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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Screenshots of my new short film, FLEETING IMAGES

The lack of blogging recently had a lot to do with me trying to finish up my new short film, FLEETING IMAGES before the deadline of a certain Japanese short film competition.

When you're sleeping only 2 hours, and spending most time of the day editing and shooting, writing a new blog entry is the last thing you have in mind.

The idea for FLEETING IMAGES came to my around two weeks ago. My Japanese short film was temporarily put on hold, so I was a little bummed out that I couldn't submit anything for the aforementioned short film competition*. I'm a person who needs deadlines to motivate myself into finishing something, does that mean that since YUKI's (title of that short film) is in limbo, I'll have to just sit on my arse and wait? Not an appealing idea.

So I started wondering what kind of short films can I conjure within two weeks. When I have a lack of cast and crew? Ideas started swimming around my head, and one was clearer and more doable than the others. After watching the first ten minutes of Chris Marker's Sans Soleil last year at Ming Jin's place, an interesting film that's part travelogue and part documentary (in the end, I guess the more accurate label for it would be a 'film essay'), I've once remarked: "DAMN, I could've used my holiday videos and try make something similar!"

I was thinking of my many tapes of holiday video footage I shot during my early 2007 spiritual trip in India, where I went to cool places like Bodh Gaya (place where Buddha attained Enlightenment), Varanasi, crossing the Ganges River, and then visiting a school of blind children and a nursing home for old Tibetan refugees. Although I returne from India back in Feb 2007, I NEVER touched any of the tapes. The reasons are:

1) I don't like editing holiday videos, it's a hassle. It doesn't challenge my creativity that much.

2) I don't like things that are shot by myself because I always believed that I suck at cinematography.

3) I'm more a narrative guy than a non-narrative one. A holiday video can barely do justice to what I actually experienced. It might trivialize my trip. Not cool.

So all these while, I do have lots of unused video footage waiting in tapes, covered in dust.

Back in March, a week after shooting CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY, I also had a quick advertorial shoot with Thomas, May Zhee and Nicole. It was a fun shoot that lasted only a few hours. I did the shooting myself. But unfortunately, the ad was never used in the end.

I remember telling Sebastian then that perhaps I would use the stuff I've shot and turn it into something artsy. I would just combine previous stock footage and other stuff. Of course, I was only semi-serious, and the idea never really came into fruition.

Until two weeks ago. In my desperation, I excavated again this idea I had. Examined the videos I've shot, and was a little surprised that my India footage, despite being shot on my cheap consumer camcorder, actually came out better than expected. So I kicked into gear the development of this project. It would be a video essay of sorts, driven completely by voice over narration.

The internal monologue was swiftly written, then I had friends helping me with the Chinese translation (while I can write adequately in Chinese, translating my own stuff is still beyond my own skills) My buddies Chloe and Vanes of Dian Bang helped me a lot with this.

I borrowed a DVX100 from uni last week to capture some shots of Tokyo, namely places like Shinjuku and Shibuya. It was also the main reason why I went to Odaiba last week to catch the sunset.

Funny that after the biggest short film production I've ever gone through (CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY), my follow-up would be me returning to my 'one-man filmmaking' roots. It's a good learning experience and practice. I came to realize that my own cinematography skills might not really suck as much as I've thought (well, I know how to frame shots, focus on stuff... but no, still don't know much about lighting)

I finally finished editing, and once of the biggest difficulties I faced was music. The easy way out would've been to use Debussy again. But I've been using his stuff in three productions I was involved in (my student film GIRL DISCONNECTED, Ming Jin's KURUS and my previous CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY). It'll be too much.

I tried composing, but while the soundtrack I did for THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA was pretty good, I couldn't seem to find the right music for my own film.

So in the end I succumbed to Satie. I used Erik Satie's Gymnopedie No. 2 (No. 1 and No. 3s were used in GIRL DISCONNECTED). Note to self: I will NOT use piano music in my next film.

Synopsis of the film:

A young woman receives a series of emails from an old friend traveling in India and Japan. Some mundane, some rambling, some philosophical. He is seeking life's meaning in his travels, but perhaps all he wanted to do is to view the sunset. An experimental essay-film.

Now, some screen captures.

[Fleeting Images] Title Screen
Title Screen

[Fleeting Images] The young woman receives an email.
The young woman receives an email

[Fleeting Images] Varanasi

[Fleeting Images] Tokyo Sunset
Tokyo Sunset

[Fleeting Images] Beggars on a hilltop
Beggars on a hilltop

[FLEETING IMAGES] Blind children singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Blind children singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

[FLEETING IMAGES] The young woman in a car.
The young woman in a car

In a near-future short film project, I'll probably conjure something out from May Zhee and Thomas' scenes in that unused ad.

* Name of competition withheld so that I won't feel embarrassed when I don't win anything, I'm really not the type who makes announcements on every single film festival I've submitted my film to, so that I won't have to deal with questions of why my film didn't get selected.

A recent Malaysian film had a lot of film festivals listed on its poster, but upon closer glance, you realize that it didn't win anything, nor get screened at these festivals, it's just that the film was 'officially SUBMITTED' to these places. Like, wow.