I thought there must be more to life then to make other people's movies. I saw the future that lay ahead of me if I continued the path of where my career was going. Overworked with no life.. Now I am overworked with no life AND no money. But surprising really happier.
My honest intention was that before I get too old to do it, I want to tell a story that is my own. I think I got stories to tell that people might like and I wanted to have a shot at making my own short and seeing where it can take me. But the only way to find out is to do it. I only got one life. I do not want to look back and think of excuses why I didn't do it. I do not want excuses. It is also a escape from the mundane reality of every day living.
There were a hosts of other reason. My ego being one of them. I wanted to make my own movie. I do not want to be a director or a art director for hire. There are much more talented and capable people out there doing it for a living.
In Singapore, its really hard to find a job and make a living. The stress level is already so damn high. To find job, to get married, to have enough money to pay mortage for a flat etc.. Constant worry and stress. You can consider making the short as an outlet for the stress and a form of expression.
But the one thing that I did not realise was the connection with people. That people like your work. The stuff you create. That you bring a little bit of enjoyment to people out there. That was something unexpectedly rewarding.
Of course pragmatically, if this is the start to hopefully create my own IP and people will buy the toys and a way out of the industry, that would be great too. If I can make a name for myself to do more of my stuff, great. And hopefully making more and more shorts that I want to see.
But at the same time, it is an opportunity to learn more and discover more. Be it to learn storytelling, framing, composition, rigging, modelling etc.... It is another skillset that you can learn and add to your toolbox. And more importantly another way of thinking. But researching about different culture, different styles of influences, your perception changes. Your views on the world expend. And you grow as a individual.
Of course your motivation for making a short film might be completely different. BUT the most important thing for you is that it must be fun and learn something from it! Or at least try to.
Difficulties faced making films.
Coming up with a believable emotional connection between the grandfather and the grandson. Especially one that both the Western and Asian audience can relate to. Benjamin Chee (Editor/Storyboard artist) and I really struggled behind the scenes to come up with the rationale and motivations for both characters to live with each other, and hint at their personal sacrifices.
Other challenges include dealing with the logistics and manpower.
For a start, we had to look for a studio space to work in, which proved to be very difficult. I was renting a small shophouse space (about the size of a bedroom) until my current bosses at Lasalle College of the Arts, Wolfgang Muench and Christopher Shaw, kindly extended the offer of complimentary studio space at the College to me, while I teach part-time.
The other challenge was raising sufficient funds to pay the guys that worked on the project. Although I was very fortunate to have received funding support from the Media Authority of Singapore, I still had to come up with a substantial balance to fund the project.
Despite the fact that some of my team members were only student interns or fresh graduates then, I wanted to be fair by paying them. I had also wanted to give them an opportunity to work on something that they could add to their resume/portfolio.
We had to work at creating numerous digital models, props and background paintings and translate them into 18 minutes of story-boarding and animation.
What are some things learnt from your first film.
- Keep the audience entertained. That is the main objective. If they get bored, they don't care. You lose. It can be a beautiful visual, a suspenseful moment, a humorous moment. Even time for the audience to think and contemplate. The main focus is to keep them watching.
- Research. Research. Research.
- Appeal. Can the short attract an audience? That is very subjective but obviously you want something about your short that can attract audience.
- Show. Dun tell. A quote I saw from the pixar exhibition. But so so true. Do not insult the audience's intelligence by shoving exposition into their faces. This isn't Taiwanese Chinese drama.
- Storyboard is King. U save weeks, months even years just locking down the storyboard before animating. That said......
- When you (the creator) know what the character's personality, drive and motivation is, everything else is secondary. Should it....... Or a more accurate description is that all the procrastination and doubts in the creative process are just to find out who your character really is. His motivations, dreams, fears etc.. Things that define the character. This is the hardest, by far the hardest thing to accomplish. Entire shots and scenes may have to be re-cut or discarded to reach there. But it is worth it. So be patient because there will always be constant refinement because you will have discovered something new about your project/character that you did not know before..
- Have someone to bounce ideas off. Very Important.. Personally for me, I work best talking to like minded people, bouncing ideas off them. Maybe it is just to have a reassurance that the shot works or just to see it from a different perspective, I find it invaluable to have people to talk to. Of course it helps that the someone is actually someone that is good at this helps.
- Staying the course. U will get de-motivated, distracted, discouraged. Get over it. Ask yourself the purpose of what you are doing. For me, it is exploring a way out of what I was doing before. I promised myself that if I am going to busting my balls and working the late nights.... It is for my own projects.
- Indecisiveness and doubts in the decision making process are part and parcel of the process. Take time to explore different options and paths will lead to different outcome and possibilities. Its like facing with a fork junction on the road. Which path to take? Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. - Scott Adams.
- Eliminating the different options is time consuming but it will get better with experience and feedbacks. The art is in seeing the value of that mistake and how it might be turned around for some good.
- Take feedback humbly and constructively. But be clear of what you want. Easier said then done.
- The truth. You know the euphoric and liberating feeling when everything falls into place. When everything fits... When nothing feels forced, or convoluted. The pacing works, the story is tight and most importantly you feel for the characters. yeah... It feels really good. Savor it.
- Story is the King's mother. What medium to tell the story, what texture resolution to use, all of these are insignificant if you do not have a story that people can connect to. It becomes another eye candy. Just good to look at, no substance.
- Planning is over-rated. Provided you enjoy banging your head against the wall and really enjoy self-suffering. Else plan ahead what to do. then plan some more. I am a "leap and see what happens" kinda of guy and also enjoy self-soul-destruction.
- Take criticism in the face then turn the other cheek. Needless to say you need to be able to handle criticism well. People will say and give their thoughts. Understand objectively where they are coming from and their personal tastes. Its ok that my animation or posing sucked. But tell me why. How can I improve it?
-I will be lying if I said that I did not care what people thought of it. Which I do. But at the end of the day. I want to make films that entertain.
- My mentality and mindset will change and process as I grow. I am sure yours too. I set out with a goal and as your grow goals change. As they would.
- Its a never ending cycle. To keep improving and learn more stuff. You get tired then you need to recharge. And keep going.
Look up - Invisible Ink. Its my bible.
-Write or draw whenever you can. Everyone gets insipration in different ways.
- The biggest difference is if I was working on a professional project. My brain switches to analytical mode. What does the design cater for, what does the story need. Its very calculated. But when its my short, emotions become involved. Will people like it, does this story work, is the guy too emo, does this short convey what I want... Your insecurities, fears all come into play. There is a certain freedom for me in doing professional work because there is a objective to hit. With your own short, there really isn't a objective.
After putting my this short on youtube, I have realised quite a few things from observation as well as experiences.
- Do not make a long movie. Audience are watching the shorts mostly on the computer or mobile phones. And mostly while in the bus or train. Or while waiting. 1-5 minutes is good.
- Capture their attention in the 1st 10 secs. Same as demo reel. After that if u dun hold their attention, they will skip. Can be a familar place/song/image.. a song etc..
- Different pple have different tastes. dun bother pleasing everyone.
- Ask what is the objective of the short. To get eyeballs, an excerise in film making, it doesn't matter. Make it have appeal.