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Friday, January 30, 2009

Snapshots of Chinese New Year 2009

When it comes to taking photos, I like taking the candid moments, when people are just talking, eating, doing things normally, everything without having to pose for the camera. Posing is fine, but I often ask people NOT to look at the camera when I'm snapping photos. I want... REALISM.

I didn't have my camera with me, I think I left it in Tokyo. So I used my sister's Nokia N78 instead.

The first day of Chinese New Year, as usual, was a visit to my uncle (dad's elder brother's) house. He and his family used to live in Malacca before moving over to Shah Alam 2 years ago, which is great, because going to his place takes only around half an hour as compared to nearly 2 hours in the past.

The entire family from my father's side were gathered, on that day, at my uncle's place. My dad's elder brother and his wife, my dad's eldest sister and her husband, my dad's youngest brother, my cousins, my cousin-in-laws, and the like. Seeing that one of my cousins is pregnant, I know that there will be more people at the family gathering next year.

Just some snapshots from my uncle's house.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Woo's Red Cliff 2 赤壁 - 決戰天下 is rescued by Zhang Fengyi's Cao Cao

Red Cliff 2 poster

Before starting my review of RED CLIFF 2, let me tell you some of my thoughts on RED CLIFF 1, which I watched on DVD back in October.

I found RED CLIFF 1 somewhat entertaining, after suffering string after string of mediocre Hollywood films by John Woo, with the bad taste of PAYCHECK still fresh in my mouth, my expectations were low. So without any expectations, I enjoyed RED CLIFF 1. The manly (and somewhat homoerotic) bonding between Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) and Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a John Woo trademark, remains quite amusing, Zhang Fengyi's turn as the charismatic baddie Cao Cao is the best performance in the film, the action scenes are big-scale and rather fun. In the end, RED CLIFF 1 was entertaining enough for me to not give RED CLIFF 2 a pass.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'kingyo' shoot ended, I returned to Malaysia. Chinese New Year came.


The shoot for KINGYO (my new film, some screenshots here, you can even read about its write-up on Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow, Edmund Yeo reworks Yasunari Kawabata in his latest short film "kingyo") ended on last Thursday night, amidst a heavy rain in Akihabara. As I was drenched in the rain, I was reminded of my CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY shoot nearly a year ago, when the end of a shoot was signaled by a heavy rain as well.

After 4 hectic days of shoot, I felt relieved that everything progressed so smoothly. While I've always seemed optimistic to most people, previous experiences in student productions had taught me to always expect the worst but hope for the best during shoots. When a shoot ends, I always feel relieved, and giddy with joy that I managed to survive. And then there's always a feeling of gratitude towards my cast and crew, for enduring that journey with me.

Cast and crew of 'kingyo'
The cast and crew of kingyo had seen some crazy stuff during the shoot

Maiko the Producer handled this perfectly. We huddled together, the cast and crew, with Maiko thanking our main actor Takao and main actress Rukino, and I was given two bouquet of flowers to present to them. Then Takao and Rukino spoke about how they felt regarding the shoot, and I also gave a speech (with assistant director, Lia the Artist, translating) about how I genuinely enjoyed the shoot and how I would love to work with them again. Josha the Cinematographer was then asked to lead this ritual, where he made a solemn announcement about how the kingyo shoot has officially ended, and then, all of us clapped our hands once, in unison. I've never seen anything like this before, but this ritual definitely brought a feeling of unity between us all. I would definitely 'import' this to my next productions in Malaysia.

I rushed to the airport the next morning, bringing the raw footage with me in a 1TB hard disk (while Maiko the Producer keeps another one with her in Tokyo). I would've wanted to edit the film immediately, unfortunately the digitizing was done via Final Cut Pro, and the hard disk was formatted only for Mac. I ended up not being able to edit the film because I use a laptop, and because I normally edit using the Adobe Premiere Pro (yes, all my short films, and Ming Jin's telemovie CINTA TIGA SEGI, the entire THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA, were done with Premiere Pro). Quite a hassle.

I returned to Malaysia on the 23rd (Friday night). A couple of days have passed, I've seen numerous films since then. RED CLIFF 2, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, IP MAN, BEAST STALKER etc. Perhaps I'll review them soon.

Chinese New Year arrived three days ago, and I am now in Ipoh, my mother's hometown. I even met up with Ming Jin just now, because Ipoh is his hometown too. We spoke about his feature film we are about to shoot (I'm producing), I also spoke about my surreal misadventures during the kingyo shoot, a project I've first expected to be small and simple, but ended up becoming the biggest project I've ever done, with a massive crew of such unbelievable professionalism that I thought I was doing a commercial film instead of an 'indie' film. Now that I'll be in Malaysia for quite a while, I'm eager to do another short film, something simple and small, can be finished in a day or two. Funny how I'm already thinking of another project before I even started editing this one!

Well, that's what I've been going through in the past few days.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sneak peek of my new Japanese film, KINGYO

Today's going to be the last day of my shoot for kingyo. It's 3:48 am right now, and I'm off to bed soon. But while I was digitizing the footage I've shot onto a newly bought external hard disk just now, I did some screen captures of them, just to share with you all an early look of my new film. The following pics are of the three primary characters in my film, I haven't done any colour correction at all though.

Kingyo preview 2

Kingyo preview 3

Kingyo preview 4

Kingyo preview 5

Kingyo preview 6

What do you guys think?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Got a crew, had a rehearsal. Thoughts on filmmaking as a collaborative effort.


