Monday, 26 August 2013

The Birth of Project 2

Project 1, which the film titled "Once upon a Stormy Night" has been renamed to Rojak project, is drawn to a close with the appropriately "Dance Finale Shoot" took place on 16 June.

Well, the short film is actually still in post production. Our talented one and only editor is busying putting all the bits and pieces together. A Herculean task.

Despite the facts that we've yet to see the final cut. Because my absolute faith in Paolo, our Herculean editor, we can consider we've completed a film. Our 1st and hopefully many more to come.

Film editing screen grab
Screen grab of the film editor of Rojak short film

While Paolo is sweating over his hot computer putting together the jigsaw puzzle that we created, some of us already were preparing for our next project.

And the very 1st thing for our next project is of course getting script ideas.

Before the meeting to gather the ideas for our next project, I showed my synopsis of a murder mystery title "A Political Murder". It's a murder mystery done in a mockumentary fashion. In other words, it's a black comedy. I was kind of delighted with my effort. And when I showed it to Marrie, our executive producer and founder of Reel Frenz, she liked it too. She commented to others, "It's very CSI". My head swelled beyond my tall hat (if you speak Chinese, you will get another layer of meaning from "tall hat").

All seemed to be smooth sailing. Well, nothing in real life is ever so smooth. This is because I was still sailing in the harbour.

In any case, I should make a better writer than actor (even though that was my role in the Rojak project. I had only the minimal experience in acting). As for writing, just look at what I have been writing here in my blog. After writing more than 200 movie reviews  (at this point in time), I should have some ideas on how to write a story for a movie or two. At the very least, recognise if a story sucks more than the event horizon of a black hole.

We sailed into the rough open sea, which took the shape of a Arabic restaurant called Nabin's. This was where the meeting of "OPEN CALL - Discussion for Next Short Film Project" was held on 22 June. "Open call" = "open sea".

Sailing yachts in Sydney Harbour, Australia
Sailing in Sydney Harbour
All of us introduced ourselves to the new members. Some of us presented our story ideas. 7 people in all, and they include Marrie, Kit, Michael, and myself. There's also 3 new people I couldn't recall. I couldn't recall these new people because they never become old people. I've never met them or indeed heard from them since that meeting.

Marrie presents her story idea in Nabin's
I'm the furthest person from the camera on the right row
(if you care)
Dunno if the serious talk for the need of serious commitment scared them off. I think it's a good thing if it did. Better get cold feet early than later, saving both parties the time and energy, and avoiding disappointment.

Some people think that because it's only an amateur group, no commitment would be needed. After all, they donate their time for free, they should be able to quit any time. If all members have such attitude, no film will get made.

Besides, if one couldn't commit to this group, it implies one isn't passionate enough. Commitment should be proportional to Passion. Since passion is what binds this group together, without it, the group simply falls apart.

Of course, some would probably just turn up and had a looksee. Well, I take no issue with that.

At the end of the meeting, the most significant thing came out of it is this. Short films isn't a commercially viable option. As we don't have the resources, and experience to make a full feature length movie, a compromise would be an anthology or omnibus film. I.e. a feature length film that's made up of several short films.

I could think of the following reasons why having a few short films scripts are better than a single feature length script at our stage of development of our group:
1.  Several members can participate in any given activity. In this case, writing. So if we have several short stories, we have several opportunities for members who wish to write, and given us a sense of participation.
2.  Different writers would bring in different experiences and perspectives in terms of cultures, for example.
3.  Since we have no idea who are the good writers, whom do we give the tasks to? Having several writers would reveal their individual strengths and weaknesses. And most importantly, commitment level. Yes, we're back to that.
4.  Since more than one person are writing scripts, it means it occurs in parallel, shorten the script completion time.
5.  For a feature length script, it will take much longer to complete. What do we do at the mean time? Twiddle our thumbs? I can't do that because I'm all thumbs.
6.  Short films are quicker to produce, and we will see results sooner. This is important for newbies like us.
7.  While as much as we want to commit, sometimes it's simply out of our hands. The shorter the film production cycle, the lesser the chance of some members drop out in the middle of a project.

