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Friday, March 30, 2012

Sharing some episodes of ROAD TO AFA that I directed

This is very late, since the Asian Film Awards ended two weeks ago. So you probably already knew that the Oscar-winning A SEPARATION was the night's major winner. (full results here)

But I haven't been updating this blog much these days, so please bear with me.

You might remember that I mentioned directing a series of interviews with a few major Japanese film figures last month while suffering from a hideous food poisoning as part of the ROAD TO AFA (Asian Film Awards) program hosted by Janet Hsieh. A month earlier, in January, I was in Taipei for these interviews.

I didn't exactly blog about my Taipei escapades, so I'll post up some of my old tweets related to it.













Here are the first three interviewees, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Tom Lin (director of STARRY STARRY NIGHT) and Eric Lin (star of STARRY STARRY NIGHT), regarding the Past and Present of Taiwan Films.



After that, I interviewed SEEDIQ BAAL team: director Wei Te-Sheng, cinematographer Chin Ting-Chang and actor Umin Boya regarding the beliefs of filmmakers. The interview was conducted in Wei's office. He's just such a cool and great guy.





The JUMP ASHIN! team, producer Lee Lieh, cast members Lawrence Ko (eventual Best Supporting Actor winner) and Lin Chen-Xi (whom I met a few times before at the Pusan and Tokyo Film Festivals at 2010, back then I referred to her by her nick name Lin Zaizai) spoke about the passion of Taiwanese.



Actress Guey Lun Mei (nominated as Best Supporting Actress for Tsui Hark's FLYING SWORDS AT DRAGON GATE) and YOU'RE THE APPLE OF MY EYE lead actor Ko Chen-Tung, along with Hou Hsiao Hsien again, give some insight on the mysterious relationship between directors and actors.







So there you go, those were the Taiwanese episodes.

Here are the Japanese ones.

Directors Yoji Yamada and Hirokazu Kore-eda speak about Japanese films about familial relationships.



After that, Yoji Yamada join directors Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Sono Sion, along with actor Ihara Tsuyoshi (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA) to talk about Japanese films on the international stage.



Finally, Ihara Tsuyoshi and actresses Meisa Kuroki and Satomi Ishihara speak about recent manga adaptations and horror films that had always been popular among Japanese films.



Aside from some coursework back in 2006 for my Graduate Diploma in Media Production classes at Murdoch University, I have never actually "directed" any interviews before, especially those with the talking head format. So it was exceptionally educational. Although the poor interviewees and my team had to occasionally suffer through my unorthodox style (of changing set-ups between questions in an interview), I'm glad everything came together in the end. Was very grateful for the opportunity.

There were still a number of other interviews done by the producers of ROAD TO AFA with the film people of Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea and Hong Kong which are worth a look. So go and visit the AFA Youtube page if you're interested.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Some nice scenery during my TV shoot

I've been doing my TV shoot since the 10th of March (hence the lack of updates).

The majority of the shoot took place in Sekinchan. This marked my 4th shoot in that location, from my short film LOVE SUICIDES in 2008, to Woo Ming Jin's WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER (which I produced) in 2009, to last year's LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER.

It's unsurprising that this region had became quite a popular place for film and TV shoots, the scenery had often been stunning.

These are some of the sights I saw early in the morning, just before camera rolled.

A nice view in the morning of my TV shoot.

Paddy field bathed in morning sunlight

Father and child fishing in the morning


On the day of my birthday, 10 days ago, which was also the last time I updated my blog, I was actually having my very first script reading with the primary cast members.

I had fried rice for lunch (right after the script reading).

Birthday lunch in between production meetings and rehearsals


Then I had a yummy burger during the production meeting.

Birthday burger in the midst of production meeting


At night, I had dinner with my family.

Birthday dinner with family after an entire day of production meeting and rehearsals


That was 11 days ago.

I dare not post any recent photos of myself because I have been utterly sunburnt since the shoot begun. I am now as tanned as Louis Koo, the skin on my face peeled off during the 3rd day of the shoot, while the skin on my arms are peeling off at this very moment that I'm writing this.

But other than that, everything's been fine. It's the biggest production I've ever directed (and my very first Malay-language one), lots of things to learn, lots of things to experience. It's also amusing to see, between takes, my cast members sometimes being mobbed by passers-by asking for photographs. No one wanted to take photos with the director though :(

I had a two day break beginning from yesterday. Which was good, since it had been quite a grueling shoot. It was also good for my dad, since it was his birthday. (yup, my birthday was on the 6th, his was on the 16th.)



