As one of my friends put it, it's part-action, part-thriller, part-sci-fi, part-comedy. It's all that and more actually, because what do you expect when you put 4 film nuts together?
It's Finally Here!
A whole lotta ideas, that's what! It was a crazy 40 hours, which led to the birth of our maiden (virgin?) short film effort aptly called, The Undecided. Here's my take on the journey, and be sure to check out my fellow collaborators blogs: dgital, massb and overider for their take on the same spate of events too
Friday 11 Nov 05 1930hrs
The announcement was made at the Substation's Guiness Theatre, and the theme for this year's Fly By Night Video Challenge 2005 was
Tan Pin Pin and Yuni Hadi
Yes, you saw that right. It's pretty insane don't you think? You could interpret it literally, figuratively, translate it to numbers, translate it to words, read it vertically, treat it as a vulgarity, the possibilities are endless.
Raring to Go!
So what did we do?
Gotta Read Instructions!
Friday 11 Nov 05 2000hrs
We went for dinner lah! Hungry after a day at work, we adjourned to Plaza Singapura and tried out the fishy restaurant at MarketPlace. Can't work on an empty stomach right?
massb Shocked By Amount of Food!
Sure we brainstormed as well, over a meal of fish-and-chips, deep fried shrimps and prawns, while being in awe at the blowtorch used to cook the seafood platter, and learning something about diving from overider. And oh, we met massb's ex too, labelled the Psycho-Babe, which somehow crept into our brainstorming ideas.
Friday 11 Nov 05 2100hrs
Being chased out after finishing our dinner, we needed somewhere quiet to continue brainstorming. Starbucks at Plaza Sing didn't make it, so somehow we ventured to Park Mall's Olio. But since it closes at 2230hrs, we had to make do at the benches outside Park Mall.
The Dazed and the Wide Awake
Ideas were thrown about, discussed, and thrown out the window faster that you can say Fly-By-Night. It's pretty amazing, that we started off with wanting to do serious drama, but ended up with what we finally had. We did a vote of the ideas thought up over dinner, and eliminated the list of possibles to the list of probables by doing a 4-man vote.
How Much? :-P
It was pretty difficult, as we had different ideas and had to weigh the practicality of each. Thus, science fiction was discarded, together with ordinary ideas like the chronicles of a boy late for his exams. We actually had Cleopatra Wong agreeing in principle to help us out in our effort, but given that we didn't know the general direction of our story, we might not (and in the end didn't) need to enlist her help. If you're reading this Cleo, thanks for agreeing to help us out! Given this experience under our belt, we might need to next year if you'd like! :-)
massb Scaling Lamp Post!
The clock was ticking away, and we were getting nowhere, though it doesn't necessary mean it was a bore. Many ideas were considered, but somehow we managed to poke loopholes in them as we dwelled deeper into the story. It's tough, coming up with a credible yet fun story, and having it easy to film.
Friday 11 Nov 05 2330hrs
We thought we were nearly there, and at this moment, we were running amok with a story about a relationship, about a note, a suicide note, a library, a note in the book in the library, a twist in the story, a supernatural element, a montage... wow!
But we poked at the loopholes and threw it aside. Hmm.... we still didn't have a shooting script at this point, let alone a broad outline. We still had the ideas coming, and had to take turns to elaborate on them.
Is There No Script?!
And then, at the level of exasperation, we thought, it would have been great to have filmed what we just gone through - the endless "arguments" and the horsing around. And then it struck us.
We could do a simple mockumentary showcasing the Organizers and the Contestants' point of view of the entire event. Thrown in would be montages of various genres of films, which would allow us to experiment and have loads of fun experimenting.
So by Saturday 12 Nov 0030hrs, we headed home, but only with a broad outline, and nothing more. We decided that we can fill in the blanks as we moved along later, and since massb had drama sessions in the morning, overider, dgital and myself would meet up at 1000hrs to start our project.
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1030hrs
Make that 1030hrs, and overider picked us up in his cool vehicle (yes overider, you da man! Our driver cum actor cum cameraman cum storyteller cum everything else, then again, most of us were too, except for the driving bit :-) where we headed for...
MacDonald's for breakfast - King Albert Park. Again, we can't work on an empty stomach eh? And we discovered overider had chalked up close to 4000 points to redeem burgers for a whole year! WOW!
