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Thursday, September 24, 2009

My newest short film EVENING SKY is a pseudo-sequel of SLOVAK SLING and AFTERNOON RIVER

It all started as a joke. I was on MSN talking to my regular cinematographer Lesly (he shot all my Malaysian short films like CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY, LOVE SUICIDES and the still-unreleased AFTERNOON RIVER) just days before I flew off to the Venice Film Festival. We were discussing the possibilities of shooting another short film after Venice, and before I return to Tokyo (on the 22nd of September, I came back to Tokyo yesterday).

I thought it would be difficult, since, after Venice, I would have to rush off to the Singapore Short Film Festival, and after I return from Singapore on the 20th of September, I would only have ONE DAY before flying off to Tokyo again.

Lesly said that one day's doable, considering that AFTERNOON RIVER was made under similar circumstances (shot that on the 11th of April, also one day before returning to Tokyo).

So I was like "sure, we can make an AFTERNOON RIVER sequel or something, or a spin-off, like following the point of view of the guy who kept on calling Grace in AFTERNOON RIVER." (in AFTERNOON RIVER, the character played by Grace was constantly ignoring phone calls from an unknown caller, until she finally answers it towards the end of the film and utters the only line of the film). And since I don't like to repeat my tricks, while KINGYO is entirely in split screens, I will go for 'DUAL SCREEN' with this! Use two TVs or screens to play AFTERNOON RIVER and the companion piece side by side and the events will actually synchronize with one another!!!"

It was an over-the-top idea, but then, seconds later I thought I might just pursue it! I wrote to Ming Jin (who was still in Seoul that time), threw him the idea, he said he liked it and would help me as producer again. Then I went to Venice and told Maiko and Lia my idea, they both seemed to like it too (not that they were involved, but of course their input's invaluable), thus I was already preparing, and when Ming Jin joined me in Venice, we discussed a little about the story.

I returned from Venice and in the two days before I headed off to Singapore, I tried to put things together. Contacted Chee Wai (who acted in Ming Jin's short film SLOVAK SLING, and also in WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER) about the shoot, he said yes, and I asked him to help me find an actress for the film as well, and he did (Chee Wai directs TV shows, so he knows many people). He got me TV actress Lee Layfun.

(Chee Wai plays the DVD seller in this short film)

Despite setting up the cast and crew (Lesly ended up being busy because he had to do a short film, so I asked Kenny Chua, who assisted Lesly when we shot last year's LOVE SUICIDES, to help me instead), I HAD NO SCRIPT! I decided to stick to the spirit of its predecessor AFTERNOON RIVER by not developing a clear script and letting the actors improvise as much as they can.

That is the excitement of such a shoot. Instead of being carefully controlled and planned, it was more about reacting and improvising, I had to be instinctive! I had a rough outline of a plot (young woman seeks the bastard who may have possibly impregnated her best buddy for JUSTICE!), but nothing else. I only decided the shots and scenes on the spot, and then decide the direction of the story based on the way the characters were played by the actors. The actors were professional so they were able to make something special despite the situation I've thrown them in. The character Chee Wai played is same as the one in Slovak Sling, so making my new film EVENING SKY not just a companion piece to AFTERNOON RIVER, but also to SLOVAK SLING as well!

I've never met Layfun prior to the shoot, but she was a good sport too, since she would have to adjust and adapt quickly based on what I wanted. I mean, if I were an actor and the director would say "Oh yah, your next scene will be a crying scene, get ready for that", I would've gone nuts. So I'm glad Layfun didn't go nuts.

Unfortunately, because I was so busy with the shoot, I forgot about taking actual stills of the film... again. So here are some screenshots.

[EVENING SKY] Lay Fun makes a phone call

[EVENING SKY] Chee Wai and Lay Fun

Oh, but Chee Wai did take... a photo of Lay Fun. So no, no actual stills for the film.

Lee Layfun in EVENING SKY

I will edit EVENING SKY in the next few days.

By the way, including LOVE SUICIDES (which I shot last year, but only finished its final edit early this year) and 3PM (which I might not be sending around for film festivals because it's more like a course practice), EVENING SKY is the 6th short film I shot this year...