Friday, November 5, 2010

48 Hour Film Project! Between Hollywood and Deng Xiao Ping

Friday, 29th October 2010. I groaned as my eyes sweep in the sight of a sea of rear red hazard lamps lighted up like a Christmas tree over a snake like form that stretches from where I was just after the Subang Jaya toll down to the main artery of the NKVE. The usual Friday madness once more and I was going to be late (again)… ;)

I was headed towards TTDI, towards Linus’s house exactly, for an 8:00pm meeting to discuss on a script for his latest foray into the limelight. Sponsored by FINAS, the Kuala Lumpur 48 hour film challenge as its name suggests, requires that we cover the entire film production process, from writing the script, to shooting, dubbing, all the way down to the submission of the finished product at FINAS on Sunday 7:30pm, 31st October 2010 in a mere 48 hours!

I arrived just as the familiar figure of a pizza delivery guy was passing over boxes of goodies to yet another familiar looking long haired person over the gate. “I’ve arrived just in time, it seems!” I exclaimed as I greeted Linus. It was 8:30pm.
Mouth Watering Pizza! Courtesy of our Director, Linus... :)

Entering his home, I was introduced to the other members of the ‘board’, consisting of 6 ‘artsy -(fartsy)’ members. First up was Chris, whom I was told is a sound effects master, followed by Faisal and Kay Lee, both of whom are theatre actors. The rest are the usual suspects, Carol whom aside from fulfilling her full time role as Linus’s girlfriend and sidekick, is functioning as the project manager for this outfit. Dennis; Linus’s Art Director, Tarantulla Tamer and Survival Man Extraordinaire; and last but definitely not the least, ‘Maestro’ Linus of course, movie director with a suicidal streak and a penchant of feeding nonconventional choices of food to his pet phyton. ;)
The MAESTRO himself!

Most of the pizza had gone down the hatch when I was told of our genre we’ve got from a lucky draw held at FINAS earlier on. It was… HORROR! :D (something which our Director admitted he has little experience in doing). There were other choices, the least appealing of all was ‘MUSICAL’ which generated a round of applause to the lady that picked it off the ‘hat’ from the other participants at FINAS.

Aside from adhering to the genre, all participants also had to insert in a few specified plot elements. Ours was notably a golf ball as well as the name and profession of a character (Danial Mamat, salesman) including a specific line to be mentioned in the short film (“Okay, so what’s the problem now?”).
The plot thickens...

At the end of a 2 hour brainstorming session, two ideas for the storyline has been hashed out. Initially, the top contender was Chris’s idea developed from the Malay belief of ‘Susuk’, which was proposed as a plot basis by Faisal. ‘Susuk’ was basically a practice of inserting an object beneath the skin into some part of the body, the object supposedly bestowing the wearer with certain desired characteristics albeit at a price.

Certain taboos had to be maintained, the breaking of one might result in the wearer being cursed. Removing the curse, which was going to be the main basis of Chris’s story, would require the wearer to do ‘terrible, horrible’ things. ;)

Most of us were receptive to Chris’s idea which promised visually stunning scenes and effects.

Our Director had other ideas. ;)

“Of course I wanted this to be fun for everyone and don’t want to be some dictator imposing my ideas on everyone,” said Linus in his monotone even as he coolly scribbled images on his storyboard while Chris continued to explain his idea to the others. Democracy, HOLLYWOOD style. ;)

When his turn came, Linus proposed a more ‘practical’ plot, more on dialogue and less on effects and settings. It also involves children, which immediately sort of strikes me as a rather common plot device in Linus’s productions (House, Democracy, Prayer, all involved children). Hmmm… ;) To be fair of course, a lot of directors (including Linus’s mentor, the late Yasmine Ahmad, M. Night Shmalayan) ‘use’ children as a way to project ‘innocence and purity’. But then again, perhaps there might be OTHER ways to do the same WITHOUT using children? :p

I have to admit though, that given the amount of time allocated for the project (48 hours!), Linus’s plan seems again to be more practical. For one, the inclusion of more mundane and easy to find settings saves us a lot of time that could have been spent shuttling from one set to another. Also, the minimizing of outdoor and the elimination of night time scenes removes the unpredictable element of weather (fog and rain) from our shoot.

Oh, and did I mention that Linus is planning to shoot everything on celluloid? ;) Rather ambitious actually, considering that once you shoot with film it’s gone forever and any retakes would just take additional lengths of celluloid. Loading the film into the camera itself also is quite a science actually, requiring the whole task to be done inside a bag in complete darkness. The slightest twinkle of light can likely ruin the whole rim of film which for 20 minutes costs about RM400.00. Needless to say this thing should be left to the professionals. ;)
A professional has to also master the 'dodge' from those ever threatening nipple pinching fingers! :p

Doing what he does best, Linus eventually ‘lured’ the entire ‘board’ towards his idea. Well, he is the director after all and everyone knows that the director is always ‘right’! (even a square head engineer like me knows this hard and fast rule… ;))

He did put in a ‘veneer’ of ‘democracy’ by asking each one of us, ‘what did we think about his story and whether we agreed to it’… well, we know Linus (and Deng Xiao Ping, shortly before he sent in the tanks) of course. :p
Linus turning the tables around... ;)

Seriously though, he does have ONE big advantage over Chris. HE IS THE DIRECTOR (did I say it again?) after all and everything that will be coming up is already playing in his mind’s eye (camera angles, atmosphere, desired lighting, etc). I would venture that imagining someone else’s idea would be a little bit more difficult perhaps if that vision wasn’t absorbed and captured fully enough.
Visions of HORROR!

And so we got ourselves a plot and a storyline. All that is left is the scheduling for tommorow’s shoot. That took a few minutes and once it was agreed, it was time for most of us to head home to get some rest (our director spent the night with Carol to develop the story further by inserting dialogue and such).

At this point, I have to be thankful to our kind Director for giving me yet another opportunity to be a ‘keh leh feh’ (‘extra’ in the English parlance ;)). The last time I was a ‘keh leh feh’, it was in ‘House’, waving the tractor (handled by Dennis) that was about to smash poor Varma’s house to smithereens. You’d probably (definitely) missed me because I was there for 5 second fraction. Hahahah… This time however, I had LINES! Yipppeeee! ;) (Whether you’ll hear it or not, depends on the Director’s final cut! ;))

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