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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shout-out to the cast and crew of my film LOVE SUICIDES

Heya all, in case you don't know, I've gotten back to Tokyo last Friday night. Sorry for my lack of updates recently, been busy finishing up the editing of my new film, LOVE SUICIDES.

Yes, I've decided to call it LOVE SUICIDES, sticking with the title of the short story by Yasunari Kawabata which this film is loosely based on. For days I've tried to come up with better titles, ranging from the creatively titled 'SUICIDAL LOVE', to the more plot-revealing ones like 'MOM VS DAUGHTER', 'MOTHERLY LOVE', 'MOM 4 DAUGHTER 0', then I wanted to go for something more pretentiously poetic, like 'SOUNDLESS SEAWAVES', or 'THE BALLOON AND THE SEA', 'MOTHERLY ABUSE CONQUERS ALL' or 'BALLOON IN THE POCKET' etc.

None worked. I seriously suck at titles.

The funny thing about film shoots is that, once it's done, it seems like something that happened really long ago, like a distant dream. It was only a bit more than a week since the 2-day LOVE SUICIDES shoot, but somehow, it doesn't feel like that!

So let me share some thoughts about my new short film, LOVE SUICIDES.

LOVE SUICIDES has only two main locations and two cast members (Kimmy and Erica) and is a much more simplistic film than CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY. I decided to minimize the margin of error by eliminating dialogue for Erica's character. (Meanwhile, Kimmy herself only has two lines in the entire film too.)

Mending fishing nets
(Location 1= the wooden house behind Kimmy, and the area around it)

Erica sits by the sea
(Location 2= The beach)

Based on previous experience, I think child actors tend to have more problems handling dialogue and memorizing their lines. When doing CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY back in March, my main actor Ming Wei suffered a lot when he had to do his dialogue scenes, and his occasional stiff line-readings were picked up by quite a few of my audience members (who really understood Mandarin). Of course, it was also my own fault that I didn't direct him properly enough during the shoot.

An introspective scene of the little girl pondering

Erica generally doesn't like to talk. Having known her since she was born, and even though she had visited my place during Chinese New Years with her parents, that girl had never uttered a single word to me. Even during the shoot! So she was definitely perfect for her role. (or maybe she's really a method actor)

Although the story is smaller in scale, I actually have a bigger team than CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY... thus making this my biggest short film production ever! Aside from reuniting with my core CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY team from before (seriously, after my heartfelt shoutout to my CRM cast and crew back in March, I definitely didn't expect such a quick reunion!), I have Ming Jin the mentor (he's the producer for this film) and the three Greenlight interns helping me out.

The shoot was quite smooth, the traveling took a while, and because both Ming Jin and I (and even Lesly) had legendary horrible sense of direction, the traveling took up longer time than expected because we were perpetually lost, or took the wrong turns, and etc. Quite a bummer, but desperation led to creativity, and by racing against time, we often finish the shoot ahead of schedule. (Kimmy's scenes were done in a day instead of two days as I originally predicted)

Besides, there were some happy accidents, like how we stumbled into this beautiful paddy fields while trying to find the original locations, and decided to quickly film some scenes that weren't originally scripted.

Crossing the paddy field
(this scene ain't in the script)

Some mishaps with my external hard drive had slowed down my editing progress, but I managed to complete the editing much quicker than my previous works because I opted for longer takes and less coverage for this film. In terms of editing, I don't need to experiment that much compared to CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY or FLEETING IMAGES (the latter was seriously taxing), no more hip hop montage, no more rapid-fire cuts, it allows me the chance to experiment with a different sort of filmmaking, which is great. More about rhythm, more about establishing mood and atmosphere and most of all, the focus on performances. (which I often consider the weakest aspect of my filmmaking, though I'm normally blessed with good actors in my films, or people who just happened to be cast right)

Now that the film's near completion (have just sent the film off to Ming Jin for some final feedback, after that I'll do some final tuning, slap in the end credits and I'm done) I'll give a quick shout-out to my cast and crew.

KIMMY (as the mother): I think her performance here is definitely more intense than her award-winning performance in CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY. Will look forward to working with her again in my upcoming 3rd installment of my 'Crummy Mummy Trilogy' (a trilogy of short films about flawed moms that started with CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY and continued with LOVE SUICIDES) next year, once I can come up with new script!

ERICA (as the girl): She is Malaysia's Dakota Fanning or Abigail Breslin. Just that she doesn't talk, nor smile that much.

MING JIN the mentor: For the mentoring. Without him, I would never thought of doing the film in a place as awesome as Kuala Selangor. And damn, the seafood there is so delicious and cheap!

LESLY the cinematographer: Yup, cinematography here has improved much since CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY. (which was his rookie assignment, and yeah, there were some focusing errors that still make him wince every time he watches it) He will soon become the Emmanuel Lubezki to my Cuaron, the Prieto to my Ang Lee (... why are Mexican cinematographers so awesome?)

MIHARU the art director: Having her around sure lessens my worries. She's almost like the Miss Everything in the production. Buying and preparing props for me, cleaning up the mess, talking to the house owners etc. It was a mistake letting her carry the boom mic in CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY when she can do so much more! Part 1 and Part 2 of the photos were taken by her as well.

HAN the assistant editor: Aside from driving some of us to Kuala Selangor during the first day of the shoot, he also helped me digitize the video we shot using his computer because I left my important stuff (firewire cable, firewire card etc.) in Tokyo!

MEI FEN: She helped out during the second day of the shoot, and was the first person to visit me when I was editing it. Invaluable assistance. Part 3 of the production photos were taken by her. Amusingly, when we went to this Kuala Selangor seafood restaurant for dinner after the shoot was over, the people there recognized her from the Brand's Bird's Nest advertisement she was in. Too bad they still didn't let us eat for free though.

THE 3 GREENLIGHT INTERNS, KENNY, BENNY and WOON SIANG: Thanks for providing the muscle!

AUNTIE MEI LING and UNCLE RAYMOND: Erica's parents and really dear family friends of mine. Auntie Mei Ling accompanied Erica throughout the shoot and the film would never have been so smooth if she weren't around to communicate with Erica. And Uncle Raymond joined in the fun during the second day of the shoot too. They're really very supportive. Definitely on top of my special thanks section in film's end credits.

THE MALAY FAMILY WHO LENT ME THEIR HOUSE: Not everyone will so easily allow others to shoot in their house, so I have to say that I was immensely moved by how easygoing they were throughout the shoot. Heck, if someone wanted to shoot in my house, I probably wouldn't even allow it!

Yup, definitely looking forward to working with you all again. Next January, hopefully.

Oh yeah, and of course, I also have to give props to YASUNARI KAWABATA too, for writing the wonderful short story, 'LOVE SUICIDES'. Seriously, if you guys are that crazy over Murakami, you seriously should read Kawabata's works.

Well, that's all. To the rest, I'm probably going to upload a scene from the film one of these days. Gonna update this more often, lots of pending film reviews.