Managed to recharge my energies during the two-day break. The shoot is nearing its end. I'm returning to Sekinchan tomorrow, at 6am. I'm kinda excited.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

6th of March, 2012. Happy birthday to me!

Forty-five minutes ago, the clock struck 12, I have been bombarded with Facebook and Twitter birthday wishes from friends, family, acquaintances, people I've never met, film people, former primary school friends, former secondary school friends, former university friends, frenemies and the like. Thanks, folks. It's been a colorful life.

A year ago today, I was in Tokyo, spending the entire day in the editing room, editing a little half-finished short film called LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER. I met a few friends who dropped by, had a meeting with my producer Yuiko, and then at night, I left for the airport, and prepared to fly to Kuala Lumpur... I almost lost my computer bag.

A year has passed. The difference is that I'm now spending my birthday in Malaysia.

But at this very moment I am trying to complete a script for a little project that I'm doing in April.

Clock struck 12, 41 minutes ago. My birthday. Nothing fancy, just working on a script.


In a few hours after I sleep and wake up, it will be rehearsals for a TV series that I'm directing. (it's the main reason why I'm back)

Yes, it's all work.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, March 02, 2012

EMPTY KINGDOM interviews me

The very awesome arts and culture website Empty Kingdom had just posted an interview they did with me.

In this interview, I discuss why I stick with short films, and mostly on my latest short LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER.

[LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER] A girl alone on a bridge


On sticking with short films and whether I would move to feature-length territory:

"It’s not really a conscious decision stick to short films. I initially started making short films because I like the medium, I can tell stories that can be told in a very short time. It’s also a way for me to experiment with all kinds of styles and techniques before I apply them on a feature-length film. However, I have also co-written, produced and edited a couple of feature films (Woo Ming Jin’s WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, and THE TIGER FACTORY) to make sure that I don’t limit myself only to short films.

As a filmmaker, compared to a feature, short films are easier to put together, so while I spend the past two years developing my feature film script (took a year to write one, threw it away, ended up writing another), I had plenty of time making my short films. It’s also just a way for me to prevent myself from getting rusty, really.

It had always been my intention to go into feature length territory, but even if I do, I will still be making short films. It’s like alternating between writing a novel or a short story, I like both."

On influential factors / people that contributed to LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER.

But when I prepared for Last Fragments of Winter, I think the two biggest influences that I drew from were the works of Tarkovsky and Krzysztof Kieslowski, especially Double Life of Veronique from the latter. Because there was just something so mysterious and unexplainable about it, yet I found myself captivated by how it made me feel, which was similar to Mieko Kanai’s short story.

One person I met made the film what it is today. I was returning from a lengthy film festival trip in Europe early last year, as I was in a bus back from the airport. I saw, through the window, a young girl walking around at the streets with a huge camera that I’ve never seen before. The bus stopped nearby, I hopped off and ran to where the girl was, just to ask her about her camera. The camera turned out to be a Mamiya RB67, she was nice enough to bring me to a junk shop where she bought her wares, her name was Miho. Although I had just written a rough outline of the story before my trip, it was after my encounter with her that helped “solidify* things.

On whether the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 in Japan affected my direction of LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER because news soundbites of the event were heard in a scene.

"It did. Last Fragments of Winter was shot in both Japan and Malaysia. The snow sequences in Japan were shot just a few days before the earthquake, while the Malaysian sequences were shot a week after. I actually returned to Malaysia just two days before the tragedy.

What happened saddened me, but I also felt a lot of love and admiration for the people of Japan, who went through all these with so much dignity and spirit.

I felt that I had to capture this particular moment in my life with my film, therefore when I was shooting on location (at the streets of Kuala Lumpur), and there was a donation drive going on, I decided to have them in the background as well. It was my way to show solidarity with my friends in Japan, which had already became a second home to me. And when I was shooting at the corner shop, the news on TV was indeed about the events in Japan, so I didn’t make any move to switch off the TV either."

I spoke about a handful of other stuff too, gears I have fallen in love with, upcoming projects, what motivates me, etc etc."
Go check out the interview.
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