This Way Up – a 7 shot narrative

For project 1, we were tasked to create a short film told with only 7 shots under the  theme “the seen & the unseen”.

Due to the limitations of shots, how I approached to best tell this story was to set limitations for myself.

These 2 things were set in mind before I even began pre-production, which was to keep the film within a single location & following only a single character.


I first came across this lift by chance in an industrial area & knew I wanted to use it as the location for this film. I figured having an unsuspecting character trapped within the confinements of this space would be something interesting to explore.

The character I came up with was a deliveryman who unluckily gets stuck in the lift while making a delivery. The genre I was trying to go for was a bit more towards something like a dark-comedy. But those are the hardest things to write.

However coming up with what happens next was the trickiest process, I spent a long stressful time trying to figure this out. But, long story short, I discussed the idea with a group of friends & bouncing ideas off each other definitely helped to come up with the idea you see in the film.

The key point that we made in the discussion was to play on the words ‘this way up’, as that was what is normally printed on the front of parcels as to avoid damaging the contents.

Placing that in the context of the lift, I figured it would parallel how the lift is also going up. Which led me to the final idea of the box being a controller for the lift.


The script for the film was fairly simple, just a 2 page script of what happens in the film.

Location recce & test shots

I headed back down to the location to have a look at the lighting & the space. I also shot some test stills to understand the limitations of the space & to know what lenses to use for certain shots.

Test shots

Backup location

But as with every production, unfortunately after emailing the management of the building, they did not allow me to use this location for the shoot & I sourced for a backup location.

I planned to go forward with the shoot at the 1st location done in secret from the security & only kept this one as the backup location. I tried as much as possible to avoid using the backup location as it didn’t really suit the look I was trying to go for. (More on that during production)

Shot list

This was my shot list consisting of the 7 shots, it was crucial to have each shot progress the story due to it’s limitation.

My main challenge was the opening shot which I wanted it to be a 1 take shot introducing the character as well as setting up his predicament.

From a story point of view, the 1 take also symbolises the smooth-sailing unsuspecting deliveryman as he journeys into this magical lift. The first cut only happens when he trips over the box which sets things in motion.

Other considerations were also having the actor physically mimic the lift stopping shake in camera so that the stopping of the lift could be added later on in post-production.

One exception was my 3rd shot, I did 2 variations of the same shot, one handheld & the other, a still shot. This was in case I needed to add a digital camera shake in post.


I was initially going to do casting for this film, but it was quite fortunate that a classmate of mine worked with my lead actor, Christopher before.

I’ve seen Christopher’s previous work & he has also auditioned for a previous film of mine before. I knew he could convey the mannerisms & expressions of the character with no dialogue & would be a great fit for the role.

Fortunately it all worked out as he was free during the production dates & was interested in the story as well.

We met a couple days before the shoot for a rehearsal & also just getting to know each other better.

Production design

The box was crucial to this story, I had to find the perfect sized box as well as the little details that went on it, especially the ‘UP’ label. I designed a specific label for it to be placed onto the box, having it blend in with the box but at the same time being noticeable enough for the story.

Prepping the stencil to spray paint on to the box

Some fake labels which I created & printed on to sticker paper

Final box


Production day was tricky! My plan was to shoot in secret while not alerting the security, I made sure the crew that came to the location did not sign in with the guards so as to not alert them.

I also specifically told my cast to wait outside the building & I would fetch him to bring him into the building.

But as with Murphy’s law, things that went wrong, went wrong. My cast ended up talking to the guards while waiting & revealed to them that we were shooting today & the guards wanted to confirm with the management whether we were allowed to shoot there.

I spent an hour trying to convince them to allow us to shoot there, but they rejected all our requests.

I initially felt a bit defeated & exhausted from trying to convince them, but my crew & I packed our stuff & headed over to our backup location.

We were supposed to start at 8pm & end around 12am. But we reached our 2nd location at 1030pm, started the setup & began the shoot at 11pm.

Production BTS

But thankfully, we managed to wrap the shoot by 1:30am. Only taking about 2 & a half hours to finish shooting as compared to my planned timing on the callsheet which was about 4 hours.

Extremely grateful to my amazing team which really came through for me & for giving me tons of moral support I needed especially when things went wrong. Also for the quick setup & assisting me wherever needed.

