[DN1015] Lego Ego

Dispirited by the circumstances at hand and how everyone was being made to compromise on their productions, I too have mixed feelings about how Lego Ego turned out. With how rushed everything was, my submitted short wasn’t able to generate the level of emotional response I was hoping to achieve in terms of the mood and atmosphere created.

Being very hesitant in the execution of this piece, the preliminary stages of planning got me asking myself, people around me and Yue Han over and over again if using found footage as visual language was okay. This was before the COVID-19 situation really blew up and was when I hit rock bottom confidence in this work of mine after a friend told me that I seemed lazy for repurposing footage that was already taken. However, with time constraints and trouble finding actors for my piece, I decided to go on ahead with my original plan and make an epistolary essay film which explored emotional masculinity and vulnerability.

Concerned that my mode of storytelling might come off as static and boring piece, I decided to put the main frame of emphasis onto the characterisation off-screen Wong Nam through voice-overs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get an actor of suitable character and age in time to voice Wong Nam’s lines due to the pandemic, so I had a friend do a stand-in voiceover for this short. I hope I’ll properly get the chance to finish this short in my intended mood and atmosphere because this topic means a lot to me.

I gave guidelines for my friend to use more of his chest voice and bring out the breathy texture in his voice for Wong Nam.

Guide:「”The intended atmosphere of my piece is one of melancholic rustiness and being the centrepiece of my whole work, the voice over is more than crucial. You are free to interpret how an old man who once suffered a heart attack would sound like but it should flow along the premises of a slow and laboured reading.”」

More information on the preliminary process, back story & intended treatment can be found on DN1015’s G2 Google Drive Folder 🙂


symbolic metaphors used [trains]

As I was reviewing the VHS footages, I realised that most memories captured were of us travelling, whether in a car, on a boat or on trains which actually made up most of our captured mode of travel. So I decided to explore the symbolism of trains in Lego Ego where they primarily symbolise the journey that our unvoiced character, Yuk Ping goes through. The low rumbling of the train on the train tracks as well as the even pace at which the vehicle goes also provides a meditative calming atmosphere in that I had wanted to evoke.

Trains here are also a fatalistic symbol because as we all know, there is only one path a train goes on and it isn’t by choice, its on pre-laid tracks. (A fatalistic view of the world means you’re all about destiny, and subscription to the idea that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do.)

passing time. lego train in lego land. the miniature.
// (signifying Yuk-ping’s land of origin) //
  • occurring at initiatory or climatic moments of classic children literature with utopian fantasies, the railway functions as a protean, paradoxical space, not merely instrumental but instead active
  • Taking references from the Robert Zemeckis’ film, The Polar Express (2004), I wanted to use this high and relatively wide angle shot of the lego train’s movements to signify the sort of unyielding surveillance Wong Nam had on Yuk-Ping while she was growing up. Even though it was an unintended outcome of Wong Nam’s patriarchal control, such an upbringing shaped how Yuk-Ping saw the world, that a woman’s worth was only justified by a man’s existence.

Train journeys occur at initiatory or climactic moments of large numbers of classic children’s utopian fantasies; in these journeys, the railway functions as a protean, paradoxical space, not merely instrumental but instead active. Railway journeys serve an important role within the metaphorical as well as the narrative economy of utopian texts; this role is sometimes a subversive one, and ultimately calls into question the relationship of reader to text.

Railway trains in utopian fantasy literature operate like alternative worlds, allowing space and time within the narrative for establishment, subversion, and clashing of the logics and values of the other realms of the text. In this way they can be described in terms of Foucault’s well-known formulation of “heterotopia”.

Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults, edited by Carrie Hintz, Elaine Ostry.

passing time (aboard a cave train in the tunnel)
// (signifying Yuk-ping’s blindness to truth) //
  • Along with the already present glitches and blackouts at certain portions of the clips, tunnels and especially cave tunnels that trains go through are often pitch black. In such circumstances, nothing can be seen and often used to foreshadow emotional darkness to come.
  • Tying in with the visuals of what Wong Nam recalled from memory as he is writing to her, we see gaps in between
masculine-coded space (sitting on a woodcraft train)
    • Fun or Not-So-Fun Fact: Trains initially excluded women because some “experts” believed that women’s bodies weren’t fit to travel on steam engines that ran at 50 mph. “They thought that our uteruses would fly out of our bodies as the train accelerated to that speed,” says Genevieve Bell, the anthropologist and director of Intel Corporation’s Interaction and Experience Research
    • Growing up in an extremely patriarchal Chinese household like Yuk-Ping’s, shaped how she viewed the world, for women to play the subservient role in a masculine space. That was something that she had to accept even after learning that the world was bigger than she thought it was. That whatever she had grown up with wasn’t representative of society as a whole.
moving on: an emotional journey (on the steam train)
  • Here we see nothing other than the out-the-window view of a passing steam train going in the opposite direction. Viewers are viewing the scenery out the window like what Yuk-Ping sees on the steam train she is on.
  • Notice how this is an elaboration and real-life adaptation of the scenario in Lego Land, that Yuk-Ping is now aboard the train that went past the one docked at the station, the one we were focused on initially.
  • With a relatively straight path of travel, we once again go back to how the tracks act as a symbol of fate.