After finding all our primary cast members, I wondered how to put together the production crew. Maiko The Producer said that she will recruit help from people of the Tokyo University of the Arts (the place where Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Beat Takeshi are teaching), she then rented a DVD to show me, an omnibus with four segments, each an adaptation of a Kawabata Yasunari short story. I was impressed by the technical skills and production values displayed throughout the film. I agreed, it would be quite wonderful to have such experienced people helping us out.

One day later, Maiko told me that she had recruited their help. Two directors of photography, a gaffer and a sound mixer. Aside from the sound mixer, they were not students, but alumni from the university, some are actually teaching there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How I found the main cast for my Japanese film, kingyo

kingyo is the title of my upcoming Japanese project. I haven't been posting that much lately because I've gotten so busy preparing for the film. Constantly revising the script, drawing storyboards and deciding on the locations. Shoot begins next Monday.

Just to recap, kingyo is the split-screen project I mentioned about. For the script, I had gone off to even conduct a comically serious research with Akihabara maids.

I've actually been busy with kingyo even before I headed off to the Dubai International Film Fest, but then, things just started accelerating after I came back. Audition sessions were held for the three main roles: I needed a young woman in her late 20s, a middle-aged man past 45, a middle-aged woman around the same age as the middle-aged man. Audition went on for nearly a week, having not held an audition since January and February last year for CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY, I forgot how amusingly deflating they can be at times. Most who came were interested in the role of the young woman Chiri the Akihabara Maid, and I couldn't find myself satisfied with any. One was too young, one didn't look right as an Akihabara maid, one had trouble acting sad, one was too hot (I wanted a girl-next-door type, not a model!) Who could be my Chiri? Chiri is the main character in a film, someone who can carry the film is necessary!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Retiring my old camcorder (2005-2009)

My camcorder (2005-2009)

During my New Year trip at the Kansai region, I became very sure that I have to retire my old camcorder. It's a Sony Handycam DCR HC32E which I've been using since my early days in Perth (sometime early 2005). I would say that this camcorder's existence had been crucial in my becoming a filmmaker.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Beautiful Sunset at Inokashira Pond

Today is a public holiday in Japan. It's called the Seijin No Hi, which is translated in English as the Coming Of Age Day. On this day, anyone turning 20 will be invited to attend a ceremony celebrating their adulthood. And then most of them will take this long-awaited opportunity to get drunk (it's also the minimum legal age to smoke and vote). I wasn't aware of this (I knew it was a holiday, but I didn't know why) until I received this tweet from Neil Duckett.

So when I went out, there were indeed some young women wearing kimono, and the guys were wearing suits, but because most males in Tokyo wear suits, I couldn't tell which ones were the ones celebrating Seijin No Hi.

Unfortunately, there will not be any photos of cute young women in kimono because I was resuming my location hunt today with my Maiko the Producer and Jo the Cinematographer after our failure to find a good park yesterday. I was excitedly leading everyone to Ueno Park after seeing how beautiful it was during the end of autumn. Unfortunately, winter had actually turned this place into a pale shadow of itself. So I decided to leave the location hunting to the other folks, since... well, they're Japanese and they probably know the place much better than I do. And so Maiko the Producer recommended the Inokashira Park.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

[VIDEO] Catching the Kobe Sunrise

Beautiful Yukata girl

I slept at 8 something last night after location hunting for my film (more on that later), and woke up at 12 in the midnight. Haven't slept since then, was editing the second (and concluding) video of my new year trip at the Kansai Region. After I've uploaded part 1 (you MUST watch it!) a few days ago, I had some problems figuring out how to edit this video.

Friday, January 09, 2009


My newest short film, LOVE SUICIDES, will be one of the 10 shorts screening at the latest edition of Malaysian Shorts held next Monday. So if you want to catch my film on big screen, here's your chance! Even I myself haven't seen it on the big screen before!

Unfortunately, since I'm still in Tokyo until end of this month, I won't be around for the Q and A session. But Ming Jin (who is the producer of the film) will be representing me!

Some stills from the film:

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

[VIDEO] My New Year Trip at the Kansai Region Part 1

Beautiful girl in yukata

Phew. Been spending the past two days editing the video of my trip at the Kansai region during the new year period. Due to rustiness (the last time I actually edited something was for my short film, LOVE SUICIDES, and that was back in last October), I was slower than usual, and needed a bit more time to get into a groove again.

Anyway, I've decided to separate the videos into two parts because it's quite long, and I'm also doing this for, ah, narrative and dramatic purposes.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Passions for times ahead - Interview with the Malay Mail

After returning from my quick Kansai region trip to welcome the dawn of 2009 (no photos, but videos coming up), I was pleasantly surprised to learn from a Facebook friend that I was on this Malay Mail article, PASSION FOR TIMES AHEAD. To be on the papers during New Year, what better way is there for me to start 2009? Thank you for the honour!

In this article, Gabey Goh asked Noel Boyd of A Tattooed Blog, Michael Hartley of Dr Mike's Math Games for Kids, Ng Eng Kuan of Driving Malaysia, and I about 2008 web discoveries and hopes for 2009.

My original rambling answer is quite lengthy, so Gabey made the right choice by cutting it down to the final version, but for those who are curious, here's the unnecessarily long, stream-of-consciousness-esque original answer:

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year 2009! Some thoughts on 2008.

Happy new year, my dear readers! By the time you are reading this, I've already taken a train to Kyoto, and probably doing my New Year Countdown at Nara. This trip to the Kansai region came about just two nights ago. A sudden urge to go somewhere, see some sights, a brief break for myself since most of my Japanese friends had gone back to their hometowns.