Singapore After Dark: Jurong Fishery Port
Link to research paper is here.
Group members: Azmir, Ziyaad, June
Side Screen #1:
Side Screen #2:
“Singapore After Dark: Jurong Fishery Port” is a documentary in the form of multiple video installations that contrast the scenes of the bustling fishery port and the stillness of suburban Singapore. Compiling dynamic scenes of the fishery port, stories from the fishmongers and buyers from various walks of life, we bring you on a journey from the grimy, wet floors to the lively interaction within this hidden community. The main screen is complemented by two supplementary projections which utilise urban and suburban timelapses and imagery, showing a clear distinction between the working labourers and the sleeping masses. Inspired by British filmmaker Ben Brown’s “Journey to a Costa Rican Food Forest” and Japan’s Tsukiji Fish Market, this work aims to provide insight into the hard working lives of odd job workers and to enhance the significance of these lesser known occupations.
For this installation project, we wanted to try a different approach to filmmaking, to break away from the narrative structure we’ve been more familiar with for the two semesters. Thus as we were conceptualizing our project, we were introduced to a British filmmaker Ben Brown, who made a documentary about the roots of food at the Costa Rican Food Forest. Hence, inspired by his project, we researched on various food farms in Singapore, which eventually led us to the Jurong Fishery Port. Instead of mimicking his works, we chose to do a fishery port because we felt that the fishery port was a topic that is unfamiliar among the masses. Thus, after we settled on our subject, we started conceptualizing the focus of our video. There were two possible paths:
A) To concentrate on the journey of the fish from where they were caught up till the point of them being served at restaurants
B) Focus on the occupation and stories of the fishmongers at the Jurong Fishery Port.
In the end, we chose option B as we felt there was more character to the place than we initially thought when we step foot on this port. The sights and sounds of this place were very overwhelming as we were greeted with bustling activities as far as the eyes could see. We wanted to bring out this idea of how each job has its own definitive value and to highlight this importance to people.
Ben Brown’s ‘Journey to a Costa Rican Food Forest’
Drawing inspiration from this video, we were thoroughly impressed by the quality and the content it brings to talk about the journey of the source of our foods. We decided that we wanted to evolve this idea and bring about our own ideas of a fishery port that only operates from 12am to 6am.
NHK Tsukiji World’s Largest Fish Market ‘The Incredible Hands’
We also used this documentary to see how they filmed their shots and their main focus of the show.
Alex Prager’s ‘Face in the crowd’
Dan Mace’s ‘Gift’
We went to the fishery port twice. The first time that we went, we wanted to have the feel of the whole vibe of the place and we didn’t film anything. We thought of all the shots we could do in the place the next time we came.
The shots were broken down into a few places ranging from close ups to wide shots.
Fishery Port Scenes:
- Short pan
- Wide shot from AVA bridge
- Chopping block
- Pouring fish
- Close up
- Different ages
- Resting (guy sleeping, people sitting)
- Calculating money
- Buying, customer choosing fish
- People stacking boxes
- Forklift moving
- Teamwork (multiple people carrying boxes)
- Sound (ZOOM)
- Weighing of fish
- POV shot of fish (GoPro inside icebox)
- GOPRO on the floor – filming feet, crossroads
- Short interviews of fishmongers
Side Screens Scenes
- Quiet neighbourhood (HDB)
- Empty walkway
- Cats roaming
- Empty Roads
- Empty shopping malls
- Not running escalator
- Raffles place
- Central Business District
- City skyline
- Sunset timelapse
- City hall (Funan crossing)
Equipments used for installation
- Projector x 1
- Mounting boards for projectors x 2
- TV x 1 + 1 set speakers
- Laptops x 3
- Fishing nets x 2
- Fish baits
- Styrofoam Box
We came up with a few short questions for the fishmongers before going to the port.
1) How long have you worked here?
2) Do you enjoy your job?
3) Is it tiring?
4) What do you do in the day?
5) How old are you?
As we interviewed some of them, their answers led on to even more questions for us to ask which allowed more content for our documentary.