Hope I’ll be able to properly complete this piece of work or maybe push my exploration of vulnerability and emotional masculinity even further with future projects. Thank you G2 for being such amazing classmates this semester, see you guys around!

The video will be up on my YouTube channel @vanzchiu on the 6th of May (Wednesday) if you guys would like to watch it again! Thank you all for the support, it really means the world to me.

[DN1015] Proposed Sound Design

“I like films where the music and the sound design, at times, are almost indistinguishable.” — Christopher Nolan

Following my treatment as uploaded onto the class’s Google Drive, apart from the voice overs, I intend to blur the distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic sounds in my piece. ** work in progress, not sure if it’ll work as intended**

Actual audio from the footages will be clipped out and mixed with royalty free soundtracks source online to create a completely fictitious set-up. This will juxtapose the only piece of truth audiences know of through the VCR footages. The memories of the past are real but everything else is a figment of Yuk-Ping’s imagination and the reason why she is not present as a figure in today’s time but voiced as a young child. 

Raw Unedited Audio Clip:

After sum Experimental Editing:

The piece progresses into a figment-of-imagination sort of situation as Wong Nam’s non-diegetic narration begin to bleed into a fictitious storytelling of nothing more than a piece of fiction. It is here where the audio of Maya and Kermit’s clipped conversation from Girl Meets World comes along as a reflection and a 3rd person insight of the strained relationship between Wong Nam and Yuk-Ping.

Current Pending Soundtracks
Emily A. Sprague – Sea Space (2:16) [YouTube’s Audio Library // Ambient & Calm]
Nate Blaze – Quiet Nights (2:05) [YouTube’s Audio Library // Ambient & Calm]
Dan Bodan – Neither Sweat Nor Tears (3:18) [YouTube’s Audio Library // Ambient & Calm]


Diegetic sound is a noise which has a source on-screen. They are noises which have not been edited in, for example dialogue between characters or footsteps.

Nondiegetic sound is a noise which does not have a source on-screen, they have been added in. For example music, voiceover, sound effects.

[DN1015] Revealing Emotion – GUILT

Being given the emotion GUILT to create a 3 shot story, we had a rather rough time at the beginning, trying to work out how we could portray the idea of ‘guilt’ as dynamically and as creatively as we could within 3 shots & 1.5 minutes.

Writing the script, we had multiple drafts throughout the ideation process due to various feedback sessions with Yue Han and in-group discussions. However, we were able to come together and work out 2 main plans for our work-place drama with JOSH and SAM set as our protagonist and antagonist respectively.

First Edition:

Idea: The guilt of getting a job that your friend really needed / needed more than you did.
Sequence of events: Present to Past

Title Sequence overlaid w/ News Audio of the 2009 economic recession

1st scene:
– Josh is drinking with his friend (/ a group of friends), he is in work attire and looks visibly uncomfortable while the rest of his friends are at ease and having a good chat.
– His friend makes a toast to him / congratulates him for being the first one of the lot to get a job. The group’s conversation gradually becomes inaudible and the VO of a phone call takes over. 

Phone call content (not happening at present time) – The company that XX is now working for telling him that he had passed the interview and has gotten the job. 

  • Location: Quiet Location (anywhere as long as they are gathered there)
  • Characters: Protagonist + 3-5 friends (depending)
  • Grp of Friends → Meeting to celebrate our protagonists success. They don’t know that our friend applied for the same position and failed.

2nd scene:
Josh is at work (an office worker?) while he’s working he gets lost in his thoughts and goes into a daze, perhaps he could look in a certain direction as if someone is opposite talking to him off screen. The voice comes from his friend who talks about how he wants to get a job as soon as he can so he can provide for his aging parents and young siblings. (or some sad backstory) A colleague snaps Josh out of his daze and jokes, “Hey, don’t let me catch you slacking on the job so soon.”
– A potential transition could be a shot of Josh talking to Sam who was listening to him in the 2nd scene. 

3rd scene:
– Sam telling the Josh about how he needs a job quickly.
– Sam rushing to the meeting/lunch and explains that he had to send his father to the dialysis centre. Josh asks the Sam what he’s been doing. Sam says he has been sending in resumes.
– Josh got the job for a while now but he’s still affected by the matter and is guilty.