We can't simply throw a number of random short films and call it an anthology film. These short films have to belong together in some ways in order to get included into one single film. Perhaps, the different stories all have a common element that linking them together.

After some deliberation, and recalling some of the stories that were presented in the meeting, it occurred to me that at least 3 people presented stories in the supernatural theme. The 3 members are Marrie, Kit, and a new member.

So I suggested to Marrie that why don't we make that common element being the stories in the supernatural theme as there were already 3 members who have stories in that subgenre. This is a good suggestion for the group, but I basically shot myself in the foot because my story is a murder mystery (is it better to say I kill my own prospect of writing a murder mystery?). Me and my big mouth. There's time to speak, and time to shut the hell up.

See? No smooth sailing.

Thinking I'm out of the loop by this suggestion, Marrie suggested I should change my story by adding supernatural element into it. I didn't like the idea one bit. Luckily, I managed to stay afloat. The lifesaver came in the form of a story titled "The Gift" that I have been thinking about for a few months that happened to be in the supernatural theme. Maybe I 'm more cunning than I led on. Who knows? Not me.

Actually, it took me a couple of weeks to conceive "The Gift". It was going to be a story for a feature length film. And then along came a writer's block that ruined my plan. Since the block seems to weigh a tonne and refuse to budge for a few months, maybe the story is only 30 mins long.

Wollongong Foreshore Park, NSW, Australia
Visit to Wollongong Foreshore Park, NSW, Australia

In any case, I was back into the saddle.

So I wrote a synopsis for "The Gift". After reading it, Marrie gave me a greenlight to write the script. When she asked me the expected time of completing the script, I told her I have to visit my folks back in Australia the following week. And I would be away for a week. So it would be a month by my estimation. Little did she, nor I knew that while I was on "holiday" in Australia, I wrote the whole script with 2 days to spare.

Aileen sent her best wish that "my trip would be a fruitful one". She had no idea how well her wish turns out.

The script is 30 pages long. So using a rule of thumb, this translates into a 30 mins short film.

A few thing I've learnt after writing the script.

1.  A minute is a long time and a lot can happen in a movie (unless you don't care about dead space).
2.  The flight of fancy has to be grounded in real life budget and talent constraint of an amateur group.
3.  You spend 70% of the time developing the story, and 30% writing the script.

Regarding point 1. I read in a marketing book saying telling a story to sell a product within 2 minute isn't enough. I say it's plenty.

Some people have the bright idea that if you make an art house film, everything HAS to happen slowly. Ok, take my 30 minutes story, and bingo, you get a feature length movie. Don't get me wrong, I love art house films. Zhang Yimou is one of my favourite directors. Especially his early art house films.

As for point 2. The budget constraint is obvious, but the artistic and talent constraint isn't as obvious. If my story demands a nude scene, would an amateur agree to do it? Most likely not. Ok, let's take a less dramatic, but more realistic example. What about an intimate scene that requires some kissing or necking? What about action and stunt? Crying on cues? All these are things that needs to be kept in mind when writing budget films with amateur talents.

Well, point 3 at least applies to my current script. Some people, like my fellow member who just dives in writing the script. I guess everyone's method of writing is very personal.

Actually, the open sea is a bit rougher than I imagined. I also submitted 2 other synposis after "The Gift". This was becuase I was still holding on the hope to turn "The Gift" into a feature length film. One was a horror, which Marrie rejected out of hand, commenting that she woudn't want to do horror. The other story was too similar to the one she's writing. I guess the bottom line is learning to have rejections rolled off like water off a duck's back (easier said than done, I know). That goes for criticism of your works as well. Grow some thick skins. Don't take it personally. After all, we've the same goal, to see my work succeeds.

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