The change in location also ended up being a blessing in disguise as the padding of this lift helped create an environment that looks similar to the inside of a box. Also, since this location had no security, I was free to shoot here as long as I needed & had more time to do more takes & rehearsing with regards to how he plays with the box.

Since I was directing & shooting this film, this allowed me to also have more time to frame better while rehearsing at the same time.

Kiwiduck films!

Shots breakdown

Shot #1:

For the first shot, it was a continuous long tracking shot which I used to establish a couple of things.

One was the character & him entering the lift, secondly was when we show the box which the audience may or may not take notice of, thirdly was when he places the box down & the lift stops, lastly was when he shouts for help & steps back.

Shot #2:

This is when the character tips over the box, I used a single shot for this to place emphasis on the box.

Shot #3:

The 3rd shot was to show the effects of the lift when the box is out of the character’s hand. I ended up using the handheld version of the shot as it felt more natural & the movement matched the character’s.

Shot #4:

The 4th shot was the moment of messing around & discovery of how the box works & relates to the lift. I had to let this shot play out for a bit as I wanted it to have this comedic element to it & also to control the pacing of the film.

Shot #5:

This was an important shot as well as it was the moment of realisation for the character & how he can use the box to control the lift.

Shot #6:

This shot was to show the character’s understanding of the box as he rides it all the way up to his desired level. However after reaching his floor, the lift doors remain closed. He figures maybe cutting open the box to see what is inside will help him understand what’s going on.

Shot #7:

The last shot happens outside the lift, as he opens the box, it correlates with the opening of the lift door, symbolising the box as the lift he is in. He looks inside & smiles, but it is never revealed what is inside the box. This was just to add a fantasy element to it & leaving the audience to wonder what is inside it.

The seen & unseen element of the film was how this unsuspecting label on the box that we usually never see ends up being of crucial importance to the mechanics of the lift. We journey with the character as he begins to see & discover the label as well.


Final timeline

Sound design was crucial to this film as we never get to see the levels of the lift, it was important to convey the movement of the lift through sound.

The pacing of the film was also important as it had to have this gradual sense of discovery as we learn the truth about the box with the character. The climax had to come in in a way that felt just nice & ties the whole film together.

Before & After

With the colour grading, I went for something a little green-ish, this choice was to match the aesthetic of the lift as well as giving it a somewhat dark yet magical look.

Final film

It was definitely a crazy & fun-filled process leading up the final film, but it was all in good fun. Do enjoy the final film!

Concepts of Digital Imaging Project 2 – “Morning Dip”

For our 2nd project we were tasked to create a composited self-portrait of a hyperreal fantasy world.

For my project the first thing that came to mind was to create something surreal & in line with what I have done for my first project.

After brainstorming & playing around with the other self-portrait images I shot previously, I couldn’t think of a concept that fit what I was trying to go for.

However, one of the images that I found & experimented on ended up something that I used to develop further into my final composite.


Final Image

Artist Statement

The concept for this image was my heavy reliance of drinking iced tea or ‘teh bing’ every morning before I started my day. While most people rely on coffee to get their daily caffeine fix, I relied on good ol’ coffee shop teh bing to kickstart my day.

I can literally feel the rush of sugar & caffeine every morning once I take my first sip of this beloved drink of mine. So for my image I pushed this idea of drinking teh bing in the morning into a more surreal one.

Showing myself dressed up in standard 9-5 office attire, I am swirling around in a whirlpool of a cup full of teh bing. This represents the overwhelming feeling I get when drinking it every morning.

The title of my image is ‘morning dip’, representing the idea of instead of getting my morning fix, I am now literally swimming in this cup full of teh.

Leaving on the Ya Kun toast logo on the cup was to add this local context to my image. Leaving it on a blank cup would have made it look like normal British tea, thus the decision to leave on the branding so people would immediately identify the colours & relate it to the classic teh bing drink.

Technical Decisions

While the image may look simple in it’s final form, there were quite a lot of challenges I faced while in my process of creating this image.

Firstly, the masking of the whirlpool to fit into the cup of teh had to be blended so that it looks seamless & not stick out like 2 different images pasted on top of each other.

The adding of myself into the whirlpool was also hard as I had to match the lighting of the teh image with the lighting of myself in the original image. Also I had to create a subtle reflection of myself in the teh such that it creates the idea that it is a liquid & not just a cut & paste of myself into a cup. Lastly, I had to remove certain parts of my arms so that it looks like I am sunken into the liquid.

