Producing: Overseeing Chaos / by next new wave

Author: Elise Shick

I saw my beloved roommate (producing participant) less and less. The image of our pillow talk on the first night faded out slowly. Time is running out, time is running out! After yesterday's script reading session, the participants seemed to erase the verb 'to sleep' from their repertoire of vocabularies. I felt a little bit more consoled as more and more people started to join my club. Soon, everyone in the workshop will all be in the same club, I named it 'Dark Circles Party'. 

The Day Never Turns Dark

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Yesterday's script reading session was the official launch of 24/7 daytime. Please bear in mind, this was an extremely unusual phenomena in Malaysia. Since then, sleeping had become a forbidden practice that we all understood mutually. The origin of this forbidden practice came from the participants' dilemma between challenging themselves to shoot all the scenes and taking out some of them due to time limit. We are young and ambitious but ambition and reality hates each other by nature. The atmosphere changed by degrees compared to previous three days as the participants all knew well that this was the moment to really get serious. 

Spot The Whole Picture: Producing Masterclass with Anocha Suwichakornpong

Before the workshop even began, I had this drive to consult Mr. Google who is Lady Anocha. Couldn't remember clearly  when precisely I accidentally pored over an interview with her at Locarno Film Festival that led to the research. Even though it was in written form, I was attracted by the aura seen in her responses to the interviewer Jeremy Elphick. Anocha arrived at Hotel Sentral on day one during Carlo's editing class. While I was having fun in the game designed by Carlo, I saw a spruce petite lady with smart short hair walking in the conference hall and started chattering with Mui. The wind she brought in told me that she is Anocha Suwichakornpong!

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Anocha Suwichakornpong is a Thai film producer, director, and screenwriter. So far, she has produced seven films (feature and short), directed five films, and written five films. Her films Mundane History (2009), Graceland (2006), and By The Time It Gets Dark (2016) each has a mellow and poetic voice that abolishes the distinction between space and time. They remind me of the Italian writer Italo Calvino, who has this magic to bend and blend space and time by merely putting his pen to paper. Their audacious yet conscientious exploration of space and time fills me with awe. Nonetheless, the credit doesn't only go to the director alone. Good producer is one of the key persons who decides the fate of a film.

I wanted to do my own films, I did them, and after that I wanted to help others to make their films too.
— Anocha Suwichakornpong

Producing can be the least rewarding job in filmmaking. In her producing masterclass, Anocha talked about how she first came about to be a producer. She wasn't trained to be a producer. If director is the captain of the ship, producer would be the sea. It influences how fast or slow a ship can move. But who would like to be trained to be the sea? If a ship capsizes right in the middle of the sea, people blame not the captain but the sea who creates such big waves.

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The role of the producer is not to fall into this trap.
— Anocha Suwichakornpong

By trap I mean being sucked into the chaos, and creating another possibility of chaos within chaos. That's why Anocha said that a good producer is able to see the whole picture on set and takes charge particularly when the director is oblivious to see what happens on set. Not just that, her masterclass was also about facts and figures, about monetary issue that a lot of filmmakers especially those from independent circle find themselves struggling with. Anocha showed a lot of tips, charts, and her accounting sheets with the participants to provide them an idea of how to manage the budget. I felt like I was back to my high school accounting class again, scratching my head and punching my chest just to find the correct sums in the balance sheets. 

This is the financial plan, but the is not exactly what happened in the end.
— Anocha Suwichakornpong

Strategise doesn't mean limiting possibilities but provides different approaches and alternatives to recurring or unforeseen problems. In another way, he or she is the prophet. They have to envisage what's going to happen next, how it's going to happen, and how to handle the situation. 

Take Three Shots: Cinematography Masterclass 2.0 with Sidi Saleh

Told you, every next moment in the workshop is a surprise. Sidi designed another three hours masterclass for the participants to get hands on experience like a mock production day. Gogu (directing participant) stood alone as the director on set; the other two directing participants became the actors; three editing participants as the sound man; three producing participants and three cinematography participants played their own roles. They separated themselves into three groups. Each group (one director, one producer, one cinematographer, one editor/sound man) rotated to take one shot of the scene written in Davy's script. By the end of the assignment, the three shots taken by the three groups were put together during post-production and were screened during the sharing session. Indeed, it was a chaos because nearly 30 people were gazing at the production team, not including passers-by, cats, and dogs.

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Poor editors, before they knew anything, they were assigned to be the sound man. No experienced needed. This added to parts of the chaos. They mixed up play back and record and only realised this during the post production. A road of no return. Producers wise, some were in control. Perhaps too much in control that they became the tiger on the set and almost took over the position of the overtly calm director Gogu. Yes, the guy with green shirt is him–Mr. Gogu. Not much problems with the the cinematographer except minor details they neglected in the shots. Erm...maybe neglect was a huge problem. 

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Mentors had the urge to help on set but restrained themselves like putting on straightjackets or chastity belts on their own. That wasn't the end. Their overflowing enthusiasm exploded during the sharing session. They talked relentlessly and gave the participants a galaxy of advices so that this and that will not happen on the production day. Project manager Jacky said that this was the most interesting class he had throughout these four days. If not, it was the most dramatic one. 

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We all enjoyed watching the bursting energy rising from the bottom of mentors' stomachs. It was spectacular. Editing mentor Carlo noted that this workshop is very different from others he had attended before because there was no hierarchy between the mentors and the participants. This is the feeling I've been looking for in the workshop. It will leave another kind of aftertaste. Definitely.