2,000 – BTS

What is a home to you? Many might interpret it as a physical house, a place that gives you shelter, some might find the people around them that gives them the ‘homely’ feeling.

For Serene, home to her is the feeling of being accepted, the sense of belonging. Born and raised in Taiwan, but with a huge interest towards Western pop culture, she felt that she didn’t fit in with anyone in her hometown.

Ironically, Serene feels like she found her sense of home, away from her physcial house. Through an online chat platform, she meets Wayne, a Singaporean-caucasian teen that she soon forms an online relationship with. In a desperate attempt to meet him, she sacrifices familiarity and flies over to Singapore with the excuse of pursuing an international degree. To her disappointment, she realises that Wayne isn’t really who she thought he is, and that the sense of home that she was looking forward to attaining, was ultimately a facade.

The sense of home in this short film is depicted through emotions, rather than a physical place. In an ironic way, the ‘home’ that she pursues is actually 2,000 miles away form her physical home in Taiwan, hence the title. Through the narration and visuals, the audience will follow her through her emotional rollercoaster, until she meets Wayne.

 

Assignment 4:

LOGLINE:

A Taiwanese girl travels to Singapore in pursuit of belonging.

SYNOPSIS:

Born and raised in Taiwan all her life, Serene couldn’t find a sense of belonging. Through an online chat platform, she meets Wayne, a Singaporean teen that she instantly connected with. She flies over in an attempt to meet him, but to her dismay, she slowly realises that the connection that she thought she felt turned out to be a facade.

 

PRE-PRODUCTION

Thanks to the help of my groupmates, I was able to finalise most of my pre-production fairly quickly. I tried to be as comprehensive as possible at this stage, in order to minimise any confusion or problems that might come about during production.

Since the scriptwriting process, I already had a song in mind to feature in the short film (The Moon Song, originally by Karen O). I decided to use a cover for this short film, as I have so happened to have gotton permission from the cover artists The Hound and The Fox for a previous assignment from back in my polytechnic days, for which we ultimately did not use in the assignment. The choice of song is deliberate, as the lyrics is able to narrate the literal and the underlying story.

Lyrics

Many of my shots were able to match up with the lyrics of the song. For example, while the highlighted lying was being played, the protagonist laid down on her bed. Another example is when the higlighted dark and shiny place was playing, Serene’s silhouette is seen as she opens the door of her dorm room. The first stanza of the song goes on about how though they were ‘a million miles away’, ‘I’ll be there soon’, perfectly encapsulating how Serene felt at that point of time. The second and third stanza slowly becomes more and more of a juxtaposition of her thoughts and feelings against the truth that was slowly unravelling in front of her, as seen in ‘there’s no things I’d keep from you’ in the second stanza, and ‘it’s a perfect afternoon’ and ‘your shadow follows me all day, making sure that i’m okay’ in the third stanza.

After finalising the script, I went ahead to look for inspiration on vimeo to create my shotlist. As this was my first solo short film, I wanted to properly plan each shot such that it encompass meaning and emotions that can further elevate the viewing experience. Here are some screengrabs of other short films that I took inspiration from.

Location scouting (my favourite thing to do!!) took me some time, as I had to find places that could separately depict Taiwan and Singapore. I shortlisted a few places in Singapore, but only chose a few of them that were close in proximity to NTU, due to shortage of time and manpower to travel to multiple places.

One of the many unused locations that I have shortlisted is this particular HDB rooftop at Bishan. I wanted to film here as I feel it perfectly represents Singapore (without using the already overused drone shot of MBS, The Esplanade and Singapore Flyer).
Fig A.
This image (along with Fig A), is taken from the Chinese/Japanese garden. I feel that these 2 specific areas of the garden is able to perfectly portray the loneliness that the protagonist feels, even after moving to Singapore.
SPRUCE @ NTU was the cafe that we shot at. This location was chosen mainly for convenience, and how we were easily able to get permission to film there.
This long walkway at Marina has been part of many of my productions due to the tension it can bring out in the scene.

I didn’t have much of a problem in casting, as I had my friend, Jocelyn, in mind ever since the scriptwriting process. I felt that she had the 台湾小妹 vibes which was perfect for the short film. For the voiceover artist, I have Ms Teo Ying to thank, as she did a perfect reading of the script, and was able to perfectly portray the emotions of the protagonist at every stage of her journey towards meeting Wayne.

PRODUCTION

I sent constant reminders to my actress, as well as crew members in order to prevent some human error from happening (eg. forgetting to bring certain equipments, arriving late/at the wrong location, etc).

Example of a text to my actress, sent two days before and one day before the shoot. Similar messages were sent to my crew members.

Leading up to the production of 2,000, I was becoming more and more jittery as it was my first time leading the production of a short film by myself (realistically speaking, as my other team mates had their own short films to worry about). However, all 3 days of shoot went rather smoothly – even the sudden rain on day 2 worked with the shots that we took. I really have to thank my crew members for being super cooperative and helpful throughout the entire process!!! (shoutout to Hannah and Chloe for their suggestions, Celine for being extra resourceful, Zhong Wei for her attention to detail, and Kris for just being an awesome DOP!!)