Using the clone stamp tool to duplicate the swirls of the whirlpool underneath my hands such that it looks like I am being pulled along with the currents of the whirlpool.

Finally applying an overall colour balance to give it this vibrant low-contrast milky look I was trying to go for.

Artist References

Aleksandra Kingo

I was inspired by Aleksandra Kingo’s photography & her use of objects on bright coloured backgrounds. The way she places them in such a way that plays with the subjects was a source of inspiration to how I wanted to place myself in the cup.


Visual Storytelling – Project 1

For project 1, the character I’ve chosen to represent is Su Li-Zhen (Mrs Chan) from Wong Kar Wai’s in the mood for love (2000).

Mrs Chan was interesting to me as a character to explore as she is an iconic character in Hong Kong cinema. This character also has a complex & rich story that goes past surface level characteristics.

Final composition

The story of Mrs Chan in the film is that she finds out her husband is cheating on her with Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) wife. Together, they re-enact the scenarios of what their spouses would do together but in the process end up falling in love with each other. Throughout the film she is often seen being lonely because her husband always goes on his long business trips.

For the framing of my composition, I use negative space to create the sense of isolation that the character feels. I asked the model to pose with a gaze, her line of sight looking towards something we cannot see. This is to make the viewer have this feeling of expectation, like we expect something from the opposing direction, but there is nothing there. This is to help empathise with the character’s feeling of loneliness & longing from her husband who goes on his work trips. This is further pushed by the model’s pose which is more closed up & reserved.

For the props in the image, I used 2 red chairs, this was to symbolise a couple & also feelings of romantic love. But also to create a sense of organised imbalance in a composition that if without the model, has become the potential to become something symmetrical.

This was to show Mrs Chan’s battle of loneliness as she dealt with the absence of her husband.

With the lighting I used & the perspective of the alleyway, there is a leftward dynamic of implied leading lines towards the character, bringing focus to the subject.

I wanted to let the viewer reinterpret the image on 2nd glance, bringing attention to the profile of the character with the word “li” on her face. Which is the Chinese word for strength.

In terms of Culture, it shows through in Chinese drama movies. The male protagonists are supposedly the weaker character yet the female protagonists are also weak because of their lack of power. In conclusion, everyone is weak.

Even though the inner strength of the female is supposed to show through, this is one major difference between Western and Eastern cinema. In western cinema, the culture is very masculine and strong; therefore, the movies depict a strong male with a secondary female character who may or may not be strong, but never as powerful as the man.

In Asian dramas, what is unseen is sometimes more powerful than what the audience is visually shown.

This is why, even though women in China in the 1960s were not able to make the choice to leave their husbands, the audience sees the internal struggle of Mrs. Chan throughout the whole movie and settles for her being the stronger character among the two protagonists.

Hence, I have chosen to show explicitly in my composition what was originally the subtle part of the character in the film with the word “Li” on her face.

These were some of the aesthetic choices made to create a narrative in the composition that tells the story of the character Mrs Chan as well.

The 2 main colours in the photo are red & green, they are complementary colours. Red evokes an emotional response, red is commonly associated with intense feelings like danger or wrath & is used in danger signs. But red also brings attention to the subject.

In Chinese context, red also stands for prosperity, but also sexuality and lust which complements the narrative of the image. In the film, Mrs Chan & Chow Mo-Wan’s feelings grow for each other, but their relationship never becomes a sexual one. They never have sex in the film nor do they kiss each other.

Using red as a colour on it’s own is flat, I brought in greens to complement the image as green evokes a completely opposite response to red.

Green is commonly used in symbols of safety & security, but green can also stand for envy & jealousy in an Asian context.

When used together, it creates & allows the viewer to experience the same kind of emotional conflict the character is feeling.

It was a challenge to show such subtle nuances of the character visually, but it was a challenge to learn how to push the semiotics of an image to create more powerful looking images that tells a story solely on visuals.

Concepts of Digital Imaging Project 1 – “Trasher”

For our first project we were tasked to create a self-portrait that was a reflection of an exploration of oneself.


Artist statement & concept:
The concept that I had in mind when creating this image goes back to my own personal history as a skateboarder. I have been skateboarding for almost 7-8 years now.

I first started skating at the age of 14, this was when I was first exposed to the whole skateboarding scene in Singapore & also how I first started discovering about the town area, mainly the Somerset & Orchard areas.