It's pretty serene at this point of time, we didn't feel compelled to buckle under pressure and produce some form of script. We still had an outline, a broad one at that, but what we did was to surf the net for movie gossips at joblo's
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1200hrs
Finally massb called and woke us from our lethargy, and it's time to pick him up to venture into film production proper, and dgital's workplace. It's an office somewhere in the west, which provided us with great interiors, and later, fantastic rooftop and carpark for probably one of our best and cheesiest moments.
But first, we realized that overider's Toyota had its fuel tank showing E, and in no way do we want to experience the limits of Toyota's reputable fuel consumption. While at the nearest petrol kiosk, we saw overider's secret family!
So romantic, hold hand somemore leh!
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1300hrs
Finally, we had an office space to shoot something, and it's not before long we had to change into our wardrobe - one formal attire for an office look, and the other an informal attire for our contestants look.
I tell ya we should spoof the Full Monty!
We did film quite a lot of footage in this setting, with crazy antics like hoisting tripods and 360 degree camera angles. Our nerves were calmed once we shot our first clip, but thought that it could improve a whole lot more. There were reshoots, and reshoots, with various ideas thrown in each time before we shot. It's kinda amazing that we developed and discussed the scene first, then proceeded to shoot them, just like that. Still no script. Ain't that tough after all Wong Kar Wai :-D
massb and the alien.. ermm.. camera tripod
It's pretty mundane stuff that we hacked up for the organizer's bit, basically just to poke fun at them. However, we seemed to dwell a hell lot of time here, probably just getting into the groove of things. One thing's for sure, we got more comfortable in front of the camera. I was a bit conscious at first, looking into the camera when delivering my lines, but as it went on, I didn't even knew it existed.
No, we ain't touching R21 material!
This was cut off from the final product, but we had myself dissing overider after he did that stunt kick on me and massb, and we had overider proclaiming himself to be better than Jaa. Pretty fun time we had shooting this sequence, the Kick which was preserved in the filmlet. Massb also improvised with his dramatic falling over the chair stunt, and we had to reshoot the entire scene again because of the lighting conditions - this is not gonna be the first time we reshot or rearrange stuff due to the (poor) light.
We enjoyed ourselves so much with filming action sequences, we decided to do 2 more before embarking on our location shoots, not all of which we went, but these were some that were planned: Esplanade, Labrador Park, WWI and WWII Memorials, National Library, Toys R US, Registry of Marriages, Fort Canning, and dgital's place.
So we went back to the carpark, and created a quick murder scene, with detectives overlooking the body of a slain man. Overider somehow came into the shot, and the scene in which you see, was it. The knife that you thought you saw, was actually my red pen. :-P And no, no overiders were harmed in the making of the scene :-P
This was unbelievable - we thought of this insane scene where overider will try and ram me and massb with his Toyota. We did film the discussion for this scene, so perhaps it'll go into the making-of documentary.
So massb and I were coming out from a stairwell, and just as the vehicle approached at "top speed", we had to fling ourselves away from danger. Not bad eh? All action, with no stunt double leh! But we weren't satisfied, and filmed what you saw in the scene later, with me and overider Vs massb in a car toolkit Vs yellow umbrella fight. Sort of. The amazing thing was we only did it in two takes - one as a rehearsal on what we're gonna say and do, and the other with the camera rolling. Not bad, for amateurs.
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1630hrs
It was hot hot hot at the rooftop, so overider's car gave us airconditioned comfort as we made our way to the next destination, Labrador Park, to make use of the cannon monuments for our War scene. Along the way, I think the sky was unhappy and spat on overider's windscreen. Twice.
So, where are we heading?
Only overider and dgital brought along their No.4 as part of their wardrobe change, so naturally they were casted in starring roles. You can see that from the final footage, the camera was trying hard to take shots above the waist, cos the bottoms were jeans! And all we had was one helmet and one jockey cap, but good enough to make it seem convincing.
Of Guns and Runs
It's like kids playing at the playground, with imagination running wild. Here, overider had to imagine himself putting rounds into the big cannon, while dgital had to steer the gun to the right direction. Perhaps the most outrageous moment was to have them imagine they had fired the gun - it's in the final footage, it's madness I tell ya! :-D
One of those stylo publicity stills
Fire in the Hole!
The next sequence was to have the two of them (plus me, the camera man) run up some forest slope. We only did two takes, one which had some dramatic light shining down on our soldiers, and overider somehoe blocking dgital towards the end (running in a single file), while the other had overider run off screen, and right into a tree (damn, too bad didn't capture this moment!)