→ VO to bridge the gaps between shots, it could also explain that our protagonist has some self-esteem issues: they don’t feel as competent as their peers + don’t mind taking longer to find a job. Therefore, the guilt sets in when they think they are undeserving of the job they got. An emotional angle that I think can be used to patch up any rough acting.

Second Edition:

Ultimately, we decided to put them in competition with one another, each vying for a promotion to be the company’s assistant director. With tension injected in the right areas of the plot and an easy to follow storyline, we were finally able to work things out!

1015 Guilt: version 1 w/ 2 endings (shot 3.1 and shot 3.2)
1015 Guilt Final


Though I am aware that our filming set-up was one that could be considered rather small scaled when compared to a regular production’s, but it being my first time on-set, I was really overwhelmed with all the equipment, what their functions were and how to operate them. I am therefore, really really thankful to my group mates Eliza and Sean who sped taught me how stuff worked and what I could do to help them on-set.


[DN1015] Gone Girl – Reflection

The film Gone Girl’s been the one good psychological thriller I needed since months back when I watched Se7en.

Amy is an extremely intelligent woman who is more than borderline manipulative as we discover through multiple deliberate stagings within the case at hand involving her husband, Nick Dunne. As the film progressed, we see Amy trying to take on this hyper masculine role to defend herself. With her new appearance and faked identity, Nancy, Amy takes on a Louisiana / Texas sort-of South American accent that we previously heard Detective Rhonda Boney have a slight hint of. The accent seems to take on an important but subtle role in the film.

Southern women are often noted for how strong and independent they are. Loving vibrancy and lots of colours, these women are opinionated and very independent. Think Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, singer and actress Dolly Parton and writer Zora Neale Hurston.


Amy is not your archetypical woman right from the beginning of the film. Her upbringing was of the middle-upper or even the upper classes and she had certificates from Harvard hanging on the walls of the kitchen.

From a plan that was in its entirety, delicately controlled by Amy to something that she loses her grasp on, the sudden turn of events also somehow seem mediated and part of her plan a, b, c, d as denoted with her post-its of different colours. It was even to the extent of planning months ahead and figuring out counter-plans if one were to go off schedule or unexpectedly. So as this independent and extremely book smart AND street smart lady who is capable of planning such intricate plans of framing another, she is someone not to be messed with. If I were to commit suicide, I’d be just like Amy, elaborately planning out how to frame someone or send people on a wild goose chase, making people’s lives a living hell of fun haha.


Back to the main point, David Fincher’s choice in camera movements really amaze me and the video down below summarises a huge part of it. It is often overlooked because of how minute and how slight each movement is but through either tilting, panning or tracking alongside the characters’ emotions and physical movements, he brings forth so much internal emotional dialogue the characters have to the audience. It’s as though we are able to see through them like a sheet of clear plastic. This in Gone Girl? Simply amazing.


[DN1015] Baby Driver – Reflection

This post is going to be such an informal one but I have to admit that never in my life would I have guessed that I’d like Baby Driver this much before watching it. [SPOILER ALERT]

This film’s been mentioned a couple of times in classes and I’ve recently been researching on how visual comedy is done through cinematography, camera movements and cuts alongside music. One director that I came across was Edgar Wright with his distinct style of editing to the music.

This is the video I first came across when researching and I thought it’d be nice to share it here with whoever is interested in doing visual comedy.

“Whenever I’m writing a script, I’m scoring myself by playing the right kind of music.” — Edgar Wright

Edgar Wright brings across so much energy from the scene straight to the audience we get drawn into the world right from the first moment our auditory senses tingle. Right from the opening of Baby Driver we hear a high pitched ringing that fades into a musical note before the visuals open and we hear + see the everyday traffic at a junction. Wright sets up the scene with great detail, foreshadowing something that us as audiences would never have known about (unless one went to read the synopsis before watching) that Baby has tinnitus.

There are so many fine cinematographic details that I would have gotten into details with, explicating why I love them and how they worked really well in the film but I need a mental break and maybe time to watch more of Wright’s films so I’m going to highlight one more narrative decision I think is seamlessly amazing. (that’s one long sentence to read… i apologise..)


“I think you have to write the film that you want to see, and try and do it honestly, and you can’t control people’s responses, really.” — Edgar Wright

I had the initial thought that Lily James’ character, Debora, would be playing a very traditional, girly, flirty and almost damsel-in-distress role in an action film as such but I was very wrong for having such assumptions. Really ashamed of myself and I should NEVER have had assumed anything in a film let alone an ACTION film where anything and everything can happen.