I was skating mainly at the famous Somerset skatepark where I was exposed to a lot of these so-called rebels or rejects of society in Singapore. Skateboarding as a sport in Singapore is already quite uncommon & it comprises of a very small community of people. The general public tends to label us skateboarders as people who smoke, we are rowdy, always skating at street spots and causing damage to public property. There were times where I was even chased away by security & even got screened by the police. It was almost like we branded as criminals.

But as a skateboarder myself, I was exposed & was experiencing a completely different perspective of the skateboarding scene. While society tends to shun us & brand us as these so-called criminals or rejects, what I saw in this beloved sport of mine was passion.

People are using skateboarding as a way to escape their own troubles or worries of life. As cliche as it sounds, the moment I stepped on to my board, everything is gone in this temporary moment. Skateboarding to me is freedom, not just giving me the literal freedom while riding. But also in it’s freedom of expression, I was able to dress & do whatever I want & not care what people think.

It was in fact through skateboarding that I discovered my own path as a creative. Skateboarding is deeply rooted with art, design & films. It meant a lot to me & probably many other people as well. It was freeing for us & it is quite sad to me that people judge us & give us certain looks as we ride our boards minding our own business.

I’ve personally gotten these looks of disappointment myself. I felt defeated. Defeated from the love of own sport from other people who had no idea of how much it meant to me & the influence it had on my life.

With that experience in mind, this was what I chose to portray in my image. I am wrapped up in a trash bag, symbolic of myself being regarded as trash. I am lying motionless on the floor, almost like in a body bag as part of this crime scene.

Around me are my board, and other parts like trucks, wheels & my shoes have flung out of my feet. I lay defeated within this wide space to show how small & irrelevant I am in this stigma society puts us in.

The environment I am in is in a giant bowl of a skatepark, it’s marks on the corners resemble that of a large trash chute & the space creates this idea of the space of a huge dumping ground.

I put myself in this environment as I felt it was ironic that even though I am this literal piece of trash lying defeated in this massive dumping ground. But yet I am still lying in the comfort of my own ground within my territory which is that of a skatepark.

Hence the title of my self-portrait is “trasher”, this was intended as wordplay on the iconic skateboarding magazine otherwise known as Thrasher Magazine along with the word trash.

Technical decisions:
For the edit, I was trying to create this slightly desaturated with neutral colour tones, but yet also leaning towards a colder look for the photo. I have added these blue-green tone in my highlights to help push this visually.

I wanted this low contrast & flat look for the overall image, but yet at the same time, not losing this contrast on myself & the items that lay around me.

I did this by masking myself & lifting up the shadows, to allow my highlights on the trash bag to really pop out from the background. I also did masking to the skateboard & the parts, lifted up the saturation slightly to help bring that focus to it in the composition as these were the only elements in my photo that had colours.



After receiving feedback during our critique presentation, I went back to make minor adjustments with the highlights & shadows present in my background to help push this image stronger visually. By pushing down these 2, it helped me as a subject in the frame pop out stronger as well as the colours of my skateboard parts become more prominent.

I made adjustments to the saturation of the background as well, tweaking it slightly to give it a more flat look.

Further edits after feedback

For my lens choices, I shot this image with a Canon 6D & a Tamron 28-75 f2.8 lens. This image was shot at a focal length of 42mm which I would say is something close to a 35mm focal length. As my image isn’t the usual close-up portrait, I didn’t want to use the usual 50mm focal length that would be used for portraits. Neither did I want the distortion that would come from using a wide angle lens or a 28mm focal length.

This image was shot at f5 to help keep everything sharp & in focus as opposed to using an f2.8 aperture which might have created unwanted softness in certain parts of the image.

Artist references:

1. Kyle Thompson

I love the surreal, naturalistic portraits Kyle Thompson creates. He makes use of everyday objects & common locations but creates something that is not only visually compelling but also feels out of worldly. The surreal feeling he creates was what I wanted to capture as well with my own image.

2. Alex Stoddard

Another photographer whose work inspired me was Alex Stoddard’s self-portraits series. Similar to Kyle, he plays with the use of objects & environment to create that I feel was something visually compelling & conveys a strong narrative behind the image.

Final Image:

And once again, my final image. Really enjoyed exploring different ways of doing self-portrait photography through this assignment. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone to create something that was unlike the stuff I would typically shoot.

Onward to project 2!