Don't Try That At Home Kids!
There's a deleted scene here, which showed massb sulking as he didn't get a chance to play soldier. Pretty cute, with a piece of leaf rebounding to poke his eye haha!
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1730hrs - It's Time To Get Married
Running + Slope + Afternoon = loads of sweat. It was almost evening when we made it out of Labrador Park, and along the way, stole a footage of a groom and bride while they were posing in front of some door. Thanks, whoever you are!
And it was another long drive to ROM, where we shot a clip of massb awaiting his Juliet. Actually it's an excuse for us to reminisce about this cute chick we saw yesterday at substation :-P
Seriously Waiting for his Beau...
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1815hrs
It was a quick journey back to the Substation to film the competitors portion of rushing out of the Guiness Theatre, to serve as a kind of transition / introduction to the characters. A big black mercedes was parked right in front of the entrance, and we were racing against time to shoot this before night falls.
No choice, had to park the park slightly in front of the entrance, and do the shoot. It was tough as there were curious passers-by who got into the camera frame, but before we can say "SIO AH SIAM AH", we finally completed what we set out to do here.
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1815hrs
Our stomachs were growling, so it's off to the revamped Marina Square for a dinner of...
It's also ample opportunity for us to rest our tired legs, and to recharge. We noticed a dark alleyway at the carpark that we earmarked for a possible shoot, but that was not to be. But we had an Ed Wood moment of inspiration, to do a UFO invasion over the Esplanade. Here, you see overider with our UFO prototype:
"Now all you need to do is to attach strings..."
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1900hrs
There were many purposes going to the Esplanade - we can visit our friends at PopCornPop and shamelessly borrow their Star Wars Lightsabres for our shoot, go to the Library to return our DVDs, or shoot something in the library. We didn't do the first one cos we're not shameless enough. We did the second one cos if we didn't we'll get fined, and the third one, we didn't dare risk it because of the warning sign posted at the door which says no photography or videography.
But we did go to the rooftop of the Esplanade, twice. The first time we had chanced upon an ongoing show at the ground floor, where 2 female fighters were duking it out with their swords, sparks and all, to the crowd's delight. We had wanted to use the footage, but in the end it will become a deleted scene.
We had a mini interval leaving the rooftop and chancing upon an extremely huge butt crack. What can we do? It was staring at us right in the face! Tsk, the hipster jeans these days...
Toilet Got Hantu Leh
And we returned to shoot a horror sequence at the Esplanade roof male toilet. We thought we were in luck when we checked the cleaning schedule - the cleaner just left, therefore the toilets are clean enough for us to film up close.
Alas, there are a number of users who popped in and out, and we had to somehow block, and make it uncomfortable (by staring and telepathically asking if they had finished with their business) for them so that they don't linger on too long to either
1. think we were up to hanky panky in the toilet - there were 2 guys in a cubicle :-P
2. alert security
But of course, after the shoot, overider had the urge to utilize the toilet bowl for real...
Saturday 12 Nov 05 1945hrs
We needed the dialogue scene for the competitors, and instead of wasting more time going back to where we started it all - outside Park Mall's Olio Dome, we made do with the foyer of the Esplanade theatres.
And we didn't expect to be interrupted big time by the bloody ringing of the bell and announcement that the show (for that night) was about to start (at 2000hrs). So we had to shoot-stop-shoot-stop-rip-out-hair-swear-shoot-stop. Until all the paying patrons are safely inside the theatres enjoying whatever production was on stage.
It was a musical chair moment as we had 4 of us, but only a 180 degree angle which was properly lit, so we had to move about to be visible on screen. I think many at the lobby thought there were 4 mad persons who can't decide where to sit.
Also deleted was a scene in which I gave our Romance idea a thumbs down :-P
And at this point, we realize that we were threading on thin ice when the battery of the camera was down to about 25%, and here's the best part - the camera doesn't have a DC inlet, and the charger is with dgital's friend! Bless that friend though, cos she had to cut short her outing on a Saturday evening just to be at home to pass us the charger. We owe you one!
Saturday 12 Nov 05 2030hrs
So it's back to Marina Square where the car was parked, and off to shoot our Horror clip at a block of HDB flats opposite massb's place in the East. We had to choose a correct block - those upgraded ones where the lifts have the look-in windows. Why? Cos we wanna reverse a Ju-On shot, a passenger in the lift, with the "ghost" staring in.
