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Friday, May 27, 2011

Remember Dial-Up Internet?

I first started using the Internet back in 1997. I was 13. It was a miraculous experience, to be able to exchange emails with people, chat to people from all around the world in chatrooms, visiting websites of things that I am interested in. Those early pleasures of the Internet, like ICQ, Geocities websites, IRC chatrooms... they were so fresh to me back then.

I miss this sound.

For every beautiful nostalgia of the dial-up internet, there are also some agony. Like how it would take so long to just load images. I was downloading wallpapers for my desktop and I stare blankly at the computer screen for almost 15 minutes, waiting for something to load.

Are you old enough to remember that? Remember how old Dial-Up Internet was?

I can say without any hesitation that the current (STREAMYX) broadband connection in my house is even SLOWER.

Websites need constant refreshing to... load half-way. Images taking almost 20 minutes to load. A 2-minute clip video on Youtube? Even longer.

Imagine having to constantly switch off your modem, and switch it on again, 2-3 times in an hour, hoping that everything would become marginally better. Imagine looking at numbers like '0.7 - 0.9 kb/s' when you're downloading something. I'm lucky if I can complete the download, but half of the time, it gets broken off.

Fine, so living in Tokyo for the past 3 years have pampered me, I'm so used to NOT having to wait at all for anything to load that every single time I return for a break, it's a rude (re)awakening.

I don't blame Streamyx. I know that my house's connection is an isolated incident. Sometimes... I can't even load GMAIL.

The recent correspondences with film festivals in the past few weeks since I got back here are soul-sapping.

Film Festival: "Mr. Yeo, can you please send us a couple of Hi-Res stills of your film and also your own photo to us?"

Me: "Okay. Here are the links to these images on Flickr."

Film Festival: "Sorry, we can't open Flickr." (They're in China, Great Firewall had blocked Flickr too) "Do you mind attaching them on email and just send us? It's easier this way."


I ended up spending nearly an hour uploading the images for them.

Another Festival: Mr Yeo, can you upload a trailer of your film for us as well? You can use filesharing websites. Doesn't need it to be of high quality, maybe around 1GB?

(It takes an entire night for me to upload 100MB worth of data, and only when I'm lucky, most usually, it breaks down halfway)

Things I could have done in 15-20 minutes when I was in Tokyo became impossible here.

It's almost amusing.

It's almost amusing how helpless I can be in situations like these.

So, folks, do you remember Dial-Up Internet?

My current Internet connection is slower than that. Cherish what you have.

(We are installing UNIFI in early July, but considering how freakishly bad the Internet connection had been at my home. I don't have any high hopes at all)

Friday, May 20, 2011

The EPIC location scouting day 2

The second day of the location scouting began with sheer epic magnificence. We went through an area to seek some photogenic wilderness.

There was a large dying tree with a sad history. (it was a great durian tree, its owner started leasing the land around it to others, when people started working on developing the place, the durian tree stopped producing and is now dying a slow painful death in a place forgotten by most.

We then checked out some mangrove area.

Before heading to the beach.

Fei Ling, one of the producers of my last short film LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER was with us. (she is also played the titular character in WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER)

She's here for the public screening of Tan Chui Mui's THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER (she was the assistant director), and also to help us out with some of the location scouting and asking the locals for assistance since she is the most familiar with the area.

Alas she is unable to help us during the short film shoot because she is attached to produce another feature film (she is hot commodity). :(

Fei Ling wants to fly

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The EPIC location scouting day 1

The day began with an epic breakfast at Ming Jin's house.

Then we started our journey to Cherating.

It was car trip that lasted for four hours.

We reached our destination and had some Nasi lupus at a stall by the road.

Then we reached the hotel and took a break.

I miraculously witnessed Baby Hanae's first attempt to roll around while lying down.


Hanae tries to roll

Hanae tries to roll 2

Hanae tries to roll 3

Hanae tries to roll 4

Very awesome.

Then we started location scouting.

Evening came, the sub started setting.

I was at the beach, witnessing its splendor. Nearby, I saw a young kite flying couple. They were oblivious to the rest of the world, allowing their kites to fly as the last remnants of the evening sun disappear in a pool of azure.

I wouldn't mind doing that.

I will hope that the next few days of scouting will live up to the blog title's epic-ness. Stay tuned.


"Can I make a living as filmmaker?"

I get these questions a lot from aspiring filmmakers of my own country.

"Can I make a living as a filmmaker?"

