that actually took me a while to edit not due to its complication (Ming Jin and Lesly took only a few hours to shoot it), but because I had to switch from my PC laptop (it nearly died trying to handle HD videos) to a Mac, and familiarize myself with the Final Cut Pro.

- And then there's the shoot for the feature film, WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER. Not only am I the producer of the film, I was also editing it.

- And finally, the short film I shot in Klang just a day before flying off to Tokyo.

During my involvement in the three aforementioned projects, I was looking through numerous references for research, in order to help with their development. Ming Jin's short film and feature film veer towards naturalism, somewhat edgy and dark, so the films I went through for research were from the likes of Kore-eda, Reygadas, etc. Based on the documentary-like approach (especially the former) they have towards filmmaking.

And I also started poring over videos and films of the French New Wave in order to aid me as I prepared for my latest short film. I watched Truffaut's JULES ET JIM, and searched through my own memories of other French New Wave works I've seen, I still remember how much I hated Godard's MY LIFE TO LIVE when I first saw it few years ago, and find it ironic that I was drawing from it for inspiration as well.

So, with all these floating clearly in my mind, coming back to KINGYO after all these months was a slight shock. I wasn't sure whether it's in a good way or in a bad way. As I started throwing myself into the editing process again immediately after I got back to Tokyo, some slight doubts started surfacing. It's always advisable for one to stay away from his film for a while before starting the editing process, so that one can be more detached and objective towards footage. If I had edited KINGYO immediately after the shoot, I'll be so intoxicated by excitement and sense of self-satisfaction that I'll probably overlook most of its flaws. I'll be swept away by the excitement and enthusiasm of the rest of the crew. My constant desire to experiment with style and form in filmmaking became a slight impediment, KINGYO, so different from the subsequent short film I shot, felt a little unfamiliar and 'cold'. It's like getting to know an estranged family member again.

Slowly I had to adjust my own senses, remembering that KINGYO, unlike the films I've done since then, was less cynical or edgy, and more stylized. I forgot that I was drawing more from the likes of (mid-90s) Wong Kar Wai and Shunji Iwai and other visual stylists of that sort, I also drew from music videos etc. Characters in the film are not the dispassionate and rebellious protagonists of a French New Wave film. So I had to sort of erase my latest state of mind, banish images of Jeanne Moreau and Anna Karina and try to recapture how I felt during the making of the film. As I did that, more possibilities opened themselves to me.

Even so, I don't think KINGYO will be that easy to edit.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

LOVE SUICIDES goes to Paris (Paris Cinema International Film Festival)

[Love Suicides] The girl (Arika Lee) plays with the red balloon
Arika Lee in LOVE SUICIDES


Today was like an emotional roller coaster.

I woke up and saw a MSN message from Fei Ling, telling me that she couldn't do my short film, EXHALATION, due to the fact that she's swamped with work (girl has a day job). I've intended to shoot the short on Thursday, with Lesly's D90, and with Ming Jin producing, but of course, since the screenplay's tailor-made for her, once she can't do it, I can't really get a replacement. So I called it off, and was in some sort of melancholic funk, despite trying very valiantly to suppress such feelings.

Afternoon came, I remained busy editing WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, while my mind wandered. I was supposed to go to Klang with Lesly on Saturday (I'm returning to Tokyo on Sunday), check out the locations, shoot the places for an upcoming project in August. Then I thought... what happens if I try to immediately shoot a short film while we're looking at the locations! And voila, I felt better!

And then I received an email from the Paris Cinema International Film Festival telling me that my short film, LOVE SUICIDES, had been selected for presentation at the international competition this July. My jaw dropped open.

LOVE SUICIDES write-up on Twitch

[Love Suicides] The woman (Kimmy Kiew) is pensive


Being a long-time reader of Twitch, I, was more than surprised and delighted when Todd did a write-up on my Yasunari Kawabata-inspired short film, LOVE SUICIDES.

There's coverage from a Spanish site too!

Thanks, guys!

CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY goes to Greece (Naoussa International Film Festival)

Dad (Chye Chee Keong) playing PS2 with Pinky the Pink Elephant
Dad (Chye Yang) pesters the Boy (Lim Ming Wei) into playing the PS2 with him in Chicken Rice Mystery


I actually received this email a couple of days earlier, and had posted it on Twitter (and Facebook) as well, about my short film CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY getting invited for screening at the Naoussa International Short Film and Video Festival.

It's the first festival screening of the film since last December's Dubai Film Fest. Here's the trailer of my short, if you haven't seen it before.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

THAT DAY WE WOKE UP, a short film by Woo Ming Jin

I've actually put aside WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER in the past two days to finish up my editing on an earlier short film by Ming Jin called THAT DAY WE WOKE UP.

This short film was shot sometime in late January in a span of a few hours at the office of Da Huang Pictures. Ming Jin wrote and directed, Lesly shot the film with his Nikon D90, and the film stars Foo Fei Ling (you've seen her in Tan Chui Mui's short films, A TREE IN TANJUNG MALIM and TO SAY GOODBYE, also the title character in the upcoming WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER), Jasminatha Teo and Elfie Jane (need her permission to read her blog, no, I don't have it either).

Minus the end credits, running time for the short film's around six minutes. Plot's quite hard to explain, it's like a Raymond Carver short story. Three young women woke up in a car one day, and we try to find out what happened the night before, or not.

Well, that's my pathetic attempt to explain the plot, I'll just throw in some screen captures of the film. I was quite surprised by how good it looked considering the fact that it's really shot with a DSLR camera. In fact, I was so intrigued to know how good the camera was that it was the main reason why I offered to edit the film right after I came back from Tokyo back in January.

In fact, I intend to use the same camera for my own upcoming short EXHALATION, which I hope to shoot next Friday. I'll see how it goes.

Jasminatha Teo in THAT DAY WE WOKE UP
Jasminatha Teo as chain-smoking May

May (Jasminatha Teo) smoking in THAT DAY WE WOKE UP

Elfie Jane in THAT DAY WE WOKE UP
Elfie Jane as the English-speaking Ally

Ling (Foo Fei Ling) wakes up in THAT DAY WE WOKE UP
Foo Fei Ling as the sleepy Ling

Ling and May conversing in THAT DAY WE WOKE UP

Ling (Foo Fei Ling) contemplates in THAT DAY WE WOKE UP


I actually did the editing when I went back to Tokyo briefly during end of February. It was one of my attempts to familiarize myself with Final Cut Pro. However, I put this film aside after returning to Malaysia and to prepare for the WOMAN ON FIRE shoot. Decided to apply my finishing touches upon this short film when Fei Ling asked me to show it to her last Friday, and I realized that it was time to complete this once and for all.

Not sure where you'll get to catch the short, will keep you posted if there's a screening or something.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER shoot has ended

Sunrise at river [WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER]


Fei (Chong Shun Yuan) and Li Li (Foo Fei Ling) hanging out [WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER]

The two pictures above are screencaps from the film's raw footage, haven't done any colour correcting or anything



Wow, it's been a while since I've updated this blog. Despite having Internet access at Kuala Selangor, it was hard to really write about anything during a film shoot. Somehow, I just didn't seem to have the mood for it since all my attention's placed upon the film itself.

The 12-day shoot took place mostly in Kuala Selangor (except the last day, when we went to the famed waterfalls at Ulu Yam instead) and was an emotional roller coaster, and an intense physical exercise. We went to the jungle, to the river, to the middle of the sea, to shoot, then we shot at a salted fish factory and also a cockle factory. I was constantly assaulted by mosquitos during mornings and evenings (insect repellants can only help that much), and was also sunburnt.

It's all worth it though.

Ming Jin had gone off to Tokyo last night to attend his sister-in-law's wedding, so it's now up to me to edit the film.

Hopefully this will be considered as a worthy follow-up to Ming Jin's previous film, the award-winning THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA.
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