You'll never believe the difficulty in getting this done. For starters we gotta scrimp on the battery life, meaning on-off-on-off-on-off the camera just to enable us to make that perfect shot.
Second, we had to choose the busiest block, and the lift continuously got used by the residents! We aren't gonna scare their wits out, so we had to start-stop-start-opps-someone-came-into-the-lift-oh-they're-gone-start-stop. dgital and I thought we spend the longest time, EVAR!, riding in a lift, from ground to level 16, down and up and back again.
And I think the spirits were against us too... as the shot we wanted somehow had a reflection of me holding the camera, and of dgital standing next to me, preparing to be spooked. Here's the best bit - what you see in the final product, was a combination of rejected film + static shots (due to battery dying). The battery did give up at the final moment, but that's when we decided that principle photography was over.
Saturday 12 Nov 05 2200hrs
Road Trip at Night
It was to dgital's place for editing, but without battery, it's gonna be near impossible to get the clips uploaded in full. We tried, but it died on us halfway. So in the meantime while waiting for dgital's friend to get home, and for overider to arrive her place to pick it up, we ogled at dgital's DVD collection, and were in the warm hospitality of his folks - fueled ourselves with food and drink :D
So by 2330hrs, overider had already gone off (I think he clocked maximum mileage for a day) to fetch loads of people, massb and I decided to go home, shower, rest, before coming back again to dgital's place to do the editing at 2am.
Sunday 13 Nov 05 0100hrs
dgital tried to call me, but I was already in comatose state. Woke up at 0130hrs, and got updates from massb in a cab on the way to dgital's place, that overider got lost in Punggol, and dgital had to make a trip to his friend's place to pick up the charger. (Overider on the road the whole day and night!) And we've got at least an hour to spare for the batteries to charge to a reasonable level.
Sunday 13 Nov 05 0200-0500hrs
It's a blur during these hours - dgital and myself editing the film (actually more dgital than me, I was the eye power :P), and massb going through a selection of music.
Fact is, I didn't know when overider arrived - it was a surreal moment, burning from lack of sleep, to the insane rush of editing. Sometime within these hours, we decided to continue with our Signs spoof, and went creative with aluminium foil.
Overider Dishing Out Free Blessings...
Editing was a pain though - software couldn't work, and we had to rely on Microsoft's Movie Maker (Bill Gates gonna be proud), some clips which we wanted ended up on the virtual floor - which we later realized, almost all our "organizers" scenes were edited out :(
Sunday 13 Nov 05 0600hrs
Finally, we got down to our last shot for the day - the classic Signs spoof which somehow made its way to unofficially represent our short film. And that last bit where overider turned to look at massb, was unrehearsed. I dunno why, but somehow overider adds his nuances at the right moments, at the right places! :D
Protection From Mind Reading Aliens!
After which it was a mad rush to re-edit the film, and at this time we were suffering from lethargy, but we had to persevere. Wonder how the other teams were doing.
Should've Included an Ultraman Vs Godzilla spoof too...
Sunday 13 Nov 05 0700hrs
It was so kind of dgital's folks again, as they had prepared breakfast for us (wow!). Adding music was a challenge too, but we managed to find some appropriate music to mesh in, like the A-Team theme, parts of 2046 (which was also used for the 2 beat / cut-scene in the lift horror film), and Green Hornet for overider's Tony-Jaa-ish moment. I think this was probably the best bits. Music fuels the soul, and we had a good time listening to some gems.
But wait! There's more! We actually forgotten about the ending we wanna shoot, so dgital had to don his formal attire once again to complete what we had set out to do. So finally, after 36 hours, we were done.
Sunday 13 Nov 05 1000hrs
Almost. It was a pain rendering the movie back to DV format. There were some unexplained skips that threatened our short film, and the second time, the battery ran out again and aborted the process. We were hinging on the last rendering, do or die, to make it. (And we thought it was the quality of tape that had a part to play too) :P
Sunday 13 Nov 05 1215hrs
We were finally out the door, overider and I, to submit our work. Burned a CD too in record time containing the film and some production stills, and off the the Substation - we just had to get there by 1300hrs, or all will be lost.
Are We So Proud of This!
We arrived at 1245hrs, and submitted our entry just before the eventual winner did. Hey, it came with a boxset leh!