"How do YOU make a living as a filmmaker?"

"How much do you earn a month?"

Frankly, I find these questions rather disturbing (and a little annoying) Mostly because I'm a very simple person whose actions are mostly governed by passion. Yes, PASSION. I'm a guy chasing a childhood dream, not some douche in a get-rich quick scheme. If financial stability is ALL I care about, then no, I will definitely NOT do anything related to filmmaking.

I have met my share of aspiring filmmakers from all around the world during my film festival travels, and most of them are more worried about whether they can MAKE A GOOD FILM if they attempt filmmaking, or whether a script THEY HAD WRITTEN, would make a good film. They worry about assembling a crew, finding a cast, or how to distribute their films upon completion (YouTube? Film festivals? Which fests?)

At least they care about the FILM itself. Again, I'm a simple guy, for me, it's really all about the film, all about practicing your craft, I think that if you are incapable of being true to the filmmaking, why the hell are you even thinking of becoming a filmmaker at all? Dude, do you EVEN care about making films at all?

One of the many accusations I get is that "due to my own family situation, I can do whatever i want without freely without giving a hoot about consequences". That arty fartsy artists like me get to make films because papa or mama is showering me everyday with money. Gee, thanks a lot for thinking so highly of my parents, I'm a little amused how my parents are imagined as senile, delusional old fools whose only purpose in life is to, you know, attempt to drown me to death with a raging flood of money.

(and that all my awards, all these festival selections, all these praises, interviews, newspaper appearances etc. had nothing whatsoever to do with ANY single hard work I put into my films to ensure that don't... suck)

Therefore, the actual quality of my films or the efforts I pour into my films are negligible. The most important thing to know about my career is whether I make a bajillion a day (no, I don't) or whether I have a private jet filled with beautiful cabin attendants that fly me to film festivals since I'm seemingly flying every month (I wish, but nope, I don't).

Someone told me he really really really wanted to be a filmmaker, to globe trot, to win awards, to undertake massive co-production projects between Malaysia and another country because he learnt its language etc. He really wanted a chance. A break. A possibility to get into an industry.

"Sure thing. I AM actually shooting something two weeks from now, from Tuesday to Friday. Come and help me out." I said.

"I have a day job. I can only help on weekends. But I really really really want to be a filmmaker."

"I'm sure you do. Next time then," I said politely and cheerfully while I think: (next time, when I'm shooting something else and deliberately schedule the shoot on weekends to satisfy your lordship's timetable, then, I hope I can really really really help you fulfill your dreams of filmmaking)

Where is the hunger? The passion? Where is this great dream of wanting to craft an epoch-making masterpiece that leaves legacies for years to come? If you want something that badly, you don't throw opportunities away. My very first job in the industry was serving as assistant director in a telemovie back in 2007, I was already warned that I would be paid half of what I should be paid for more than a month of work, where I would be sleeping in jungles and crap.

I took the job. Interns were paid more than I did for easier work in more comfortable environment.

If I tell you that you MIGHT be able to make a living through filmmaking, will you at least try to care about the FILM itself like... You know, what a FILMmaker should do? Does it make you feel better if you know that the odds of you getting a constant income are much higher if you actually have a decent quality of output?

(it's really one of the reasons why I churn out 3-4 short films a year, instead of one short film every 3-4 years. And producing almost one feature film a year. I probably get to practice more, keep myself from getting rusty, Maintain connections with the industry. Blah blah)

Perhaps I am naive and am oblivious to the fact that passion is long dead in my dear beloved country, and our achievements and value in life are DEFINED solely by our monthly salary. Maybe tombstones should write "at the peak of his career, he made 20k a year".

All societies are controlled by capitalism, all societies are materialistic. That is the way of nature, I won't defy that. I am pragmatic too when it comes to filmmaking, I don't just jump into projects without evaluating its artistic quality, the targeted marketplace (I have a marketing degree... An oft-overlooked fact)

If someone says "I want you to help me make a film for free based on our concept, you pay the cast and crew yourself, in return I promote your film on our blog. Yup."

I would probably say no.

If I were to fund my own project (which I do) I should be doing whatever I want without any constraints.

What bothered me was FEAR. I always feel exasperated (I'm a highly impatient fellow) that the person cannot just try make a film himself an see how he feels.

"I don't have a pro camera" one argues.

"Use a camcorder then." I replied, since I DID start experimenting with filmmaking with one during my Perth days. Since using a cheap handycam didn't stop my FLEETING IMAGES from winning the Grand Prix in Corto Tokyo 2009.