D1/3

D2/3

D3/3

POST-PRODUCTION

One major problem that I faced was being unable to help viewers differentiate the shots that were supposedly taken in Taiwan and those that were taken in Singapore (thanks Nicole for bringing this really good point up!) To tackle this problem, I sourced for old footage of Taiwan and inserted some cuts into the start of the short film as establishment shots, and tried my best to edit the different shots with different colour grading styles. As I am close to clueless in regards to colour grading, I feel like I wasn’t able to use the colour of the shots to differentiate both locations. The colour schemes and tones seem to be very similar, if not, the same. With more practise in this aspect, I am confident that I will be able to do better in future short films!

REFLECTIONS

In general, I am really grateful for this opportunity to direct my own short film and be able to work together with so many awesome people. Though it could definitely use a lot of improvement, I feel that this process has slowly built my confidence in filmmaking.

One way that I thought I could improve on is followup. Due to certain corrections that I have made during the production stage, I wasn’t able to make the proper changes in the scripts that I have handed out to the crew, thus there were times where I had to clarify some confusion among the crew.

A piece of feedback that I have for the course in general is that, maybe for future batches of DN1015 students, their final project could be a group assignment, as for students that are just starting out in filmmaking, the whole process of creating a film by him/herself could be too overwhelming.

The Seen and Unseen – Process

 

Tagline: A guy schemingly plots strangers against each other using unconventional means.

This short film has taught me a lot about time management and the importance of being organised and well-prepared. The entire short film was shot over a span of one day, and pre-production was only finalised the morning of the shoot. I only decided the date of the shoot two days before the shoot, and because of this, there were many pre-production issues that I overlooked. Luckily, because I finished production about a week in advance, I had ample time to slowly edit and plan for any possible reshoots. Ultimately, after rethinking the plot of the film and how it is going to be delivered, I was still able to finish the film well, despite drastically changing the style of the short film.

Upon reflecting on my learning experience with this shot film, I fully understand the importance of planning out every single part of the film carefully and thoroughly before diving into production. I was lucky that I was able to craft out my shot film using what I had, however in a professional setting, I most probably will not be so lucky anymore. The worst case scenario  for that would be wasting time and money from the production company, the client and those involved.

On the positive side, this short film has also helped honed my story crafting skills. Keeping in mind the “Simple characters, complex stories” mindset, I was able to come up with a story that incorporated a pop culture trend, along with a very straightforward concept.

I initially had another short film idea in mind, however because of the unavailability of location, I had to scrape the story, especially since the bulk of that particular story would be based in the theatre (that particular short film required filming in a theatre. I planned to use the preview theatre in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the theatre was not available for use).

PRE-PRODUCTION

Script and Shotlist

The script and shotlist was finalised within a day. I passed the script around for vetting before finalising it and coming up with the shotlist. Though the production date was very last minute, the script and shotlist was still essential in order to guide the rest of the production crew without straying from the storyline. I manage to print out both copies for myself and the crew during the production.

Casting

Initially, I wanted to hold a casting call for my short film for my main characters. However, as my shooting day was set very last minute, I reached out to my friends in NTU that were free and were able to help me out on the day itself, in the morning, where they were all free at the same time. The protagonist that I casted had experience acting in front of the camera in a previous student short film, thus I was more confident in his acting skills. Despite their availability, we had to do multiple takes for shots 2 to 7 because of their general lack of experience in acting.

For the calefares, as it requires a large group of people, I did not plan for a casting call. Instead, I mass relayed a text message to different groups of friends in NTU. Luckily, I was able to convince about 10 friends to act as calefares. On the downside, as they are not professional actors, they were very prone to breaking out of character while rolling.

PRODUCTION

SHOT 1

This shot was planned as an establishment shot, to set the place, time and demographic of people in the film. This shot introduces the protagonist, and visually show the mischievous personality of the protagonist. The way the groups of people fought in the background, behind the protagonist, is supposed to raise questions and garner curiosity among the audience. How the protagonist smiles at the people fighting, and puts on his earpiece is very peculiar to the situation, and gives the protagonist a very nonchalant personality.

 

SHOT 2

This shot declares a change of beat and scene, and introduces the protagonist’s next two unsuspecting victims.

Initially, I did not plan for any superimposed text to appear on screen (with exception for subtitles). However after filming, I feel that adding the text would add to the light-hearted mood of the short film, and give the film a quirky twist. This applies to the rest of the shots that includes superimposed text.

 

SHOT 3

This close-up shot is soley aimed to show step 2 of 4 of his scheme.

 

SHOT 4

Shot 4 focuses on his victim’s reaction at the protagonist’s unexpected intrusion of his personal space. His constant darting eyeline shows his current state of emotion, and also leads up to the next shot.

 

SHOT 5

This shot is where the secret is revealed – the way the protagonist plot people against each other is revealed. Shot 5 is shot from the victim’s point of view, where he looks down and sees the OK sign, looks up, and sees the protagonist smirking with satisfaction, and leaning in for a punch in the face.

 

SHOT 6

Shot 6 is a continuous shot from shot 4, where the victim receives the punch, expresses his anger through his facial expression, and leans in to return the punch.

 

SHOT 7

Shot 7 is to end of the short film, where the second plot twist is revealed – the protagonist ducks from the fist flying towards him, and the victim accidentally punches another unsuspecting bystander by accident. This causes the confused bystander to confront the victim, and triggers negative emotions against each other, causing them to use violence against each other. In the background, the protagonist is seen in satisfaction watching the fight slowly unfold.