Leaving my guilt aside, Debora surprised me at times with how wittily Edgar Wright wrote and directed her to be such a multi-layered, almost onion bulb sort of character. From the start of the film, there is a scene where Baby is first seen getting four black coffees for the team. Here, a girl wearing a striking yellow dress and a denim jacket with purple headphones is seen walking past the storefront, catching Baby’s attention. This is Debora.

Secondly, when we see her again on her first day of work at the diner, she walks in with the same denim jacket and headphones but with a black button up shirt-dress. Heard singing a song with Baby’s name even before she meets him for the first time, she almost immediately begins flirting with Baby when she heads to his table to take his order. Expressing an interest in both cars and music much like Baby right off the bat while initiating a conversation about his mother, it all seems too good to be true.

This alluring temptation for Baby to just leave town and run off with Debora strikes multiple times in the film and it’s as though Edgar Wright is subtly planting her into the piece as a motive and drive for the film. He did it all so seamlessly, if I may say so myself, that I was convinced Debora and Baby’s romantic relationship was pure and innocent.

Side Note. Ansel Elgort was and still is really good looking.

So here’s one last video recommendation for visual comedy before I disappear to watch Shaun of the Dead.


“When you write something, at first you might feel very defensive and protective of every single thing, but after a while, you just see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes you do test screenings, and an audience tells you that, or sometimes you eventually just go, ‘Let’s cut the joke out.’” — Edgar Wright

[DN1015] Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Reflection

I feel really terrible to say this and I know many may think otherwise, but I didn’t like this film for the most part. Being mainly confused with the timeline in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I felt that the film could be better portrayed in another way.

Unlike Momento where there were scenes and moments that kept me on the edge of my chair with action and clues, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind failed to interest me right off the bat. It seemed like an old school romantic comedy that was rather tedious to watch.

Maybe because of the increasing number of films, shorts, fictitious novels and creative non-fiction as well as their ability to successfully “fight for” and retain audience’s attentions that do we no longer find such storylines interesting. Likewise with the introduction of Instagram and Insta-Stories, our attention span as a collective whole has fallen to less than 10 seconds. Or it could be that I am simply someone who does not gets things right off the bat as per my experience watching 1917.

“I think the emotional connection to the movie depends on how recently and how deeply you’ve been hurt by a relationship or some other emotional trauma. Something that keeps you distracted at work and sitting up sleepless nights, wondering if they’re with a new partner now, and if they’re fucking, and hoping that their new relationship fails but at the same time wishing them well… and mostly just wishing that you could forget them entirely and move on with your life. When I first saw Eternal Sunshine, I hadn’t really experienced this and it didn’t mean much to me. The second time, it was a gut punch. There are times in my life I would have been first in line to erase someone from my memory.” — christoffel_robin, 7 years ago on https://www.reddit.com/r/movies/comments/165ox5/i_dont_like_eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind/

However, I have to say that it is interesting seeing how science fiction films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that was released in 2004 could be this progressive. I also enjoyed the soundtrack and felt it was apt in the respective scenes used.

[DN1015] 1917 – Reflection

Date & Time: 23 January 2020, 4.15pm

It took me awhile to convince myself to watch 1917 instead of Ip Man 4 that day as I am an extremely timid human being who almost never watches anything that involves me feeling great fear and anxiety. These emotions not only distract me from appreciating the plot and the cinematography, they also keep me away from a lot of wonderful works in the horror, thriller, crime and disaster genres.

Terrible as a film student but for the first half of the movie, I was very much unable to breathe in the theatre due to the suspense and tension in the atmosphere.

Details I found were interesting:
– Sam Mendes’ “one-shot” / “continuous shot” approach for 1917. The scene after Tom and Will receive orders to cross the trenches and set off across the fields strewn with dead bodies from the battle aftermaths, reminded me very much of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory scene where General Mireau strolls through the trenches, asking several soldiers, “Ready to kill more Germans?”.

“I wanted to tell this story in two hours of “real time.” So I felt like it was a natural thing, to lock the audience into the men’s experiences. In a movie that operates more like a ticking-clock thriller at times, I wanted an audience to feel every second passing and take every step with them, and also be aware of geography and distance and physical difficulty. The feeling that you are going to have to live through the story with them is accentuated by not cutting.”

– I also enjoyed how they made the scene in the trenches aptly tight in an almost claustrophobic way that immersed us audience into the experience. It highlighted how the soldiers are like tiny ants, one in tens of thousands, tunnelling their way through safety in constant fear that the enemy could drop a bomb and kill them all. The creatively judicious decisions made truly heightened how we as audience saw and understood the story to be something more than just an ‘epic war film’.

Felt that I missed more details than I should have due to my overly emotional self, but I will be re-watching the film in the coming week. Hopefully I’ll watch it in a more critical stance this time 🙂