"No camcorder."

"Use an iPhone, or whatever phones with cameras." I replied, since Park Chan Wook just won a Golden Bear for short film in Berlin Film Fest with a film shot with an iPhone.

"No iPhone, no mobile phones with cameras."

"Use a normal camera." I thought if LA JETEE, almost 50 years ago, done almost entirely with stills. I thought of my own experiment with the form when shooting THE WHITE FLOWER.

"nope, can't get that either."

All I see is someone convincing himself NOT to make a film. I applaud his resilience. A little part of me inside dying all over and over again.

(Epitaph: "dabbled in filmmaking, but no stable income. His existence was pointless.")

Thank you very much.

I'm not looking forward to baby Hanae's generation.

Location:Jalan Setia Damai U13/15d,Shah Alam,Malaysia

Another new film project beckons

After finishing my latest short film late last month in the sound studios of Honjo (Japan), and a brief stint at the Jeonju International Film Fest, I had returned to Malaysia and went through a relatively idyllic lifestyle.

Well, aside from plotting a new script and preparing for a film festival trip next month, I have also been prepping a new short film project with regular collaborator Ming Jin. (to the uninitiated, he produced my last shorts INHALATION and the latest LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, I produced and co-wrote his THE TIGER FACTORY etc.)

This short film, a Malaysian-Danish co-production, will be directed by him and a Danish director. (I'm producing this time, and probably editing too, if necessary) We also have a foreign actress. It is a short film project of much ambitiousness and scope.

So I'm heading off the next few days to go location scouting with Ming Jin. Ming Jin's daughter Hanae is coming for the ride too.

Ming Jin and baby Hanae

I hope she will get to act in this film as well. Go Hanae. Imagine the following image in 3D, insane, no?

Location:Jalan Setia Damai U13/15d,Shah Alam,Malaysia

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My trophies join my toys

Over the past few years while I dabbled in the dark, disgraceful arts of filmmaking, I was fortunate enough to pick up a number of awards along the way.

I have always kept my trophies in a bag and place them either in my lab (where I silently hope someone would, you know, build me a display case, but alas my delusions were never to come true), or in my room.

But as I began getting more and more stuff from my film festival travels, like the festival bags or catalogs, film posters, or numerous DVD screeners from filmmaker friends or CD samples from composers seeking creative collaboration, I find that my room in Tokyo was running out of space.

When I came back to Malaysia last week, I brought all my trophies home with me and decide to "display" most of them...

In my toy closet.

As a child, I used to collect a lot of action figures, and I didn't throw most of them because they look good as decoration in my bedroom.

Look at the epic flying toys.

The closet becomes a treasure trove of my childhood memories, and also my adult ones. Time is often circular, and not just linear.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The imposing trip from Jeonju to Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur

Just boarded the plane. Gonna be another half an hour before ... on Twitpic

The whole thing went like this:

From Jeonju, I would take a bus to the Incheon airport. There's no other way to get there. The bus ride could last 3 and a half hours, or 5 hours if you were unlucky and got trapped in a jam.

My bus, which left Jeonju at 4:30am, arrived at Incheon airport around 8am. (3.5 hour journey)

I then took the 11am flight back to Tokyo, arriving at Narita Airport around 1:30pm. (2.5 hour flight)

Then the bus from Narita Airport to Shinjuku, leaving at 2:05pm and arriving at Shinjuku around 3:35pm. (it's a 1.5 hour bus ride)

From Shinjuku, I caught a bus that stopped right in front of my place. I think I arrived at my place around 4:15pm. (it's 0.5 hour bus ride)

At my place, I unloaded my luggage from Jeonju, continued packing my other luggage, tried paying my rents, went Four Seasons Hotel (it's situated right next to my place) to buy the bus ticket to Haneda Airport. Had some light dinner at the canteen in my place.

At 8:15pm, I headed back to Four Seasons Hotel with my heavy luggage (I later found out that it was 27kg, 2kg heavier than allowed)

The bus arrived at 8:45pm, and reached Haneda Airport at 9:45pm (it was a 1 hour bus ride).

Finally, the flight from Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur took off at 11:45pm, arriving at the LCCT airport 7 hours 15 minutes later.