Although our documentary did not have a narrative structure to it, we still needed a suitable song to set the mood for our whole video. We set out and explored many genres of songs before deciding on 3 songs that went really well with each other throughout the entire video.
These were some of the songs we considered:
Initially, we had trouble trying to match the songs together but eventually, we managed to find 3 songs that tied in well with the feel we were looking for, for the entire video.
Final 3 songs used:
Florence Fennel by Roses and Branches
Boe Falter by Roses and Branches
Night Trouble by PETIT BISCUIT
There were a lot of layers involved in our main editing process. Fortunately, we had filmed lots of extra b-roll footage which allowed us to contrast the scenes from wide shots to close up shots.
The installation received lots of positive feedback and we are genuinely happy the message of the video has been brought clearly to our audience 🙂
We also had a small surprise at the end of our presentation where we provided the class with potong ice cream that was hidden inside the styrofoam box as part of our contribution to the potluck. We were happy that the class enjoyed their little dessert.
The main challenge for us was time. Having to stay awake throughout the night to film and document this definitely took a toll on us and we knew how it felt to be in the shoes of a working fishmonger.
- Getting the shot
With the narrow and busy walkways they had in the fishery port, we basically had to find a proper place and time when we are filming our shots. As much as we can, we need to be aware of our surroundings first before we actually start filming as we do not want to hassle the people working there. That being said, sometimes a good shot can be missed due to these reasons.
The first time we came to experience the feel of the place, we noticed that a lot of the fishmongers were constantly busy and looked pretty fierce. As much as we would want to get an interview from them, we also didn’t want to step on their toes or put a stop to their work. However, the second time round, we actually took the courage to ask a few of them and we were actually quite surprised with the response we were given. They were not actually that fierce as they look and some bothered to even talk more than we had asked for.
First off, the location wasn’t really accessible by public transport so we had to use the car to get in and out of the place. The place was really wet and grimy with the smell of fish right up our noses. We did do our own research about the place first before going there but didn’t expect it even more than we bargained for. We left with clothes stinking the entire car and our feet was just soaked with dirty water.
As there wasn’t a narrative structure, the initial process of piecing together the footages into 5 mins was a tough process. We had to rely on our chosen songs to give us an idea of roughly the start, the essence and the end of the video. However, as we slowly ease into the editing process, it eventually got easier and we just had to do minor tweaks to it.
Making a documentary was something I wanted to achieve since the very beginning of foundation 4D. With similar visions set out with this team, I was able to achieve this visual idea and put it out which eventually went further than my expectations. I’m really glad to be a part of the team with these 2 talented individuals who worked countless hours to achieve the final product. As this was the first time we are working together, we set out this project playing to our own individual strengths and learnt a lot from each other. Right from the beginning, we were set on what our subject matter would be and how we wanted the overall outcome of the documentary to be. The Jurong Fishery Port experience was entirely new to me and this place really opened my eyes to this hidden world that most Singaporeans wouldn’t have a clue about. Dodging trolleys that the fishmongers would pull from one end to another end on a narrow lane and trying not to fall from the slippery wet floors is something I would never forget.
I felt that our planning stage was quite successful which led to minor hiccups from filming all the way to post production. We met the timeline that we initially set for ourselves and I’m really proud of my team. It was an interesting experience to be working together on the edit as well. Ziyaad came up with the initial draft of the video and we all worked towards tweaking to match the feel of the video that we wanted right from the beginning.
Overall, I am grateful to have met such amazing teammates, each with their own set of skills, that enabled us to create this visual piece. I’ve definitely had a fun experience from the planning stage all the way to the execution stage and learnt much more about them which enhanced the outcome of the final installation.
I’ve never made a non-fiction video before, so this project was a real eye opener. Since I took visual effects in polytechnic, everything I’ve done has been fictional and sometimes over-the-top. Making a documentary has been a really insightful experience. It was a good idea that we went to recce the venue a week before the shooting day. Having a good idea of what to expect and what scenes we could shoot really streamlined the schedule during shooting day. We didn’t waste much time and managed to get what we came for.
