Pre-production: Before It Rains, Bind Around With Silk / by next new wave

Author: Elise Shick

My body was exhausted; mind was unclouded. The mind forces the body clock to tick faster, the mind controls the breathing, the mind controls the emotions, the mind controls the memory, the mind controls the body, the mind controls how much can be controlled during the production day.

A 'Nasi Dagang' Expedition

Yesterday night I had this conversation with cinematography mentor Sidi and directing mentor Davy at the entrance of the hotel. We randomly brought up this idea of having 'nasi dagang'–a Kelantanese delicacy–for today's breakfast. You know why? I didn't know why Davy who spent over the first quarter of his life living in France happened to know this Kelantanese delicacy and put it in his script. So we decided to meet at 10 am at the lobby for this 'nasi dagang' expedition.

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I was once criticised by my friend saying that my inborn overwhelming optimism will one day kill me. I've been very fortunate to survive thousand times then. The 'nasi dagang' restaurant was closed. We changed to 'nasi kerabu' (another Kelantanese delicacy) restaurant. 'Nasi kerabu' restaurant did not sell 'nasi kerabu' today. The boss of the restaurant directed me to another 'nasi kandar' (Penang delicacy) place where they normally sell 'nasi kerabu'. I knew that this made total no sense. The boss of the restaurant directed me into his restaurant but they didn't really sell 'nasi kerabu'. In the end, having 'nasi kandar' instead of 'nasi dagang' marked a full stop to this expedition with Davy, Sidi, and Anocha. This is what we all didn't wish to see on the production day.

Rehearsal: Let's Re-do It Until It Is One Step Away From Perfection

Actors and actresses for each group arrived sharp at 11 o'clock at Hotel Sentral. Davy's script covered two characters: A (45 to 60 years old); B (18 to 25 years old). The combination of these two characters differed from one group to the other. Group A (Gogu, Benedict, Farries, Aishah) got Indian combination of female character A and male character B; group B (Yazeid, Xiao Rui, Jasmi, Pey Sien) Chinese combination of female character A and male character B; group C (Azim, Amanda, Boon, Ariff) Malay combination of male character A and female character B. This workshop respects gender equality and racial harmony. This explained why there was no one fighting or pulling each other's hair. I was expecting some dramas to add some spices to this and the upcoming writings but this year was too peaceful. Nonetheless, now might be too early to say this until the production day comes.

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I saw the talents of group B and C rehearsing intensely in the conference hall except for group A. The director Mr. Gogu disappear with his talents. I recalled what had happened during the three hours short film assignment. He was pressing his whole body to the wall and spread out his arms like a lizard. He definitely had the tendency to do it again so I set off to his room to look for him. It sounded like some twisted bizarre story. To my bewilderment, they were behaving well in the room. Or maybe this is just a fake image? Whichever the case, Mr. Gogu was briefing them patiently with his super soft-spoken delivery. My snores were definitely tenfold louder than his voice. Anyways, look at the talents, they were listening to him attentively. But of course, to me this image looked more like living Buddha preaching the mortals how to be the award-winning actor and actress. The rehearsal went well because the three of them communicated efficiently on a spiritual level that I would most likely fail to understand.

Fellow Producers, Are You Pre-producing Anything?

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Yesterday while I was having my own good time waiting for inspiration to come at 3 am, group B's producer Xiao Rui was sketching a labyrinth alone on this white board. My inspiration stopped like menopause so I decided to check out what she was doing. She was this kind of freak who has super OCD even though it sounded quite unconvincing judging from her drawing and handwritings. I heard someone said before that people with OCD can be good producers. I pray for that or else all these deliberations will be a waste. It's a gift from god. By the time I really got a full view of this white board, she was already somewhere outside shopping for props with her production assistant and assistant production manager. By looking at this white board I had a strong feeling that she knew her shit.

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Sincerely I would like to clarify that it was not my intention at all to juxtapose him with the above picture. For group A's producer Benedict, I couldn't really figure out what's the connotation of this still expression printed on his face for the whole afternoon. Well, it didn't really matter though. Some people couldn't express themselves well in writing, sketching, or displaying different kinds of facial expression but they have a complete manual of how to get things done buried deeply somewhere in their brain. But one thing I knew for sure was that he brought the whole art company to the conference hall. Someone said that he borrowed them from the company he's currently working in. Connection is really important. It helped us cut down a lot of expenses.

You need Your Shot List

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The three cinematographers looked very occupied. Scratching their scalps off in figuring out their shot lists. Group A's cinematographer Farries worked very closely with his director because Mr. Gogu was explaining what he wanted in the storyboard. There's another kind of person who speaks not, frowns not, yet draws a lot. The storyboard helped the director and the cinematographer a lot in visualising from which angle exactly they wanted each shot to be taken. Due to the increasing pressure too, I saw the participants devouring plate following plate of desserts. 

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Group C's cinematographer Boon was digging his head into making endless annotations that only he alone would comprehend. Hopefully he understood what he wrote in the end and the shot list wouldn't turn out to be an academic paper. Boon could be said as the chillest one amongst others. I finally saw the root of his calmness when he came to ask for my help.  He and his team's production assistant Isyraqi didn't know how to merge cells in Microsoft Excel. So this experience told me that there are always two extremes: either you stay calm for knowing nothing or you stay calm for knowing exactly everything. 'You have to pretend like you know everything even though you know nothing so that other people don't get panic', said Davy. 

What Can You Prepare For Your Post-Production? 

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I reckoned that this year's editors were all multifunctional. Group A's editor Pey Sien was translating the script from English to Chinese for the actor and actress. So this added another process to post-production: subtitling. The translation made the talents' dialogues felt more comfortable and natural because if you sensed someone with super strong oriental scent speaking English in a film that depicted everyday life, you would say 'so fake'. So Pey Sien helped a lot to avoid this ridiculous scene. Both group B and group C's editors were very calm but we all know that three of them gonna die later in the one-day post-production.  

Final Advice Before Sending Them to War

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I heard that the mentors were having good time at Cinephilia located in Zhong Shan building. The works of past years' participants were screened there. After that they went for coffee. Well, it was inevitable to bring the mentors away from the participants at the moment so that the participants would feel more relaxed. I was more than surprised to see what had happened today because I could feel the weight on participants' shoulders for the previous two years. But like I just said before, either they knew everything so well or they didn't know anything at all and came unprepared. 

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Whichever the case was, the mentors still gave them a lot of advices while criticising and questioning the participants' preparation. They had the eyes of an eagle to spot the most minuscule details and problems. The participants looked stupefied for their lack of attention on detailed matters. This was the attitude of the know-it-all warrior. So the discussion went on and on and on before and after dinner. It was especially amusing when group B's cinematographer Jasmi tried his best to defend his decisions. 'I want to use 4K', with this sentence, I foresaw a long debate. Sidi dissuaded him but he was still insisting. Jasmi had his perseverance. I'm anticipating tomorrow's war.