As a child, when I was exposed to abridged versions of literary classics from Jules Verne, AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS was always my favourite. I liked the idea of this crazy rich dude and his sidekick/manservant, traveling around the world, running into one adventure after another, romancing a beautiful princess, saving lives etc. Adventures of sheer romanticism that capture the imagination of my young mind. Sometimes I feel as if I were living it, but without the beautiful princess, nor the saving lives, nor the manservant, and I barely traveled around the world. But this whole running around, changing one transportation to another in one long day, as tiring and annoying as it can be sometimes, can be pretty fun.

Jeonju International Film Festival 2011 recap part 3

May 4th began with the second screening of EXHALATION and its Q and A session. (tickets, to my surprise and joy, were sold out two days earlier)

Me talking during the EXHALATION Q and A session

2nd EXHALATION Q and A session in Jeonju International Film Fest

Here's a video of the Q and A session.

I followed that with some delicious Korean-styled sukiyaki.

Korean sukiyaki

The day then went by quietly. Dad had left earlier. I went to buy souvenirs, rested in my hotel room, caught a night screening of the Spanish competition film CARACREMADA by Luis Galter (trailer). Had some nice spaghetti at a nearby Italian restaurant, and started walking back to the hotel.

I walked through the near-empty street.

Cinema Town at Jeonju

"Welcome to JIFF"

Jeonju at night

Jeonju at night 2

The festival volunteers were still working hard, some of us referred them affectionately as the "yellow jackets", there were 300 of them for this festival. Young people who worked tirelessly to ensure that this would be a good experience for guests like me. They were our escorts, our guides, our translators, our companions, our photographers, our videographers and many others. With them, I felt the true hospitality of the festival. One of them felt genuinely sad that the festival was ending and the guests were leaving, I don't remember seeing that in any other film festivals.

JIFF volunteers working

JIFF volunteers working 2

I reached my hotel and started packing. Then I caught the 4:30am bus to Incheon Airport.

This ends my recap of the Jeonju International Film Festival 2011. It was a great trip.

Jeonju International Film Festival 2011 recap part 2


80 minutes later, I stumbled out of the theaters, a little dazed and confused. (check out this short review on Aphanisis)

Here is its trailer.

Yup, that's what I saw.

I went to the guest lounge and found out through Twitter that Osama Bin Laden was killed. Ten years ago when 9/11 happened, it was night time in Malaysia, I at home, we had family friends over, and we suddenly paused and looked at the news, and spent the rest of the night glued at the television.

Perhaps ten years from now, when people were to ask me "where were you when Osama Bin Laden was killed?", I would say, without hesitation "I was at the Jeonju International Film Festival 2011, having just seen Kim Sun's Self Referential Traverse: Zeitgeist and Engagement... yeah."

Moments later, I headed back to the theaters to catch Kidlat Tahimik's 1977 cult classic PERFUMED NIGHTMARE. (the entire film is actually on Youtube) A retrospective was held for Kidlat at Jeonju. (I first met him last December at the Cinemanila International Film Festival)

Watching the film on the big screen was entirely a unique experience, mostly because of the nature of the film itself, and how I felt myself feeling more and more immersed into the thing. There were moments when I actually started believing that the film was a documentary about Kidlat's own past (he was also the main actor of his film). Imagine my surprise when I gradually realized that I was watching a work of fiction.

I walked out of the theaters again, and headed to the JIFF lounge, a really nice band was performing on the stage nearby.


I rested on the beanbag outside the JIFF lounge.

Resting outside the JIFF Guest Lounge

Night came.

My friend Jean brought us all to the nearby Jeonju Hanok village.

Hanok Village

The place was filled with traditional buildings and shops selling traditional stuff. There was a shop for paper fans, apparently it called itself a museum for folding paper fans. I often carry a paper fan with me during film shoots, so I went to check it out.

Folding Paper Fan Museum in Hanok Village

We were heading to the Damoon traditional Korean restaurant for dinner.

entering Damoon traditional korean restaurant

Damoon traditional Korean restaurant

After the feast, we had tea at the stylish Poong-Kyoong teahouse.

Poong-Kyoong teahouse

May 3, I went to the video room and watched ANYANG, PARADISE CITY by Park Chan-Kyong (he's Park Chan Wook's brother). The film would end up as the winning film of the film festival under the Korean competition. It's hard to describe what the film is, it's sort of like a documentary, with some fictional reenactments, it's also about a crew making a documentary with some fictional reenactments, it's all very meta.