Shooting at the fishery port was quite a fun experience. The paths were narrow and slippery, so we had to be really careful. We also could not use tripods as we didn’t want to block the way. Everyone was busy, but we still needed to get interviews and certain special shots. We tried to be as polite as possible, and while some people didn’t want to get interviewed, thankfully we managed to get a couple interviews shot. We really wanted to set up a GoPro to shoot a scene of the fishmongers emptying a container of fish towards the camera. We had to scour around the fishery port several times before we finally managed to get permission from a stall to get the shot.
I learned a couple of new things from editing the main video. It was really different from editing a narrative piece, because there wasn’t really a set structure for our video initially. I struggled a bit at the start, but after discussions with my group mates, we managed to make a simple structure to follow, which was mainly influenced by the music we used. It starts off slow, and by the end it picks up a bit. We took a ton of shots, which ultimately helped in choosing the various scenes we wanted to show. A lot of the shots were not used in the end, but having more options really helped.
Overall, it was a really fun assignment to work on. Other than the technical aspects, it was great to learn about Jurong Fishery Port itself, which is pretty much the purpose of the final installation; to inform people about this interesting place and its people. I felt that we did a pretty good job. The one key word from the assignment brief that I remembered from the start was “professional”, and I feel that my group really put in great effort to make the installation as professional as possible. We joked about putting too much attention to small details in our editing and the final installation, but I feel that it all paid off in the end.
Looking back on our 4D final project, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have been a part of this wonderful project. This 4D project incorporated installation elements which was very new to me, and to be frank, even the high standards of filming and editing was unfamiliar to me. However, with patience, guidance and amicable attitudes from my more experienced team members Ziyaad and Azmir, I stepped up to the task and found myself enjoying the journey of creating our documentary, and learning new things along the way.
Although it was our first time working together, the strong synergy among us aided us in contributing each of our expertise into the project. For this project, I mostly took a backseat in filming and editing, as my team members were far more professional in these fields. In pre-production, my role was conceptualizing the central idea and to identify the specific themes we wanted to portray in the video. I didn’t realized the importance of this until my classmate Zhi Xin commented that the video has a touch of sensitivity to it, which has been the overarching theme in all of my artistic projects. In the filming stage, I took on the role as a mediator to approach and interview the fishmongers, as majority of the fishmongers were Chinese. To our surprise, even though the fishmongers didn’t look very friendly, we found out that most of them were willing to let us film them or engage in a short interview with us. As I was the one in charge of conducting interviews, my team members jokingly called me the “Bearer of the Zoom (mic)”, which endearingly suggests my role of recording audio and sound.
In post-production, I was really amazed by the great videography captured on film. Being teammates with such talented videographers truly opened up my eyes to the beauty of filming, hence now I have a deeper appreciation and knowledge for filmed footage. While I edited the side scenes featuring the shopping mall, I also learned to recognize photography techniques such as “depth of field” from Azmir. I also expanded my editing skills on Adobe Premier Pro, as I learnt how to use the Warp Stabilizer to stabilize shaky clips, and manually make a fade-to-black transition. Besides that, I learnt the importance of consciously saving the project every now and then, and the steps in rendering a video. In addition to side screen video editing, I also translated the Chinese interviews into English. This proved to be a more challenging task than I thought, because the subtitles had to be as concise and accurate as possible.
On the day of presentation, along with my team members, I was very glad to see an overall positive response from our peers. However, our instructor Ruyi posed a question to the class that got me thinking: do you think the characters in the interviews connected with the audience? The answer didn’t come to me until I chanced upon a documentary made by the Singapore-based “Familiar Strangers” campaign (https://youtu.be/mwaS5LeMdGc), which features how low waged foreign workers’ respond to positive and negative comments made by Singaporean locals. The three-minute video left a lasting impression on me because of the individualistic characters that was the foundation of the video. Hence, as a concluding advice to improve my documentary projects in the future, I understand that a documentary benefits from having a strong character to anchor the concept and theme of the documentary, because the human individual breathes life into the subject tackled.