I then caught 15 minutes of Álex de la Iglesia's THE LAST CIRCUS (Balada triste de trompeta) which won the Silver Lion last year at the Venice Film Festival for Best Director. I then decided to catch the film on the big screen instead. So I hurriedly headed off to its industry screening. I enjoyed it. Here's the (probably unofficial) trailer

I immediately followed that with Im Kwon-Taek's digitally restored 1981 MANDALA, a film that follows the differing lives of two Buddhist monks in Korea. It's a meditation in individualism, faith and enlightenment, which reaffirmed many things I thought about Buddhism. It's a masterful film and I'm glad I caught it. I was also a little amused that I saw THE LAST CIRCUS and MANDALA back-to-back, when both of them were extreme opposites.

After that, I went to the Portuguese Film Night. That's me with director Yang Ik-June ("Breathless") and the actress of his new 40-minute short film commissioned by the Jeonju Film Fest, Ryu Hye-Young.

Portuguese Film Night at Jeonju Intl Film Fest 2011

I caught sight of Claire Denis, a filmmaker whose films I've really admired in the past year and a major influence for my latest film "LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER". (she was one of the three filmmakers for this year's Jeonju Digital Project) Wanted to approach her for a photo, but thought to wait until everyone's done with their speeches. Alas, once the speeches were done, she was nowhere to be found. :(

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Jeonju International Film Festival 2011 recap

After arriving at Incheon Airport on the awesome business class seat. I took the bus from Seoul to Jeonju.

The epic bus ride lasted for more than 4 hours.

(The bus ride from my place to Narita airport was 1.5 hours, the flight from Tokyo to Seoul was 2.5 hours)

I fell asleep, woke up, I was still in the bus. I started reading Herman Hesse's Siddhartha on the iPhone. I finished the entire book, and then I reached Jeonju, by then I had almost attained Enlightenment.

It rained from Seoul to Jeonju.

After reaching the airport, I sprinted to a nearby cafe, met up with dad (who arrived from Malaysia few days earlier), Philip (who had jury duties in the festival), Jean (she writes for global film trade paper) and Hyerin (she's in a rock band). And then headed off for dinner (they were all waiting for me).

For dinner, we had, of course, Korean BBQ.

Korean BBQ restaurant in Jeonju

It was pretty yummy.

Yummy korean BBQ

Epic Korean bbq

I had bibimbap with the BBQ, it was an unholy combination.

Bibimbap with Korean BBQ = Unholy combination

Here are some videos, where you can see Hyerin (she's Korean), prepping the BBQ with sheer skills.


video 2

It was a good way to start the festival. I then headed back to the hotel to sleep.

The next day (1st of May).

I had bibimbap for brunch.

Side dishes

Bibimbap brunch

Bibimbap brunch - after the bap got bibim'd

me at bibimbap brunch in Jeonju

Kiki Sugino, star and producer of my short, EXHALATION, had arrived, and was there too for the meal.

Kiki ponders

Kiki at Bibimbap brunch in Jeonju

We were the EXHALATION team.

Team EXHALATION at the Jeonju International Film Festival 2011

The festival was a busy one, the area in front of the festival lounge is a favourite resting spot for people.

People hanging out in front of JIFF lounge

We rested there for a while, Kiki made a convincing case that she should be the spokesperson for Doutor Coffee.

Kiki at the Jeonju International Film Festival booth

I then headed off.

Jeonju International Film Festival on the road

To do a TV interview.

This is me, before the interview.

Me, just before a TV interview

Tis' me, after the interview.

Me, after a TV interview

Evening came, I then rejoined Kiki for the EXHALATION screening, which was part of the World Cinema Shorts 1 program with TALES by Raya Martin, Antoine Thirion and Saskia Gruyaert, THE ACCORDION by Jafar Panahi and BOYS by Matsunaga Daishi. I noticed that Kiki and I were the only ones making our first appearances in Jeonju Film Fest, the directors of the other three shorts have had their works shown in earlier editions of the festival.

So here's the Q and A session after the screening. (from left to right) Antoine Thirion was the sole film delegate of TALES, Kiki and I for EXHALATION and Daishi for BOYS.

I spoke.

Me speaking during a Q and A session

I continued speaking

Then Kiki spoke.

Kiki speaks

When she introduced herself in Korean (Kiki is Japanese Korean) the audiences were joyous, and remained mesmerized.

Audiences were attentive

After the session... Yuka Sakano (she's from the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute), me, Kiki and Daishi.

Yuka Sakano, me, Kiki and Daishi Matsunaga after the Q and A session

Team EXHALATION celebrates.

Me and Kiki, job well done after the EXHALATION screening!
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